This week we have a new Miles Davis Properbox with four CDs of his absolute classic late 50′s output, plus new albums from Béla Fleck & The Marcus Roberts Trio, Marc O’Reilly and a celebration of the 30th Year Of Womad from Real World.
Miles Davis – The Essential Miles (ProperRecords)
The 50s was the decade that almost broke but ultimately made Miles Davis. In the aftermath of the sessions in 49 that would eventually come to be known as The Birth Of The Cool, Davis was intent on re-writing the language of jazz. Things got off to a promising start in 1950, with a Paris visit that saw him feted as a celebrity and falling under the spell of bohemian siren Juliette Greco. On returning to New York, however, he found himself struggling for regular work and somewhat lovelorn. He turned to heroin to fill the void and started a habit that would dog him for roughly four years. Despite the personal strife he still continued to develop both his artistic vision and also friendships with contemporaries that as the decade progressed gained significance. This 4CD set concentrates on the wealth of music that he unleashed in the second half of the decade, although starts with recordings from 54, as the newly restored Miles really hit his stride. There’s a mix of classic quintet and sextet material featuring Coltrane, mixed with the lush orchestration of the Gil Evan’s collaborations, with a nod to sessions with Sonny Rollins, Monk and Milt Jackson. The booklet fills out the story and the music, revolutionary at the time, still has the power to thrill. As a Miles Davis primer this set is hard to fault, the four discs hit different moods and for those yet to explore the legacy of one of the C20th musical greats, this offers much more that a start. [Reviewed by Simon]
It’s worth spending some time with this fantastic archive broadcast too.
Béla Fleck & The Marcus Roberts Trio – Across The Imaginary Divide (Rounder)
The banjo is an instrument of long and surprising history, being tied to the slave trade and originating from Africa. It had a central place in the music of the displaced slaves, although ultimately proved highly versatile and adaptable, crossing racial and musical boundaries. Partly because of an ability to stand out acoustically in a band setting, it became a mainstay rhythm instrument of the jazz dance bands, before amplification promoted the guitar, with its wider tonal range to the fore. It’s still widely used by the trad jazz fraternity, but modern jazz? Well no, unless your name is Béla Fleck, who might have made that name on the bluegrass scene, but acknowledges Chick Corea and Charlie Parker as influences, alongside Earl Scruggs. Credit Marcus Roberts (with Rodney Jordan and Jason Marsalis making up the trio) for being open to this unlikely collaboration. Of course, the players are at the top of their game, but it’s the wit and imagination with which they integrate that is most remarkable. Hearing piano and banjo going note-for-note on Let Me Show You What To Do, it’s impossible not to be seriously impressed. As incongruous as the pairing might sound, the actual sound is superb. [Reviewed by Simon]
Watch the EPK here
Marc O’Reilly – My Friend Marx (Salt & Shake Records)
It’s been quite a year for husky voiced troubadours and the Irish Marc O’Reilly arrives on a fair wind of critical acclaim from his homeland. As well as the afore mentioned vocal style that might have him competing for attention in a fairly crowded field ,he also has a prodigious and most unusual guitar technique that carries a whiff of something far more exotic than your standard finger picker. Through the folk and blues of My Friend Marx echoes of sub Saharan tones permeate, giving a polyrhythmic complexity to his rippling lines, more reminiscent of a kora at times. Just try The Scottish Widow or 20 Minutes For 2 Years, as the former in particular lays down a hypnotic, circular groove. The ultimate expression is the instrumental An African Day, that weaves a subtle melody through complex cascading figures. But quite how he gets the guitar to make the noise it does on Get Back is even more mysterious. If it’s lyrically a little veiled (quite what the ‘flying squirrels’ are doing in the title track I suspect only Marc will truly know), there are some more obvious hooks and Lords Of War has a clear target. Family Reunion on the other hand lightens the load with a wry smile. [Reviewed by Simon]
Pause and ponder African Day…
Various Artists – 30: Real World At Womad ( Real World Gold)
This double disc set is a simple celebration of the close, working affinity between Real World Records and the Womad festival and marks the 30th staging of the annual carnival of global music. Having already embarked on a series of Gold reissues that clearly demonstrate the gilt cutting-edged quality of the label’s output, the 30 tracks assembled here have some degree of crossover, but the impetus of that re-working of the back catalogue plays second fiddle to a more concrete tie in to the festival’s stages. The names contained herein will likely be familiar to Womad regulars and even those more casual or armchair observers, who have perhaps dipped a toe and pitched a tent on odd occasions. Either way it’s a simply fantastic collection and includes some of Real World’s more recent signings, such as Portico Quartet, Samuel Yirga, Dengue Fever, The Creole Choir Of Cuba, Spiro, Aurelio and JuJu amongst the lynch pin names of Papa Wemba, Sheila Chandra, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ozomatli, Dub Colossus, Afro Celt Sound System, The Blind Boys Of Alabama, The Drummers of Burundi and ‘the man without whom,’ Peter Gabriel. It’s stirring, surprising, scintillating and a sumptuous musical smorgasbord. Tuck in! [Reviewed by Simon]
Here’s Papa Wemba in suitably colourful mode, with the video for Yolele form the Emotion album, released as part of the Gold series, by way of celebration…