[16 August 2007]
As enduringly popular as Miles Davis remains, it is something of a surprise to realize just how sparsely picked-over his catalog remains in terms of remixes and reinterpretations. Certainly, the folks at Columbia/Legacy have given Davis just about the most exhaustive and reverent reissue/re-release campaign in the history go recorded sound. However, aside from two Bill Laswell-helmed discs almost a decade ago (1999’s Panthalassa), no one has been allowed near Davis’ work. Considering the commercial and critical success of projects like Verve’s Remixed trilogy and Charlie Parker’s Bird Up disc, it’s surprising the Columbia overlords have been so chary at the prospect of opening up the vaults in this manner. Given how much of a cantankerous fellow Davis was in life, there’s a good bet he’d approve of any such recontextualizing, especially inasmuch as it would be assured of scandalizing the blue-hairs in charge of jazz posterity.
In any event, 2007 brings us the Evolution of the Groove EP, which, while hardly a full-scale remix effort, still has a couple nice moments. Whereas the Verve Remixed discs were aimed at a club crowd, this disc is a tip to the hip-hop nation. It begins with a one-minute long studio outtake of “Freddy Freeloader”—exclusive fanbait in the most literal sense of the word—which segues into some nice territory with “Freedom Jazz Dance”, a Miles Smiles-era number with additional work from Nas and his dad, trumpeter Olu Dara. The tracks aren’t so much remixed as refitted, with remix honcho Pat Thrall delivering a respectful rhythmical update without upsetting the appeal of the original tracks. The best bit here is probably In a Silent Way‘s “It’s About That Time”, featuring a blistering guest spot from Carlos Santana. Honestly, after all the adult contemporary pap he’s been responsible for these last few years, I didn’t know he had it in him. Still, at just barely 15 minutes, this EP does little more than wet the appetite. As well-heeled and interesting as these reinterpretations are, there’s not enough to sink one’s teeth into. I’d really like to hear more in this vein, guys. For now, however, I’ll have to settle for listening to Bitches’ Brew again for the umpteeth time—still scarier and more forward-thinking than just about anything else released in the intervening four decades.