Davis In Transition,
This review is from: Filles De Kilimanjaro (Audio CD)
As is widely recognised, this 1968 album from Miles Davis represented a significant point of transition for the man and the musician. September of that year saw Davis marry singer Betty Mabry (his 2nd of three trips to the altar), and the same month saw Davis and band enter the recording studio for the second session to put down some of the tracks for the Filles De Kilimanjaro album. The album saw Davis take his blues and, increasingly, rock/funk influences to a new level and provided clear pointers to his following two records - the more renowned In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew - and whilst, for me, Filles does not quite live up to these follow-ups (In A Silent Way has even more haunting melodies and Bitches Brew takes innovative and dynamic rhythm to unprecedented levels) it is still a fine, and groundbreaking, recording.
Indeed, on repeated listens, it becomes apparent that all the music on Filles has 'a point' and an intoxicating mix of appeals. Although the music does have a naturally flowing, and progressive, nature (almost suggesting a single musical suite), my listening has led me to think of the album in two distinct segments which, maybe coincidentally, fit with its structure of 'two album sides' (in old parlance). First up is Frelon Brun (Brown Hornet), which calls to my mind material from his earlier Miles Smiles period, being relatively conventional, but with 'out there' solos from Miles and Wayne Shorter. The following tunes Tout De Suite and Petit Machins (Little Stuff) are a different proposition, however - the former showcases drummer Tony Williams' amazing rhythmic dexterity (in effect, playing lead), whilst the number's 'beat' is maintained by Herbie Hancock's staccato electric piano and Ron Carter's bass, whilst the latter (an album highlight) is a brilliantly dynamic exposition on which Chick Corea's electric piano excels - both numbers providing a foretaste of things to come on Bitches Brew.
The 'second side' of Filles, on the other hand, is more closely paralleled with the exquisite beauty (and perhaps more conventional structure and sense of melody) that Miles was to encapsulate on In A Silent Way. The album's title track (and my favourite) is built around a sublime theme, played in harmony by Davis and Shorter, and provides virtuoso displays from both horns at their most subtle, calling to and fro to Hancock's piano, whilst Williams is 'relegated' to more conventional rhythmic duties. Similarly, Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry) is another perfectly judged example of restrained playing - suggestive of an African blues - witty and entrancing by turns, as Williams weaves his intricate spell around Davis and Shorter's lyrical solos.
Undoubtedly, one of Miles' (most) neglected ones.