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Taking stock, a year half over

Mark Corroto By

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No longer does the music of Miles Davis post-In A Silent Way (Columbia, 1969) have to be a guilty pleasure for jazz fans. A reappraisal of the day doesn't so much cast Miles as the harbinger of jazz fusion or it's brain-numbing stepchild smooth jazz, but as an innovator that synthesized rock, funk, and blues into his own electrified vision. It was his imitators, or perhaps the non-improvisers, that nearly extinguished the jazz flame. For saxophonist Chris Kelsey, born at the tail-end of the baby boom, albums like A Tribute to Jack Johnson (1970) and Dark Magus (Columbia, 1974) were nothing shocking. Just as someone born in the 1970s or 80s might not grasp how the music of Thelonious Monk or Ornette Coleman could cause an argument, Miles plugged-in was another music spun before Jimi Hendrix and after Sly Stone. A product of the Downtown music scene, Kelsey revisits Davis' music with What You Say, his trumpet-less band of two guitarists Rolf Sturm and Jack DeSalvo, bassist Joe Gallant, and drummer Dean Sharp. Place this disc next to Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Kaiser's Yo Miles! bands, Bill Laswell's reconstructed Panthalassa (Columbia, 1998), and Dave Liebman's Back On The Corner (Tone Center, 2006) in the Electric Miles tribute catalog. Also though, nudge this disc up to the San Francisco's Splatter Trio record A Fistful of Dewey (Racer, 1992). Like Fistful this electric project is bold and fearless. "Agharta Prelude" hits with the immediacy of the original 1975 version but this time there are two versions of Pete Cosey nailing back guitar licks. Funk flies, James Brown towels-off from a cold sweat and the groove is communicable. When they turn inward with the ambient traced music on the originals "Mad Love Pt. 1" and "Mad Love Pt. 2," the groove persists. This tribute band succeeds because they are indeed, a band. Kelsey organizes the sound but refrains (like Miles) from monopolizing the spotlight. His soprano and straight alto saxophone work sound is piercing, translucent, and uncomplicated. On "Sivad," from Live Evil (Columbia, 1971), he traces the melody over the tenacious groove of Gallant and Sharp, before the guitarist carves up the corpse. Yes, it is such sweet meat.

Michael Coleman/ Aram Shelton/ Alex Vittum Stratic Stratic Music 2013

About one hundred years ago a young trumpeter named Louis Armstrong, playing in a military-styled jass band, decided to not to play his part as written. His unscripted ad libs—improvisations— became the vogue and have fueled jazz music ever since. But what happens when computers and electronics also want to get into the act? In the 1980s, the sampling of Casio keyboards and drum machines created a music of well- ordered precise time that had no soul. Android fans, fear not, your electronics got pneuma. The West Coast improvisers (humans)—Aram Shelton (saxophone), Michael Coleman (keyboards), and Alex Vittum (drums) release the ghosts in their machinery by mixing the acoustic with the electric. Shelton is known for his work in the Chicago- centered bands Fast Citizens, Arrive, and Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown and his West Coast groups Cylinder and sextet, Marches. Here he processes his saxophone through a Max/MSP patcher turning his horn into a waking dream memory of music. similar to Evan Parker's Electric-Acoustic Ensemble and his experiments with the Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer's Furt ensemble, Stratic imposes improvisation upon electronic effects, or perhaps the electronic effects exploit the acoustic. The keyboards of Michael Coleman, a Wurlitzer and Yamaha synth, are scrabbled by pedal effects to sound like the interesting snippets and outtakes from Joe Zawinul's Weather Report years. Surrounding the machines is drummer Alex Vittum's vast array of post-apocalyptic percussive devices. The vocabulary is post-rock improvisation with a petri dish of possibilities for sound creation.

Lucien Dubuis & The Spacetet Design Your Future Unit Records 2013


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