Henry Kaiser / Wadada Leo Smith
Published Sep 01, 2004This is the second instalment of Henry Kaiser and Wadada Leo Smith's Yo Miles ensemble, dedicated to exploring the musical system developed by Miles Davis during his first electric period of 1969 to 75. Certainly, the musicians' line-up is very similar to Miles' bands of the time; if this were a movie, it would be a biopic with modern counterparts portraying members of Miles band. Zakir Hussain plays the role of Badal Roy on tablas, Kaiser has his own take on Pete Cosey's intense guitar freak-outs and Smith plays the man himself right down to the wah pedal. Many tribute projects fall into the trap of recreating the original vibe rather than expanding on it and this is one of them. The whole project isn't urgent enough: the drums never conjure up Sly & the Family Stone, the atmospherics never suggest Stockhausen, and nobody, save Smith, solos like they're a young gun with something to prove. Smith is the only one who uses Miles' inspiration to showcase a different but fitting style of his own. Elsewhere, tempos shuffle where they should rock harder or at least be tenser, with the exception of the finale "Cozy Pete." All this would have sounded a lot better if everyone involved had done a lot of blow before this recording perhaps that would have captured the increasingly bad juju of the time and resulted in some of the pained, nasty playing of someone whose physical condition was deteriorating.