Miles Davis
Jack Johnson


5.0
classic

Review

by Miguel Walter USER (20 Reviews)
May 19th, 2006 | 45 replies | 10,074 views


Release Date: 1970 | Tracklist


5 of 6 thought this review was well written

To me, the most remarkable thing about Miles Davis isn�t that he released Birth of the Cool, one of the most important jazz recordings of all time, before he was 25. And it isn�t that, from 1957 to 1959, he released four five-star albums and another, Porgy and Bess that isn�t so bad either. It isn�t even that he released Bitches Brew in 1969 � hell, I don�t even like Bitches Brew all that much, I just listen to On the Corner when I want to get Miles to punch my face in.
No, for me, the one thing Davis did during the span of his recording career that is the single most remarkable is 1970�s A Tribute to Jack Johnson, a two-track masterstroke that features Davis (obviously) on trumpet, Herbie Hancock on keyboards and John McLaughlin on guitar and was the soundtrack for a documentary about boxer Jack Johnson.

A Tribute to Jack Johnson kicks off with �Right Off,� a 26-minute track that is basically Davis tipping his hat to Sly Stone and the other funk greats of the time. But its far from just a tip of the hat, he's showing he can do it better.

The song opens with McLaughlin tearing into his guitar. The guitar part isn�t necessarily hard or intense, but as is the case with all the best jazz you'll ever hear, its all about the feeling, baby.

As McLaughlin tears *** up, the drums and bass join him and you immediately get lost in the fun.
And then, at the 2:19 mark, MILES appears. That�s right, for the first 2:19, Miles isn�t even on the track!

He appears with a simple note from his horn, gaining your attention, and then he takes things over and things get ten-times as funky as they were at the start.

For the next several minutes, Davis, Hancock and McLaughlin go to town, playing some of the best music you�re likely to hear in any genre. To be honest, it kind of reminds me of Standards-era Tortoise, but I�m sure the jazz gods would hate to hear me say it. The song could just end with those three going nuts and I would be satisfied � but it doesn�t.

Right before 11-minute mark, when you�ve finally accepted the song for what it is and you�re really getting down with your bad self, the whole thing stops and it becomes, well, almost ambient. A lone horn guides you on a slow, relaxing trip that wouldn�t be out of place on a Pink Floyd album. For sure, its one of those lay-on-your-bed-with-headphones-on-and-think-about-the-meaning-of-life-while-stoned-out-of-your-mind moments, one of those breakdowns when you�ll find yourself wondering why you ever listen to anything else.

But it only lasts just over a minute! As suddenly as the mini-breakdown had started, it ends and McLaughlin�s guitar and the rest of the song�s backbone fade right back into focus. Right when you were picturing yourself floating down a river, or drifting through the air, or whatever the hell the song was making you think, you�re punched back to life and its once again time to boogie with the band.

Hancock�s keyboard work keeps things bumping throughout and, really, its good enough to be considered one of the best things Hancock has ever done, right up there with Empyrean Isles and �Rockit.�

McLaughlin�s guitar is another constant, always distorted and always funky.

But the best thing throughout is clearly Miles, who seems to be at his most playful, his most inspired and his most intense all at the same time. Live-Evil is crazy, yes, and it came first, yes, but A Tribute to Jack Johnson is like Live-Evil, only consistent enough that you can get down to the whole thing. Live-Evil is Swordfishtrombones and Jack Johnson is Rain Dogs, if a Tom Waits comparison will help me make my point.

I haven�t even started with �Yesternow,� the album�s 25-minute second song, but it�s pretty much more of the same, only a little less funky and a little more chill. But you don�t buy this album for
�Yesternow,� you buy it for �Right Off.� And I hope you do buy this, or at least download it.

I really, truly think it�s the best thing Miles ever did.

And that is saying quite a lot, I know.



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4.3
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...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
May 19th 2006



16083 Comments


Add some spaces, as this is a pretty decent review. I've heard Right Off and I mean, it was pretty kickin', although I normally don't like Miles all that much.

Ephemeral
May 19th 2006



144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Damnit

I was going to review this album.

Good review, and awesome album.

STLMiguel
May 19th 2006



335 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Sorry about the spacing! I wish you could preview reviews.

STLMiguel
May 19th 2006



335 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

(fixed, I only now figured out how to edit these)

cliftonwheatley3
May 21st 2006



1 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Sonny Sharrock had a hand in a lot of the effects laden guitar tracks on this classic album, he is not credited on the liner notes, but is definitely in the mix...
one of miles's best and my favorite of the fusion period... nice review.

naymornings
May 23rd 2006



2 Comments


Excellent.


burton.and.gas
June 10th 2006



641 Comments


i had better check this out. I have "kind of blue" and i want "birth of the cool" (naturally) having heard it at a friends house. This sounds pretty great.

Sepstrup
June 10th 2006



1563 Comments


That's got to be awesome with those musicians.

burton.and.gas
June 11th 2006



641 Comments


Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. Genius combination.

STLMiguel
June 11th 2006



335 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

So none of you bitches thought this was well-written? I'm crushed.

Burton, if you are getting more Miles, pick up Someday, My Prince Will Come while you are at it. If you liked Coltrane doing "My Favorite Things," you'll love Miles and Coltrane doing the "Someday."

masada
June 11th 2006



2733 Comments


I don't really like Someday My Prince Will Come. A few good songs, though.



burton.and.gas
June 11th 2006



641 Comments


Burton, if you are getting more Miles, pick up Someday, My Prince Will Come while you are at it. If you liked Coltrane doing "My Favorite Things," you'll love Miles and Coltrane doing the "Someday."


ok thanks for the heads up, i've een listening to and enjoying jazz for so long, but not really thinking bout it. I am, as a result, anxious to catch up. Also its my mum's birthday on tuesay so you've give me an idea what to buy her.

STLMiguel
June 11th 2006



335 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Eliminator, I'll agree it is no 5/5 or anything, but the songs that are good are classics, I think. "Pfrancing" (sp) rules.

stonda
June 13th 2006



2 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This record is about one thing - groove..uups...sorry GROOVE :-) And the mind-blowing-off intro from miles at 2:19 is incredible. I love this record just because of this, not to mention McLaughlin's guitar playing...Be sure to get the session works from this record to hear all the superb jamming (original version is a mosaic from some - I do not know how many - pieces). This guy rolls in heaven!This Message Edited On 06.13.06

Rams
June 13th 2006



31 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Right Off" is a good track, very blues & funk oriented. It was a straight jam session between the three original members (Mclaughlin, Cobham, and Henderson) waiting for Miles to show up. I believe the moment when they all get quiet at around the 2 minute mark is when Miles finally walked in, then 19 seconds later pulls his trumpet out and starts playing. The track drags on a bit, but well worth a listen.

"Yesternow" drops the ball. Macero tried to do too much with it, splicing shit from the previous track, In A Silent Way, two different bands, and trying to shift a James Brown line into a more ambient piece. I was really upset when this followed up "Right Off".

burton.and.gas
June 14th 2006



641 Comments


I just got this for my mum's birthday. She liks it i have't listened.

STLMiguel
June 14th 2006



335 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That's awesome. Nothing like helping people discover great tunes, even though everyone still seems to think this wasn't well-written! Usually you at least get a sympathy vote, ha.

burton.and.gas
June 18th 2006



641 Comments


I prefer Yesternow, having heard this album. But they're both good tracks. I read the sleeve notes of this album and have to say i a quite intrigued, by the style of how this album was made.

I'm assuming you know that it was the edited product of an extensive jam session with all the musicians involved? And that things, which you would normally associate with more modern music, such as loops were used? This album is genius.

skipdog81
May 8th 2007



19 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is the best fusion album Miles has ever done, and I have almost his entire catalog.
The force and strength of Miles's own playing is probably the best of his career, and considering that I've never been to hugh on him as a player, that's saying something.
As a leader, the only album that in the fusion era that Miles outdone Jack Johnson on is On The Corner, but Miles's playing on that is only average, so it doesn't quite make the definitive grade.

FR33L0RD
May 29th 2007



1461 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great Album
but not close to a classic
My two cents
"Right Off" is amazing but "Yesternow" leave me cold except the last minute of the song that is marvellous
----------------------------
McLaughlin is one of the best guitar player in the world.period.
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Yes nice review...got my voteThis Message Edited On 05.29.07



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