Like his first album under the Kind of New moniker, a 2015 collaboration with trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, Jason Miles’ Black Magic is all about steep, deep jazz-funk groove-making, catchy melodies, and no-holds-barred solo romps, with more than a few nods to the brand of ’70s electric jams associated with the pianist/keyboardist’s onetime employer, Miles Davis. Unlike the earlier disc, the new one is more of a band effort, featuring a group he recently led on a tour of Europe: saxophonist Jay Rodriguez, trumpeter Philip Dizack, bassist Reggie Washington, and drummer Gene Lake.
Intermingling four new studio tracks with pieces recorded live at Nublu in New York City, the project includes nine tunes written or co-written by the leader. Generally speaking, the headiest, most energetic performances are on the second half of the disc, starting with an infectious 11-minute take on Miles Davis’ “Jean Pierre”; spiked throughout with Washington’s urgent, rubbery bass guitar work, it benefits from unfettered improvisations by Dizack and Rodriguez on soprano. Then come three that were also heard on the 2015 album but are more revved-up here. “Ferrari” is another showcase for soprano, and has Dizack strafing the stratosphere; Miles’ twisty electric piano lines and Rodriguez’s bass clarinet take center stage at different times on “Kats Eye”; and Lake explodes over the repeated riff at the end of closer “Street Vibe.”
Black Magic opens on a more laidback note with the title track, its sturdy R&B-ish grooves overlaid with mellow horn and keyboard textures and Miles’ searching piano solo. The even silkier “The Other Side of the World” takes a similar approach. Those two, along with the synth-laden “Wolfedelic,” make apt warmups for the high-energy groove sessions that follow.