MILES DAVIS — On the Corner

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MILES DAVIS - On the Corner cover
4.01 | 34 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1972

Filed under Fusion


A1 On The Corner 2:58
A2 New York Girl 1:32
A3 Thinkin' One Thing And Doin' Another 6:45
A4 Vote For Miles 8:45
A5 Black Satin 5:16
B1 One And One 6:09
B2 Helen Butte 16:06
B3 Mr. Freedom X 7:13

Total Time: 54:47


Bass [Uncredited] – Michael Henderson
Composed By – Miles Davis
Drums [Uncredited] – Jack DeJohnette
Drums, Percussion [Uncredited] – Billy Hart
Guitar [Uncredited] – David Creamer (tracks: A5, B), John McLaughlin (tracks: A1 to A4)
Keyboards [Uncredited] – Chick Corea (tracks: A1 to A4), Herbie Hancock
Keyboards, Organ [Uncredited] – Harold "Ivory" Williams
Percussion [Uncredited] – Don Alias (tracks: A1 to A4), James Mtume (tracks: A5, B)
Sitar [Uncredited] – Collin Walcott
Tabla [Uncredited] – Badal Roy
Tenor Saxophone [Uncredited] – Carlos Garnett (tracks: A5, B), David Liebman (tracks: A1 to A4)
Trumpet [Uncredited] – Miles Davis

About this release

Columbia ‎– K 31906 (US)

Thanks to snobb, Abraxas, JS for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Although Miles' first attempts to break with jazz involved inspiring/paying jazz musicians to play rock based jams that were somewhat similar to improvisations by the The Grateful Dead, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and others, on 'On the Corner' Miles strove to break even further with the jazz world. The success that former band mate Herbie Hancock had with mixing the new Sly Stone and James Brown inspired funk style with jazz made Miles a bit jealous, and he was out to connect with that younger 'street' crowd that Herbie had connected with. As an attempt to mix commercial funk with jazz, 'On the Corner' is a total failure, but the end result is something much better and more timeless than any of the other more commercial jazz/funk albums of that decade. This album is only remotely similar to Sly and James because Miles was still getting too much influence from Stockhausen, Sun Ra, psychedelic rock and the traditional music of Africa. The end result is a fascinating quiltwork of disjointed syncopated rhythms with constant, yet almost static, improvisations that bubble up through the thick mix of acid-lounge guitar, jazzy elecric piano, traditional Indian instruments, synthesizers and African persussion. Some might be put off by the fact that the disjointed drum beats rarely change, even as the music moves to a new track, but the static beat is what causes this music to freeze it's linear motion and begin to stretch out in a more horizontal manner.

One possible take on this album is that this is what traditional African music would sound like if it was played on 70s styled psychedelic electronic instruments. When the original version of this album was released, there were no listed musician credits and it had been assumed that the only guitarist on here was McLaughlin, but slowly rumors surfaced that the lesser known Dave Creamer also provided some great guitar work. Once upon a time in the early 80s I was looking at music ads in the SF bay area and saw Creamer had an ad in which he offered guitar lessons. I talked with him about lessons and finally asked if he was one of the guitar players on 'On the Corner' to which he cheerfully said yes. I finally admitted I couldn't afford lessons and he said with a classic hippie upbeat attitude to be sure and call him when I was on better financial ground. He was really a nice guy, and very patient with what was an obvious ploy to talk to a major cult figure from the murky and mysterious musical world of Miles Davis.
Abusive Funk

Released in 1972, one of Davis’ last 70s studio albums, it is yet another explorative and improvised album with yet another genre in mind. Before it had been with rock, succeeded in Jack Johnson and sort-of exceeded in Live-Evil, psychedelic rock was simply a piece of the puzzle that Bitches Brew was. With On The Corner it was funk the genre that Miles had in mind to delve deep into its roots and make it grow like something that doesn’t sound like funk in any way.

I’m simply guessing by saying that this is inspired by Funkadelic and Sly & the Family Stone, the former being the psychedelic funk continuation of Hendrix, while the latter would give the basis to Hancock’s supreme funk-fusion. But saying that On The Corner is a funk album is simply being deaf, it is actually far from anything the aforementioned bands did, like I already stated at the beginning. Avant-garde funk? Yeah, that’s a bit closer, but what does that actually mean or sound like?

It’s actually easy to imagine if you already know other Davis’ 70s works, it is a pretentious project consisting of a line-up of the highest calibre, among those the ever-so majestic McLaughlin on guitars and Hancock being one of the keyboardists on board, including percussion (tabla amongst them!) and electric sitar for the first time in Davis’ career. The music that resulted in here is way out there, with African and Indian echoes interpolated with psychedelic passages and repetitive weird grooves, all in all making some, to quote Fela Kuti, “expensive shit”. ‘Expensive’ because it’s so rich in textures and rhythms, plus the always incredible spacey ambiences that Miles pulls off with his wah-wah and the rest of the band. ‘Shit’ because it’s bombastic and incoherent at first listens, and it may be incoherent for some people forever, and I can’t blame them, it’s a hard and lengthy ride and not for everyone’s appeal.

I really have no idea what in the hell was Miles thinking (smoking?) when he said that this album was intended to connect with a wider audience, mainly black. I’d call this also ‘abstract music’, a term that fellow reviewers use to describe Thrust by Hancock, where there’s absence of actual melody and there’s only a theme that is repeated all along in the four compositions and there are musical adventures that grow on top and beneath them.

Yeah, ‘expensive shit’ indeed. Not an album I usually listen to, and admittedly not one I’m completely fond of, but still it was worth my money listening to such crazy jams, and really cool to listen to it alongside real funk albums, the comparison between them makes my mind explode. Recommended and not recommended, you should have already figured out why is that.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
One of the harsh critics Miles faced during his electric awakening was that he was purposely playing to whiter audiences, which of course was idiotic since plenty of white people listened to his 60's quintet albums or his 50's projects as well. So After the Jack Johnson bracket, Miles's next studio venture was set to appeal to an African-American audience by re-directing it towards funk, thus creating jazz-funk (as opposed to jazz rock). But ultimately this didn't change much his music or Miles' audience. Clearly miles took a listen at Sly Stone's funk (and probably James Brown's as well) and started asking his musicians to play funk grooves and keep them up so the frontmen could solo away; while some of these funk rhythms or grooves can be very complex, it appears that they're just staying stuck in that groove, not veering away. This is the first significant change, but it brings also the soloists up front to slightly adapt their play, McLaughlin's guitar (the only track in which he appears) never sounding to acid, while Miles' near-brutal trumpet growls are filling the air. on the title track suite opening the album. Around the end of the track, it veers into an in Indian .music through sitar and tabla drums (Walcoot of Oregon is a guest on three tracks) to metamorphose the funk into a raga. Black Satin picks up that raga, but soon abandons it for some ward Spanish castanet thing, but the whole thing is messy as a George Clinton's Funkadelic album.

The tracks on the flipside are in the same kind of un-moulded mould, very chaotic and not much more accessible, the lengthy Helen Butte/Mr Freedom X holds some superb passages. Miles is also fiddling with many electronic sounds throughout the album, but nowhere is that more evident than on this last track. This is the kind of thing that will give Hancock ideas for his Mwandishi group, first with Gleason as an extra and then handling them himself.

While I am generally anything but square and orderly about music, I find that On The Corner is an incredible mess, with plenty of unneeded lengths, tedious , repetitive and monotonous rhythms and solos, most grooves (usually good , at first) overstaying their welcome in almost every case. No matter how much weaker I think this album is compared to its previous studio effort, I still call this album essential, because it's one of the first example of jazz-funk in history. So it sits proudly in my shelves right next to its better cousins, but gets much less regular spins.

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