Miles Davis - The Cellar Door Sessions
Which is why the new Cellar Door sessions is like a breath of fresh air. Most of the six disc set features Keith Jarrett (player Fender Rhodes and Fender Electric organ), Jack DeJohnette, Gary Bartz, bassist Michael Henderson, and Airto. John McLaughlin is featured on the last two discs. Some of the material with McLaughlin appeared on the Live Evil release, but most has sat unheard in the vaults for decades. Now I haven't listened to the whole set yet, but what has really struck me thus far, especially on the tracks without McLaughlin, is how varied the textures are, and even on the tracks where the band is playing at 100 percent intensity, the music doesn't get muddy (and not just sonically). Perhaps it's because of the live setting, perhaps it's the lack of McLaughlin or another similar voice on most of the material, but I think it mainly has to do with Keith Jarrett. Jarrett is a singular voice in jazz, and even on these recordings, playing instruments he apparently didn't care too much for, his work stands out, and takes the band places you don't expect, and rarely hear such fusion bands go. His sound and conception defines these recordings, just as one could say Wayne Shorter's did the music of Miles' great second quintet. I didn't say Herbie Hancock, because for as great and innovative as Herbie was with Miles, Wayne's dramatic artistic conception is the closest thing I can think of when comparing how utterly unique Keith sounds in this context. If Wayne played the keyboards, he might sound something like Keith does on these recordings.
One other thought, these vintage fusion recordings, finally released after 36 years still sound fresher than the many "contemporary" attempts at similar sounds by today's jazz artists. People are still wrestling with the legacy of Miles. They spent the 80's and most of the 90's dealing with Miles' music from 1955-1965. Now they're trying to deal with Miles from 1970 or so. I wonder how long it will last this time.