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Yo Miles! Henry Kaiser and Wadada Leo Smith: Upriver

Jerry D'Souza By

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Henry Kaiser and Wadada Leo Smith are back with a third double helping of their view of the music of Miles Davis, bringing along a couple of their own tunes. Once again it is time to celebrate the music and the perspective they bring to it.

Smith and Kaiser head Yo Miles!, the band that transforms Davis' music. Smith is adventurous, which in itself states the obvious, but he's marked by his ability to change colour and shape, sound and approach within the space of a tune and give it constantly moving contours. He can have his foot firmly on the wah wah pedal and then leave that behind to slip into the gentle folds of his muted trumpet and describe graceful harmonic nuances. Funk blows across much of the music, as it does on "Black Satin (slight return)," and even as Smith's pedal push is in strong evidence, he shafts it with burning straight lines. The road is now open for Dave Creamer to celebrate on the electric guitar as he pivots round a clutch of notes that bite and sing. But the lure lies in the scope of the song: the long notes from Smith, the percolating keyboards of Tom Coster, the velvet lines of the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, melding even as they constitute their own territory.

Some of the most captivating jiggles scoot from "On the Corner Jam." Tabla player Zakir Hussain and altoist Greg Osby have a decidedly delicious call-and-response conversation. The beat coruscates as drummer Steve Smith joins Hussain, Kaiser growling and John Tchicai jumping in on the melody. From then on it is one heady ride. On "Thunder & Lightning," one of two originals, Smith sets up a light, dancing rhythm on the drums with Michael Manring providing the bottom whorl on the bass. This is a happy tune, the symmetry of the horns lithe, before Tchicai breaks in, his lines long and loping, a melodic sermon that interjects probes and sharp phrases and flurries that are met with the yowl of Kaiser's guitar. Kaiser bends his strings and gets into rock terrain with a rhapsodic elation.

There is plenty more that rouses the senses. Make the joy of discovery yours.


Track Listing: Disc One: 1. Go Ahead John 2. On the Corner jam 3. What I Say 4. Bitches Brew. Disc Two: 1. Tatu/Agharta Funk 2. Tune in 5/One Phone Call 3. Corrado 4. Macero 5. Yesterfunk 6. Thunder and Lightning 7. Jabali (part III) 8. Black Satin (slight return)

Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet; Henry Kaiser, Mike Keneally, Chris Muir: electric guitars; Michael Manring: bass; Steve Smith: drums; Karl Perazzo: percussion; Greg Osby: alto saxophone; John Tchicai: tenor and soprano saxophones; Tom Coster: keyboards. Special guests Zakir Hussain: tabla; Dave Creamer: guitar; ROVA Sax Quartet.

Title: Upriver | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records

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