Continuing the glorious run of late sixties albums that began with E.S.P. this is an endlessly intriguing and varied set from the year of flower power, free love and other optimisms. Well, in '67 Miles and the gang certainly sounded positive, with Tony Williams really driving things along like a man possessed - try Wayne Shorter's composition Masqualero, during which Williams's drumming is thrilling and propulsive, until Herbie Hancock calms things down for a while with a deftly considered solo, backed by Ron Carter's delicate bass and a softer Williams, until Miles joins in and the whole piece ends in a flurry of ecstatic unison playing. Shorter - and what a unique musician he was (and is, still with us at 81) - wrote four of the seven numbers here, with Pee Wee by Williams and the title track by Hancock, while the closer Nothing Like You is by Fran Landesman and Bob Dorough, with the latter on vocal, unusual on a Miles LP at any time. It's an odd song, with Dorough sounding somewhat weedy, a cross between a more excitable Chet Baker and satirical singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer doing a jazz pastiche. To be honest, it's not pretty! What it's doing here is baffling, though the excellent booklet notes tell us it was recorded five years earlier and added at the time of release. Ah well, it doesn't last long. It's followed by two alternate takes: Limbo and Masqualero, which sound mellow and simply gleam like everything on these '60s Quintet albums. Both Miles and Wayne S play like angels throughout.
Sorcerer works its delightful magic each time you listen to it. Miles was on the roll of his remarkable career, and this is tremendous music from a truly great artist.
The second half of the sixties was a period of intense creativity for Miles Davis. In collaboration with the other members of his new quintet: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, a succession of brilliantly original albums were released beginning with ESP in '65 and culminating in Filles de Kilimanjaro in '68. Also competing for attention at this time was the meteoric rise of the Beatles and Rock in general on the one hand, and the wilder excesses of `Free Jazz' on the other, with the result that a sort of `jazz-fatigue' set in. Miles' record sales didn't recover until the electric rock-influenced Bitches Brew stopped the jazz-world in its tracks in 1970.
Sorcerer, released in '67, represents the quintessential Davis quintet work from that `fatigued' time, and now that the competition has lost some of its lustre (how often do we listen to The White Album these days?), sounds better than ever. Not only is it the inspired collaboration of five outstanding musicians - who, as Davis tells it in his autobiography, empathized totally and enjoyed each others' company - it also hangs together as a suite, full of variety and contrasting moods in the Ellington or Gil Evans sense; though here the textures are so much lighter - and more startling. There are breathtaking passages where Herbie Hancock appears to withdraw and the horns are left riding on the subtle polyrhythms of Williams' percussion and Carter's agile chording base. Hancock's solos are masterpieces of spacious understatement - sometimes seemingly floating off into three-fingered haikus - and Miles and Wayne are both at the top of their game here.
Everything about this album satisfies: Subtle modal compositions (four out of the seven by Shorter), inventive musicianship of the highest calibre, impeccable style - not least the classic cover image of Cicely Tyson and the surreal afterthought of Bob Dorough's wry Gil Evans-arranged "Nothing like you has ever been seen before!" Somehow missed in the 60s, Sorcerer now gets as many plays as Kind of Blue.
The Greatest group in jazz ever ? Judging by the CD it is difficult to suggest otherwise and listeners who have ventured no further than the ubiquitous "Kind of Blue" should check this out to see what the man could really do with a band. This is light years away from the music played on the aforementioned disc and although recorded during the week in which I was born, still sound fresh. Indeed, check out sideman Wayne Shorter's recent "Footprints, live" album just to see the similarities and how ahead of the pack these musicians were in 1967. "Sorcerer" demonstrated that Shorter was , by now, one of the finest of Jazz composers and whilst his "Prince of Darkness" and "Masqualero" featured on this disc have become familiar, I particularly like the lilting and lesser-known "Limbo." Some of this music is very loose but Miles was never really into Free Jazz and this CD eschews some of the fashionable yet dated noises that one often finds on Blue Note records of this period. All the better for that, I say. This is far more way out!! Mile's own playing is nothing short of amazing and Messers Shorter, Carter and Hancock are really up for the challenge. There is alot of music played on this disc and there is much reward with each repeated listen. However, the star of the show for me is the drummer, Tony Williams, who whips up a maelstrom behind the soloists, his symbols crashing down in the least expected and most exciting parts of the music. Hard to believe that he was still a teenager when he made this record !! The sound of the CD is exceptionally good for the period too. A Rolls Royce of a recording.
This is my favourite of the 2nd Great Quintet. Miles' attack, tone and phrasing are spot on. Shorter is not allowed to get too cerebral and Tony Willliams is bustin' everybody's chops throughout - wonderful! In particular listen to Masquerelo and hear the difference from Miles Smiles and later work by Wayne Shorter who forever tried to recapture the mesmerising mood of this piece. Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter are good throughout, too. Even the lyrics at the end are sung at perfect pitch. A terrific session, one of Miles' best.
As the other reviews explain this is a recording by Miles' second great quintet - one of the best and most influential groups in the history of jazz. While this may not have been the best-selling of the four albums the group made in the 60s, to my ears it is one of the best. Herbie Hancock in particular is on exemplary form.
As an owner of the original vinyl I always liked the balance of the programme for each side of the LP. The three extra tracks do modify this balance. One of the tracks is a historical curiosity and is likely to be skipped after a first hearing. I believe that Teo chose the best take of the other two tunes for the original album. The playing is still of an exceptionally high standard on these two bonus tracks but they do slightly dilute the original conception of the album which I believe was exceptional.
I wouldn't worry anyone who doesn't know this group's work from starting with Sorceror. It is an album which repays repeated playing but that doesn't mean it sets the bar too high as a route into this stupendous body of work.
It's a bit like writing a review of the Beatles 'Revolver' and saying 'it's really good' ! One other reviewer said 'possibly the greatest jazz group ever'...a bold claim... but nothing since has come close to the rapport between these guys. I first bought this record the year it came out...and it's been a constant source of wonder ever since. I listened to 'Masquelero' just now and was struck by how Tony Williams felt it was time to take his foot off the gas during Wayne Shorter's solo which allowed the music to breathe....setting up Herbie to take a beautiful minimalist solo that is a genuine aural sculpture. There's none of the 'I've studied jazz at college and here's everything I've learned' which is a bit prevalent nowadays. As for Wayne's tone on Pee Wee.....Oh don't get me started! If you love jazz and haven't ever heard this....it could change your life!
This is truly wondrous music....especially for improvising musicians who surely must have known at the time this was trailblazing music....albeit with subtlety. Of course having the most inquiring minds as sidemen was a trump card Miles had used often and in less able hands this may not have become the exquisite album it is. Shorter and Hancock play with agility and grace and (on Pee Wee) with absolute beauty. The lack of cliches from every player belies the fact that most saxophonists since the sixties have studied Shorter's playing here and certainly every pianist fell under the spell of Hancock's harmonic vision and his simple economy. None of this could have happened without the most exciting rythmn section jazz had heard up to that point.The suspension of the reassuring pulse and the shifting sands of the time appear as a mixture of luxuriant grooves and having the rug pulled out from under you.These guys had to really listen to each other. Indeed Ron Carter and Tony Williams created a setting for some of the most influential modern jazz ever heard.Miles? This was the man at his best. He may have changed the world with 'Kind Of Blue' and sublime though that was....this must have been his finest hour.