Sunday, April 03, 2016

Miles Ahead: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Sony Legacy, 2016)

Your enjoyment of the soundtrack to Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biographic film will most likely depend on your appreciation of Davis’s electric band recordings of the 1970’s. Since the film takes place in the late 1970’s when Davis was temporarily retired from playing music there is quite a bit of it. There is something of a chronological order to the music with an acoustic small band version of the title track “Miles Ahead” leading off the album, followed by the legendary “So What” from Kind of Blue, an album who Cheadle as Davis tries to distance himself from in an included dialogue snippet. One in which he also threatens to kill Phil Shaap, sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who has ever listened to Shaap on the radio… From there the album moves briskly to edits of “Solea” and “Seven Steps to Heaven” and “Nefertiti.” All of this music is beautiful, and certainly stands as highlights of Davis’s career, but after this we move into the electric portion of his music. Much of the music has to been severely edited and it can be a little confusing, considering that Teo Macero and Davis did so much heavy editing and producing of the original sessions at the time of their release. “Prelude Pt. 2” taken from Agharta is a bracing jolt. That snarling guitar of Pete Cosey percussion of Mtume and epic bass of Michael Henderson still sound like they are from the future, a full forty years later. Henderson is the lynchpin of “Duran (Take 6 edit”) with that massive bass threatening to swallow everything up. I haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know if it will touch upon Davis as the supreme talent scout, although the John McLaughlin feature “Go Ahead John (part two C)” is included. It’s an odd choice from Bitches Brew, and one this Davis doesn’t play on to boot. There are some modern musicians on the soundtrack as well, notably Robert Glasper, who contributes the excellent period sounding jazz fusion “Junior’s Jam” as well as the concluding hip-hop jazz “Gone 2015” which mixes brass, vocals about contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter and strong beats. There is also a thunderous live performance of “What’s Wrong With That” with Don Cheadle, Robert Glasper, Gary Clark, Jr., Herbie Hancock, Keyon Harrold, Antonio Sanchez, Esperanza Spaulding and Wayne Shorter. Not too shabby. I’m not a big fan of soundtracks, but this one held my interest. It certainly helped that the subject of the film was one of the greatest of all jazz musicians and most innovative artists of the twentieth century. It’s a strange mix of material, but probably worth checking out of you are a fan of Davis or plan on seeing the film. Miles Ahead Soundtrack -

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