Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Charles Pillow Large Ensemble: Electric Miles (MAMA)

Review of the saxist/flutist's big-band tribute to late-'60s/early-'70s Davis

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Cover of Charles Pillow Large Ensemble album Electric Miles
Cover of Charles Pillow Large Ensemble album Electric Miles

In retrospect it’s easy to hear the evolution from Miles Davis’ mid-’60s albums to In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, and On the Corner. Still, plenty of listeners weren’t happy when atmosphere took the place of composition. Groove was everything, though sometimes it could feel tentative. Studio editing, of course, also played a major role, creating a strong structure from open ends and adding direction to the longer pieces.

Alto saxophonist/flutist Charles Pillow has taken eight compositions from those Davis albums and arranged them for a conventional big band. Though many were originally played by a large ensemble stocked with extra electric keyboardists and percussionists, Pillow’s Large Ensemble is made up of four saxophones, four trombones, four trumpets, bass clarinet, and a rhythm section. In their hands, the lowdown groove of “Bitches Brew” doesn’t sound quite as dirty or slinky. The quick cuts and melodies of “Pharaoh’s Dance” are split nicely between horn sections, delivered over a steady beat. The ensemble takes away some of the original mystery by making the music a little too clean. But even within these conventional charts, the soloists don’t relax. Pillow himself adds fire to both of the aforementioned tracks. In addition to trumpeters Tim Hagans and Clay Jenkins filling the role of the Prince of Darkness, his one-time bandmate Dave Liebman puts in two cameos.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published