Thursday, June 07, 2007

Philip Freeman, Running the Voodoo Down: The Electric Music of Miles Davis

While I lack the expertise and foundation in musical theory to fully understand when jazz critics discuss such things as time signatures and "polarity of rhythm" and "artificiality of methodology" and such abstractions, I knows what I likes when it comes to jazz ... and I've always liked Miles Davis. And the nice thing about Freeman's book is that he doesn't burden the reader with abstractions.

Focusing on Davis's fusion period from 1967 thru 1974, Freeman offers a series of extended essays that explore the various ways in which Miles stretched the boundaries of what was considered "acceptable" (or even listenable, for that matter) both within and without the jazz community. By experimenting with personnel lineups, drawing from such influences as Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone in terms of sound and song structures, fostering oft times vitriolic relationships with fellow musicians and his producer, Teo Macero, and continually searching for new ways to push the limits of both the musician and the listener, Miles Davis was able to create a body of work within that short period that would immediately influence his peers within the jazz community (like Herbie Hancock or John McLaughlin) and artists within the prog rock community (Yes, King Crimson, etc.), and influence the likes of pop, rap, hip-hop, ambient, and rock artists in decades to come.

By the way, another book I've read that handles this era well is Paul Tingen's Miles Beyond: The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967 - 1991. Do check that one out as well.

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