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The style mixes a little hard bop into the cool and modal genres Davis had pioneered in the '50s

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Sorcerer comes from an extraodinarily fertile period when Miles Davis was leading a quintet of future stars

Miles Davis: Sorcerer
Sony Music
Rs 100

 Recorded originally in May 1967, this album came from an extraodinarily fertile period in Miles Davis's career. He had settled well into leading a quintet comprising Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums, all considerably younger than him and in the process of becoming stars in their own right. The original LP has been padded by the addition of alternate takes of two tracks, Limbo and Masqualero, of which the first has Buster Williams in place of Carter and both of which join the other tracks on a Sony six-CD set called The Miles Davis Quintet: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (1965-68).

This period was just before Davis and others started developing jazz-rock fusion, a genre with less emphasis on solos and more on the induction of rock beats and sounds into jazz. But Davis had already started moving away from the standard mainstream be-bop/hard bop structure, in which the band (usually a small group) plays the melody and every member takes a solo in turn. Not that the numbers here aren't rich in solos, but just that the obligatory round is dispensed with.

The style of the music mixes a little hard bop into the cool and modal genres Davis had pioneered in the '50s. Even in the uptempo energetic pieces, it has the largely relaxed feeling of these two genres, heightened by Davis's trademark subtle timing of silences between phrases as well as by the general softness of the music.

Some numbers -- both takes of both Limbo and Masqualero, and Vonetta -- start with a piano solo intro before the theme. The theme is taken by the ensemble or by the trumpet (Davis) or tenor sax in the lead. Most of the pieces have solos by trumpet, tenor sax and piano, but not necessarily in any kind of order, with occasional flashes from drums or bass adding to the perceptible strong support given by these instruments right through.

Prince of Darkness, The Sorcerer and Limbo are fairly uptempo in rhythm, while Pee Wee is a slow ballad, and Masqualero and Vonetta are quite contemplative. The call-and-response duo improvisation between trumpet and tenor sax on The Sorcerer and the piano-bass duo improvisation on Masqualero add a touch of variety to the proceedings. On the latter, there is a pleasing contrast between Shorter's solo, building up power and tempo in the bass and drums, and Hancock's immediately following solo, gentle and leisurely, which merges into the piano-bass duo.

The musicians are all in good form, both their style and technique honed well by years of playing together to yield individually rich and collectively balanced sound. Go for this album without a second thought if your taste in jazz is mainstream or eclectic.


Published on 17 Aug 2001

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