Miles Davis

The Cellar Door Sessions

As rock history had the Velvet Underground — way ahead of the curve, persevering till the world caught up — jazz had trumpeter Miles Davis. To the major dismay of his followers, Miles jettisoned his bebop-rooted approach and — inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, and avant composer Karlheinz Stockhausen — went electric, that classic swing supplanted by aggressive, fractured rock beats, funky grooves, and ecstatic soloing. The six-disc Cellar Door Sessions collects more than five hours of live-in-1970 jamming by an incredible edition of Miles’ band, most notably electric keyboardist Keith Jarrett, protean monster drummer Jack DeJohnette, and Brit electric guitarist John McLaughlin. Only a fraction of this material was extant previously on the Live/Evil album — all of it deserves deification. From the kaleidoscopic, churning insistence of “Inamorata” on disc six, it’s astonishing to realize it was mostly improvised, as spastic polyrhythms mesh, Gary Bartz’ sinuous saxes soar from dissonance to serenity, Jarrett’s notes glisten, and Miles’ searing, vocalized tone speaks in tongues. The Orb, Bill Laswell, Massive Attack, and the Ninja Tune posse might not be but for Miles.

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