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November 2005

Various Artists
Fusion for Miles: A Guitar Tribute
Tone Center

Musicians and fans that revere Miles Davis' late period work will treasure Fusion For Miles, an anthology whose participants consider "Black Satin," "Back Seat Betty" and "Spanish Key" just as important as "So What" or "Nefertiti" (which are also part of the menu here). Organist Larry Goldings brings some blues/soul grit to the main lineup that also includes a tremendous funk bassist (Alphonso Johnson), a saxophonist just as comfortable with groove-heavy fare as the avant-garde (Dave Liebman) and a guitar-and-drum drum combo that are regulars in this setting (Jeff Richman and Vinnie Colaiuta, respectively).

Although personal favorites include Bill Frisell's typically unusual but effective playing on "Nefertiti," Pat Martino's easy, sleek solos on "Serpent's Tooth" and Bireli Lagrene's balance between flash and soul on "Spanish Key," there's also Mike Stern's steady playing on "So What" and Jimmy Herring's resourcefulness on "Black Satin." Richman's arrangements retain much of the intensity and appeal of the original tunes, though the larger Davis aggregations generated more punch on "Black Satin" or "Back Seat Betty."

As someone who initially loved (and still loves) the electric Davis' ensembles as much as the great acoustic groups, Fusion for Miles is a worthy celebration of both approaches.

Originally published in November 2005
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