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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than Miles, 24 Feb. 2007
William Burn "gingerburn" (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Power to the People (Audio CD)
The impulse to draw comparisons between this album and those released by Miles Davis in the late sixties is understandable, given that the piano/bass team of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter spent several years in Miles' "second quintet", and Jack DeJohnette played on other Miles discs at the time. However, while the music learns much from the advances made by Miles' groups in the sixties, it retains very much its own distinctive flavour, and goes in a direction that Miles never really took his music.

By 1969 Miles had already recorded Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way and was exploring the new possibilities of those remarkable albums. Henderson, however, sticks more closely to the traditional "jazz" structure of music making, despite employing electric bass and electric piano on some of the tracks. The effect of this is to produce an album that is at turns beautiful and at others powerful, yet perhaps more direct and forthright than Miles' work at the time.

Henderson has always been one of my favourite saxophonists, and I find his playing easier to enjoy than that of Coltrane or many of his contemporaries. This is not to say he is saccharine or anaemic, but that his ideas are more finely distilled and each is given its own space to breath and develop. He can be wonderfully patient, such as in his solo on the opening track, Black Narcissus, or earthy and bluesy, as on Isotope. Technically his facilities are extraordinary, but I have never found myself lost in a whirlwind of notes nor squawked at by some militant horn-man with a point to prove.

The remaining personnel on the album are, with one exception, so famous as to render comment on their abilities superfluous, except to say that it was on this album that I for the first time really enjoyed Herbie Hancock's piano playing. I've owned albums by and featuring him for years now, but it was not until I acquired this disc that I actually genuinely looked forward to one of his solos. Perhaps the slightly more restricted format of the studio album in which his playing has to be more concentrated brings out the best of him. The one player about whom least is known is Mike Lawrence, who brings a Milesy flavour to the proceedings, and, although his playing is not in the same league as those around him, yet he brings a new colour to the group, and a greater range of texture which adds to the overall effect of the album.

I rarely award discs five stars, but this on its first listening stood out as a distinctive and very special achievement, and I have returned to it as often, and perhaps more frequently, than some of its more famous contemporaries. It really is an excellent disc, and in this very well presented edition it deserves to be in your collection.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Miles Mode, 15 Dec. 2005
This review is from: Power to the People (Audio CD)
Recorded in New York May 1969, it would be interesting to date this album exactly in relation to Miles’ “Silent Way” sessions. It sounds like the band (Herbie Hancock-keyboards, Jack De Johnette-drums, Ron Carter-bass) have arrived at the studio high & flying with Miles’ “new directions.” Hancock gets into some serious tranced-out shimmering electric piano & Carter plays electric bass on most tracks. But post-bop heavyweight Joe Henderson on sax is both receptive to what’s happening yet strong enough to establish his own personality on the proceedings, several jazz trends – post-bop, soul jazz, avant garde & the new fusion thing – combine here into a fascinating mix. Little known trumpeter Mike Lawrence adds some nice touches to a couple of tracks.
With titles like Power to the People, Black Narcissus & Afro-Centric it’s pretty obvious that this album is quintessential 1969, belonging to that radical moment when everything was possible and before the fusion jazz-rock/funk concept became debased.
Given the huge interest in this period & style it’s surprising “Power to the People” (originally on Milestone/Fantasy) hasn’t been given a big hyped expanded upgrade reissue. Most of the tracks are around the six-minute mark & fade out – there must be a lot of extended & unreleased takes lying on a shelf somewhere. I’d certainly like to hear 20 minute versions of some of these tunes!
This reissue comes from Italian Comet / Universe label, the sound is ok & nice facsimile thick card gatefold sleeve. Definitely recommended if you like Miles Davis 69-70.
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