Music News

Various artists

Even beyond his 1991 death, Miles Davis remains one of the world's most influential musicians and bandleaders. Davis impacted the jazz world first with his groundbreaking approaches in the 1950s and early '60s. Arguably, his electric period (roughly from 1970's Bitches Brew onward) directly impacted rock, funk, punk, and electronica. What's not always mentioned is Davis' fascination with Indian ragas, which he began working into some of his compositions in the mid- to late '70s. Recently, producers Bob Belden and Louiz Banks conceived a what-if concept, wherein veterans of Davis' bands and recent generations of musicians from India collaborated. The resulting double-CD set was assembled from sessions in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Madras, yet the majority of the tracks work together seamlessly. Davis' timeless pre-electric ballad "Blue in Green" is surreally recast with raga overtones and Mike Stern's searing guitar without losing any of its tenderness. Another Davis classic, "Spanish Key," gets a feverish workout, the chunky American and vigorous Indian rhythms perfectly offsetting each other. With his spare, exceedingly lyrical style, trumpeter Wallace Roney ghosts beautifully for Davis. Miles alumni Dave Liebman and Gary Bartz contribute appropriately heated/cool soprano and alto saxophones. Also on this caravan are former Miles tabla player Badal Roy, underrated guitar wizard Pete Cosey, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, pianists Chick Corea and Robert Irving III, acoustic bassist Ron Carter, and sitarist K.V. Mahabala. Unlike some tribute album, India points to assorted futures as much as (if not more than) celebrating the past.

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Mark Keresman