Friday, January 11, 2008

A Miles Davis Tribute Worth Keeping

A Tribute to Miles Davis--Wallace Roney(trumpet), 
Herbie Hancock(keyboards), 
Tony Williams(drums), Wayne Shorter(reeds), 
Ron Carter(basAdd caption

Bear in mind that this isn't a dusty museum exhibition where the music of the late trumpeter and bandleader is dutifully eviscerated and mounted on a pedestal. Quite the opposite, as Davis alum Hancock, Shorter, Carter and Williams, along with firebrand trumpeter Wallace Roney perform a number of familiar tunes with vigor and intensity. Mere reverence is replaced with passion and a willingness to stir things up. Roney, in particular, is a wonder and an inspired choice to fill the trumpet position; he has a hard-core virtuosity that rivals Freddie Hubbard, and yet retains a sublimely modulated, vibratoless tone, clean and pristine. His register-jumping flurries on the live version of "So What" or the delicately etched readings are remarkable examples of pace and phrasing. And, square as it may sound, it's always great to have Hancock et al return from their wanderings in the fusion wilderness and apply their singular skills on material that requires the best of their improvisational genius. Shorter, for my money, remains the best saxophonist of the post-Coltrane generation, assembling his solos in abstracted sections and deliciously snaky tangents. Williams is, to say nothing else, an astonishing drummer, a continuous rumble of polyrhythms, rising and falling with the many sly turns of this music. Bop, ballads and casually asserted samba rhythms are highlighted with William's strong, graceful stickwork.

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