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4.5 out of 5 stars
A Tribute To Jack Johnson
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
For those who can't afford the epic 'Complete' box-set of these sessions and are underwhelmed by the poor-sounding 1992-reissue of it, will be pleased that this brilliant soundtrack is available in something like a definitive sounding version.
Miles released many albums in his career, as such 'Jack Johnson' gets overlooked - which is a shame, as it's a definite fave of mine, though a release that alienated jazz-purists with its emphasis on guitar. 'Jack Johnson' advances on the rock-fusion stylings of 'Bitches Brew' and moves toward the fantastic rock-funk of 'On the Corner.' Davis is assisted by such players as Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Bill Cobham, Michael Henderson & Steve Grossman. To me this sounds less like jazz, and has more in common with head-music of the time made by acts like Can, Faust, Mahavishnu Orchestra (who McLaughlin was a member of) & The White Noise.
Just two epic-tracks, 'Right Off' and 'Yesternow', but two hypnotic works that suitably blow the mind; this is probably more jazz for people who don't like jazz - fans or funk or rock would love this if unfamiliar. It's less-harsh than 'Bitches Brew' or 'On the Corner' (which appear to alienate some listeners initially, as they get their heads round it) and I'd say 'Jack Johnson' is an ideal primer in this period of Miles' music as 'The Birth of the Cool' or 'Kind of Blue' were for earlier phases....
Great to see reissued, and part of a sequence of Miles-releases I favour the most- 'Big Fun', 'Live Evil', 'Get Up With It', 'In a Silent Way', 'Bitches Brew', 'Dark Magus' & 'On the Corner.' The only quibble is the fact that his co-players really deserve a credit for their immense contribution. Incidentally, the sleevenotes where Miles nods to J.J. are fantastic...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2010
Originally conceived as the soundtrack for a documentary on the life of the first African American heavyweight boxing champion, the rhythm of Right Off is actually based around the great fighters movements in the ring. Try it at home; its f@cking great fun. The album shows the increasing influence of rock and funk on Mile's work. There's John McLaughlin's clanging, wah-wah-driven guitar and relentless backbeat of drummer Billy Cobham. Over this though floats the Davis's long, linear, modal melodies. The groove accrues momentum building to a climax for a guitar solo by free jazz pioneer Sonny Sharrock. Its modern jazz played like hard rock.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 July 2013
'Jack Johnson' essentially consists of two extended funky jazz-rock vamps.Despite its vintage(1970)It is an album that still sounds very fresh and ahead of its time,primarily because of the quality of musicianship and the simplicity of conception.It follows in the same vein as 'In a Silent Way' and 'Bitches Brew' and other Miles albums of the late 60's recording the band live in the studio leaving producer Teo Macero to fashion a finished artifact out of the resulting jams. The focus is not so much on composition as spontaneous creativity.Miles here is using the rawness and dynamism of rock coupled with the rhythmic pulse of funk to create a unique sense of excitement,space and opportunity for individual expression.We get to hear for instance, how guitarist John Mclaughlin uses a very catchy yet acerbic rhythmic figure on 'Right Off' to propel the band into musical orbit, drawing some very fiery wah-wah trumpet from Miles as a result.Likewise on 'Yesternow' Michael Henderson offers up a variety of repeated funk based bass lines inspiring the band into some very interesting and often off-kilter ideas.

Once this CD gets in your player,you'll be caught up in the immediacy of it all.The inventiveness and excitement never flags.I believe that 'Jack Johnson' is one of the most underrated Miles Davis productions. The band are superb, the music taut with many moments of limpid beauty and the remastering job, brilliantly done.Highly recommended.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2005
The Penguin Guide To Jazz says that in 50 years time this album will be seen in the same or an even greater light than Bitches Brew. And I cannot disagree. Blistering playing from McLaughlin and Hancock and full on amplified Miles trumpet make the opening track (20 odd minutes from memory) a blast.
This is probably a rock album played by jazz musicians but even coming from the era when most of the great rock was produced this is right up there. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2013
Miles Davis, in my own view, should be best praised not for his advancements in playing, though they are numerous, but rather his beautiful tone and lyricism; take a song like i loves you porgy and he can play it so sweetly and without compromise in the upper range. Miles lacks this here and that does slightly bring the rating down, the first song right off is 4.5 stars, John Mclaughlin is the hero here and the playing is varied and dynamic enough to warrant some interest, plus the groove is arresting. Yesternow is less impressive; it's not pedestrian but it's not altogether interesting either, it's slow but rather than feeling like a dirge or ballad, or even a brooding funk groove as you'd expect from the first track it just plods along painfully and you're begging it to get somewhere. 3 stars for Yesternow.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2013
Perhaps one of Miles's most accessible things, if that makes sense to jazzers, full on hot rock by Mclaughlin, with space to stretch out for everyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
If you're a rock music fan who has listened with an open mind but never really warmed to jazz, this could be the album which unlocks the door for you. Miles Davis' ground-breaking fusion period book-ended by `In a Silent Way' in 1969 and `Agharta' in 1975 is normally associated with his best-seller `Bitches Brew', but `A Tribute to Jack Johnson' is a hidden gem from this period.

To many this is "not real jazz" but more like a rock album. No written melodic compositions underscore this music; the action is purely on the improvisational interplay of these virtuoso jazz musicians over rock/funk/blues rhythms; fusion at its purest. The ace rhythm section of 19-year old Michael Henderson on electric bass and Billy Cobham on drums lay down a heavy rock-funk groove on `Right Off', the explosive 27-minute opener, over which Miles' trumpet and Steve Grossman's soprano sax soar in complex patterns, ably supported by John McLaughin's raunchy guitar riffs. Miles' playing here is possibly his best-ever, full of inventive improvisational musical phrases delivered one after another with a power and conviction that pins you to the wall. Only the normally excellent Herbie Hancock is not on top form; he dropped by the studio on his way back from the grocery store and was co-opted to play a contribution on a rough-sounding Farfisa electric organ. Unprepared, he thumps out some chords and simple phrases for three minutes to fit in with the improvisation, and departs.

The album contains only two long pieces. The second `Yesternow' begins quieter in tone, builds to a crescendo and then subsides; a fine dynamic complement to the full-on `Right Off.' Here McLaughlin is on top form, his trademark super-fast guitar licks engaging in an energetic dialogue with Miles' inventive phrases on the trumpet. You can hear sections from the `In a Silent Way' recordings spliced in, and they fit with the groove of the piece.

This single-disk CD was spliced together by the excellent editing of Teo Macero from different sessions, and you have to say he did a fine job (Miles concurred with his customary bluntness by telling Teo "I like it...you did it again, motherf*****"). Macero was ahead of his time in viewing recording sessions as a film editor would treat film footage, producing a seamless and highly atmospheric piece of work edited together from several hours of improvisational playing. If you want the entire unedited originals, seek out the 5-disk box set `The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions.'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 17 February 2013
The first paragraph in the booklet notes to this welcome reissue of the original album are by Miles himself, in a characteristically staccato `street` piece about the boxer of the title. Miles starts so:

Can you get to that? And of course being born Black in America...we all know how that goes. The day before Johnson defended the title against Jim Flynn (1912) he received a note "Lie down tomorrow or we string you up - Ku Klux Klan." Dig that!

But Johnson wasn`t to be cowed, as Miles goes on to tell us...
He tells us a lot more in the 52 minues of often exhilarating music on this 1971 release, with Herbie Hancock, John Mclaughlin, Steve Grossman, Billy Cobham and Michael Henderson along for the two long bouts.
The first track - or Side One as was - is called Right Off, and begins the fight in pugnacious style, Miles soon jabbing and ducking like the old pro he by then was.
The music hurtles along. Best Played Loud, if you ask me.
"Side Two" is a slower, slightly less cohesive piece of similar length called Yesternow, which seldom really takes flight. I can`t help wishing for a few longer passages of sustained playing from Miles, which begins to happen towards the end, when matters hot up and sweat can be seen on the contender`s brow. And then - after an echoing, ruminative coda during which we briefly hear Jack himself, his words spoken proudly by actor Brock Peters - it`s all over.
Not the greatest match these men have been involved with, but one you wouldn`t want to have missed, and one which I`m very happy to replay every now and then.
In the right mood, it packs quite a punch.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2013
Somewhat more understated and infinitely more gleeful than 'Bitches Brew', often finding itself overshadowed by that undeniably classic Milestone, this really is the one where the term 'jazz-rock&' starts to make some sort of makes sense, should you care to pigeonhole. Concise, clipped and powerful and seeming too short by far the record leaves me eager for more. Jack Johnson sets up a 'groove' from start to finish and makes for rich, compulsive listening. I find myself wishing, occasionally, that I'd splashed out on the boxset although that might, possibly, have robbed this central gem of some of its mystery and allure...an embarassment of treasures, as it were. In a matter of months Miles had left the jazz world reeling in the aftermath of 'In A Silent Way' and 'Bitches Brew'. This presented yet another fascinating glimpse into the constant evolution of Miles' creative processes and, therefore, is indispensable to even the most casual fan of the Man's work. Gorgeous!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 2011
Miles Davis influence on the world of music is inestimable. And for me, Jack Johnson is the pinnacle of his creativity. When I first bought this album, I though it had been mis-pressed, until Miles' unmistakable trumpet comes in like a ringing bell over the top of the cacophany. Utter perfection. The greatest entrance by any music artist I have ever heard.

The album has only two pieces. Right Off is transfixing - and would fit in over any PA pre-band taking the stage in 2011. The second - Yesternow - is a meditative piece in a similar vein to In a Silent Way - but ends with the booming voice of an actor playing the voice of Jack Johnson. The first black heavyweight champion of the world. Along with - Hendrix, MC5, Sly and the Family Stone et al, this album must've been playing all over the burnt out shells of buildings in late 60s / early 70s america. Extraordinary.
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