Miles Davis

As rock had the Velvet Underground--way ahead of the curve, persevering till the world caught up--jazz had trumpeter Miles Davis. To the great dismay of his followers, Davis 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 a 1970 jam session by an incredible edition of Davis' band, most notably electric keyboardist Keith Jarrett, protean monster drummer Jack DeJohnette and Brit electric guitarist John McLaughlin. Though only a fraction of this material was available previously (on the Live/Evil album), all of it deserves deification. From the churning, kaleidoscopic insistence of "Inamorata" on disc six, it's astonishing to realize that it was mostly improvised; as spastic polyrhythms mesh, Gary Bartz's sinuous saxes soar from dissonance to serenity, Jarrett's notes glisten and Davis' searing, vocalized tone speaks in tongues. If not for Miles Davis, the Orb, Bill Laswell, Massive Attack and the Ninja Tune posse might not be.
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Mark Keresman