Jason Miles - Kind of New (with Ingrid Jensen) (2015)

Jason Miles
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By my estimation, keyboardist Jason Miles and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen titled their upcoming project Kind of New for a couple of reasons: The title is clearly a play on Miles Davis’s classic 1959 recording, Kind of Blue, but sonically the record has more in common with the music that Miles began releasing a decade later with the equally revelatory Bitches Brew.

In fact, hard core Miles fans will recognize at least a few Davis covers among the 13 tracks on Kind of New: “Sanctuary” and “Jean Pierre,” reflective of the period toward the back end of the trumpet legend’s career, and including the period when Jason Miles programmed the synthesizers for him. This record includes several songs that Davis released during the last of his many evolutions – this time as a jazz, rock fusion artist – as well as originals by Miles and Jensen, so it’s kind of new.

By my estimation, keyboardist Jason Miles and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen titled their upcoming project Kind of New for a couple of reasons: The title is clearly a play on Miles Davis’s classic 1959 recording, Kind of Blue, but sonically the record has more in common with the music that Miles began releasing a decade later with the equally revelatory Bitches Brew.

In fact, hard core Miles fans will recognize at least a few Davis covers among the 13 tracks on Kind of New: “Sanctuary” and “Jean Pierre,” reflective of the period toward the back end of the trumpet legend’s career, and including the period when Jason Miles programmed the synthesizers for him. This record includes several songs that Davis released during the last of his many evolutions – this time as a jazz, rock fusion artist – as well as originals by Miles and Jensen, so it’s kind of new.

These times are remembered and brought forward beautifully on Kind of New. The album itself is Jason Miles’ bouquet to Davis’s week long performance at The Cellar Door in 1970 with a band that included Michael Henderson, Keith Jarrett, John McLaughlin, Jack DeJohnette, Gary Bartz and Airto Moreira. That band played “Sanctuary” during those dates, and that likely explains its inclusion on Kind of New.

Kind of New captures the spirit and sound of that era through loving renditions of the Davis numbers but also through the creative horn play by Jensen on funky tracks such as “Faction of Cool” and “Street Vibe.”  The former finds Miles and Jensen falling into the laid back funk that characterized some of Miles’ work in the 1980s. Jensen plays her horn sans the mute and her tone is full and clear. Miles interchanges between an electric keyboard sound and an organ sound, often using the former as a foundation for Jensen’s improvisations and the latter to showcase his own creativity.

“Jean Pierre,” has Miles inserting a funky bit of distortion on the keyboards that gives his playing a guitar-like quality as he and Jensen go head to head on the tune’s melody; it stands as the highlight of the covers – although “Sanctuary” has delights of its own. Still, Jensen and Miles shine on “Jean Pierre” as both seem to revel in the ample opportunity that the nine minute, 10 second track provides for them to wind within and through the spaces created by the bass and drums.

The bluesy “Shirley” captures an element of the jazz singer that the tune honors – the late Shirley Horn. Horn specialized in those slow, blues filled romantic numbers and, with Jensen’s clear tone and creative improvising, the track has the electrified feel of the acoustic material that Davis released with his great 1960s band.

“The aforementioned “Street Vibe” recalls those days in the early 70s when electrified jazz mixed with rock and funk. “Street Vibe,” with its heavy reliance on percussion and Miles soulful organ playing, manages to draw an element of soul-jazz into the mix. The hard driving rhythm section has a liberating effect the horn players.

Davis plugging in and bringing in one or two keyboards to fuse elements of rock and funk into his music was nothing short of revolutionary and people still get into heated debates over the quality of the music that Davis released during this period. However, Davis’s embrace of fusion empowered others to experiment, and that ushered in a period that belies the common view that jazz got stale in the 1970s, as the fusion of the era influenced plenty of R&B and funk bands. Listen to the Funkadelic of the early 70s, and you’ll hear a lot of similarities.

But just as people overlook Maggot Brain when discussing P-Funk, this free flowing brand of jazz/funk/rock fusion sometimes gets excised from the contemporary jazz canon. So the conscious effort that Jason Miles and Ingrid Jensen make to rehabilitate it on Kind of New is definitely welcome. Solidly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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