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Second Great Quintet In Transition,
This review is from: Miles In The Sky (Audio CD)
Miles Davis' second great quintet, as they are usually known, featured such stellar musicians as Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayner Shorter on saxophone and Tony Williams on drums. By the time of this 1968 album, they had already made such classic albums as "Miles Smiles" and "Nefertiti". These had inaugurated the style known as "time-no changes". But Miles, ever the musical explorer, started to change tack with album towards a more rock direction (which would ultimately lead to supreme classics like "In A Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew").
The first indication of this is the electric piano Hancock is playing - the first time an amplified instrument featured in a Miles Davis album. (Later of course he would favour the electric bass, and within 6 years would make the album "On The Corner" which is as far from traditional jazz instrumentation as it is possible to go). But here the "fusion" (as it would be known) is only sketchy - there's a lack of focus, there's not the integration of vision and method which make albums such as "Kind Of Blue" and "Miles Smiles" so breathtaking.
Not that the music is boring or uninteresting - not with musicians of this calibre! But it does seem like a highly gifted doodling, based on long grooves, rather than coherent articulations. This might well be suggested by the song titles, the first two of which are "Stuff" and "Paraphenlia".
This release also includes alternate takes of the latter two of the album's four songs, the differences in which are fairly marginal and add to a certain flabbiness. All the same, this is a very enjoyable album, with tremendous drumming by Williams (in "Stuff" especially), consistently excellent playing by Hancock and strong lines by Davis. There are better albums by Miles Davis out there, but this album is the pivot on which his traditional and fusion works join - his "Rubber Soul" perhaps.