In 1967 Miles Davis recorded what was to be the last album before venturing into his electric period. Soon he would be using the Fender Rhodes and the Fender Bass, so it could be seen as his last truly acoustic album. Many jazz purists see Miles Smiles as his last true jazz album because of the above. However beneath the superficial details, it can also be seen as rhythmically one of the trumpeters most explorative works. One has only to listen to Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter work on the multi-tempo track Footprints to hear this. There are so many subtle rhythmical implications within this piece that it leaves me feeling this was my favourite Miles rhythm section, as much as I love Miles fifties Columbia band. Being a rhythm section player myself, I can constantly find enjoyment and inspiration within this track alone.
Miles himself plays out of his skin throughout and stretches out in a manner far different than what I have heard previously or since. Whilst never being known as the most technically dazzling of trumpeters, he produces some absolutely mind-boggling solos, which leaves me wondering if some critics sat down and listened to this album instead of panning his technically weaker work with Parker, they might give him more credit than he's been allowed for. Tone wise it's generally conceded that Miles was beautiful and Miles Smiles is no exception. Circle showcases some of his most intimate and pleasant moments.
The writing is mostly Wayne Shorter's. Wayne, one of Jazz's most gifted writers never allows the arrangements to inhibit the soloists. In fact it inspires them to greater heights, his own playing included.
If I was to name my top five jazz albums of the sixties, I would like to think this would be in there. I would certainly say to someone who wasn't into Miles in a big way, like some of my colleagues in the industry, check it out. There's something in this album for everyone, whether it be the advanced rhythmic explorations, Wayne's compositions or Miles stronger, busier lead work.
I hope my review does Miles Smiles justice anyway. Happy listening.