Jason Miles - Black Magic (Advance Review)

Jason Miles
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Jason Miles - Black Magic 

Part of Miles Davis’s genius was his ability to spot talent. When Davis decided that he wanted to get a certain sound or move in a certain musical direction, he’d find the musicians who could achieve what Davis conceived. So when Davis began working on jazz fusion albums that would incorporate the synthesizer that was dominating 1980s pop and R&B at the time, he called on an artist who by the mid-1980s had developed a reputation as innovator who performed his keyboard wizardry for a who’s who of jazz, R&B and pop performers: Jason Miles.

Jason Miles - Black Magic 

Part of Miles Davis’s genius was his ability to spot talent. When Davis decided that he wanted to get a certain sound or move in a certain musical direction, he’d find the musicians who could achieve what Davis conceived. So when Davis began working on jazz fusion albums that would incorporate the synthesizer that was dominating 1980s pop and R&B at the time, he called on an artist who by the mid-1980s had developed a reputation as innovator who performed his keyboard wizardry for a who’s who of jazz, R&B and pop performers: Jason Miles.

Jason Miles handled the synthesizer programming on Davis’s Tutu, Amandla and Music from Siesta albums and spent the that decade and the 1990s working with the likes of Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, just to name a few. Miles branched more fully into working as a band leader and released a number of records starting in the mid 1990s with World Tour in 1994 up through his latest, Black Magic, slated to drop on March 6.

Black Magic features Miles on piano and keyboards, trumpeter Phillip Dizack, saxophonist Jay Rodriguez, bassist Reggie Washington, drummer Gene Lake and drum programmers Jimmy Bralower and Steven Wolf. The 10-track album includes six newly recording studio tracks, three live versions of tunes from Miles’ 2015 album Kind of New and a live version of the Miles Davis song “Jean Pierre.”

The studio and live tracks each have their virtues. For example, on the studio cut “Wolfedelic,” the programmed drums provide a mellow and jaunty pace and a good foundation for Miles to showcase his creativity on the piano and his wizardry on the keys with tones that are both atmospheric and percussive.

The title track, “Black Magic,” finds Washington laying down a smooth, R&B orientated bass line that Miles and trumpeter Dizack use platform for their individual flights of creative fancy and to engage in a musical conversation with each other.

The four live tracks confirm that there is nothing like hearing a group of skilled players working in unison on a stage. “Street Vibe,” has Miles opening with some church inspired organ playing before he is joined by Lake and Washington laying down a funky pace, while Dizack and Rodriguez respond with an energetic call and response conversation on trumpet and sax. Meanwhile, “Kats Eye” is a funk infused number that features a variety of tempo changes from a bluesy march to a straight up funk. However, Miles’ creativity on the keys is the constant that bridges the creativity displayed by all the players.

I’ll take my jazz how I can get it because it’s all good. And Jason Miles and his crew remind us on Black Magic that it’s better live. Solidly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 

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