Fragmented Frequencies January 2017

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Last year’s Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead, a Don Cheadle fantasy with car chases, and a fictionalised white Rolling Stone journalist isn’t entirely what Miles deserved, but it did highlight his electric period. Listening to this music it’s so forward thinking you can understand how earth shattering it was. Not just for the listener, but also for his collaborators many of whom would subsequently chase their own muse: jazz-fusion.

Keyboardist Joe Zawinul composed the title track and appeared on Miles’ 1969 album In A Silent Way, and would go on to much acclaim via the Weather Report. But his 1971 solo album, simply titled Zawinul, which features his own gorgeous, atmospheric take on In a Silent Way and contributions from Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, is jaw droppingly soulful. Many consider it the unofficial first Weather Report album.

Keyboardist Chick Corea’s (Bitches Brew) fusion group, which also featured guitarist Al DiMeola, Return to Forever, is often cited as the premier fusion ensemble. Like many in the genre they would subsequently get a little too clean and impressed by their own dexterity, yet 1975’s No Mystery is the balls out Latin funk of four blokes strutting, on an album that is dedicated to L Ron Hubbard.

English Guitarist John McLaughlin (Bitches Brew), developed perhaps the most ferocious fusion in the Mahavishnu Orchestra, yet I prefer his 1977 ode to Indian classical music, Shakti, with tabla legend Zakir Hussain, which with acoustic guitar is almost an antidote to the aggressive spirituality of Mahavishnu.

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