Miles Davis - The Complete On The Corner Sessions

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Columbia/Legacy 88697062392    ****
(Miles Davis (trp), Pete Cosey (g), Reggie Lucas (g), Herbie Hancock (k), Chick Corea (k), Lonnie Liston Smith (k), Dave Liebman (ss), Bennie Maupin (b-cl), Michael Henderson (b), Al Foster (d), Jack DeJohnette (d), Mtume (p), Don Alias (p) and others. Rec. 1972-6
Miles Davis - The Complete On The Corner Sessions
Don’t be fooled by the title, because this six CD boxed set covers much more than just the On The Corner album. In fact, it covers all of Miles’ studio sessions from 1972 to 1975, with much of the music unreleased until now. This was one of the most productive and controversial periods of Miles’ music, when he turned his back on jazz and focused on rhythm. The music was often loud, dense and challenging to the ears. There were electric guitars, layered keyboards, sitars, tabla drums – and Miles plugged his trumpet into a wah-wah pedal.

As with previous versions, the boxed set is beautifully packaged, but there are some disappointments. Whereas earlier sets included a track-by-track analysis, album background information and essays written by Miles’ former musicians, the On the Corner set has none of these things, although there is a very interesting essay by Paul Buckmaster, the English arranger who worked with Miles on On The Corner. Also, several unreleased tracks have been given incorrect titles.

But don’t let these things worry you, because this superb set throws new light on the music of Miles Davis – there are certainly lots of musical surprises. In addition to the original On The Corner album, there are unedited masters plus an alternative take from the sessions. Most of the Get Up With It album is also included and ‘Ife’ from the Big Fun album is present too, but it’s the unreleased material that will both fascinate and delight fans of Miles’ music.

On disc five, for example, there’s ‘Hip-Skip’ a laid-back, mid-tempo number that has Pete Cosey switching from guitar to drums, while on the next track, ‘What They Do,’ Cosey and fellow guitarist Dominque Gaumont play scorching lines over a furious rhythm section. Then to cap it all, the following track ‘Minnie’ (originally called ‘Mr Foster’), recorded in 1975, is actually based on Minnie Riperton’s sweet ballad ‘Lovin’ You’ and sees Miles returning to the conventional song-form, something he fully embraced in his 1980s comeback years. What’s also amazing is how this music still sounds fresh and exciting today. Buy this boxed set and give your ears a treat.
George Cole