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Yo Miles! Henry Kaiser and Wadada Leo Smith: Upriver

Rex  Butters By

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Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Kaiser's Yo Miles! band completes a trilogy with the release of Up River, their latest double-disc dive into the exotic and sensual world of Miles Davis's first electric period, circa 1969-75. Once again they take some of the fiercest and most revolutionary music of the 20th Century and manage to reimagine it while remaining faithful to the earth-rending originals. And, speaking of originals, as with the past collections, they go beyond tribute band status to compose new works that uncannily match the menace and majesty of the originals.

First heard on Big Fun, "Go Ahead John pulses and throbs with Steve Smith's hot coal-walking interplay with percussionist Karl Parazzo. Languid, out of time guitar chord cricket chirp distortion pans through the channels, buoying Smith's poetically economical reading. Electric Prunes fuzztone guitar slashes the groove, yanking, shuddering, and wailing. Greg Osby follows suit with a wild run, then the band slows it down and Smith smolders the blues. Osby takes it uptown, with Michael Manring prowling on bass.

Osby and Zakir Hussain on tabla create a beautiful duet to open the "On the Corner Jam, then the crunch and burn kick in. Hussain and Perazzo throw skins at each other and Osby duets with a spidery Kaiser. Smith breathes with Hussein to end it. "What I Say (from Live-Evil) unleashes Manring and Coster, the latter fast and fluid. Smith blows jagged electric trumpet through the steaming ensemble, and Kaiser and Coster mess around.

Tatu/Agharta Funk opens disc two with headlong drive, and John Tchicai struts the tenor, preceding Smith and Kaiser's hardcore duo. Osby owns "Tune In 5/One Phone Call, a potent rave. He also fronts "Corrado, a lurching rarity unreleased until recently. The atmospheric original jam "Macero quickly gives way to the measured meditation of "Yesterfunk.

Smith's stunning "Thunder and Lightning follows, with an orchestral sound in hyperfunk. Tchicai quickly makes it something special, with Osby contributing interstellar R&B. The ROVA Saxophone Quartet fattens the riff of "Black Satin (Slight Return) (from On the Corner). David Creamer contributes fast-fingered guitar and Coster flies on organ.

Beautifully recorded as an SACD hybrid, these tracks were performed live in the studio, as opposed to the cut and paste job many of the these tracks received on Davis' original versions. If only these guys could bring this music on tour...


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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