BOB BELDEN — Various Artists: Miles From India (review)

BOB BELDEN — Various Artists: Miles From India album cover Album · 2008 · World Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
js
Miles from India” was a fairly ambitious project that sought to re-visit some of Miles Davis’ music, but with more of an accent on the Indian influences that Miles sometimes hinted at. Miles’ relationship with Indian music was often not much more than fashionable 70s exotic tone colors derived from using the tambura and tablas, but on a few cuts from his “Big Fun” and “Get Up With It” albums, there appeared a deeper understanding and appreciation of non-western musical approaches. “Miles from India” contains some decent Indian flavored fusion jams, but unfortunately Bob Beldon and his crew missed an opportunity to expand on some of Miles’ more interesting musical concepts.

“Spanish Key” is a great opener with a lengthy Indian flavored fusion workout that features great solos from an all-star cast of well known Indian and Western musicians, this cut shows off all this album’s strengths. “All Blues” follows, and although they shift the time to a 5/4 feel, its still in swing time and there really isn’t an equivalent to swing time in Indian rhythm. This means the ‘Indian’ flavor is provided via a sitar melody and solo which almost sounds like cheesy Martin Denny styled ‘exotica’. I can appreciate the attempts at creativity here, but possibly swing era jazz and Indian music can only mix on a superficial level. “Ife” returns things to the Indian fusion style, the legendary Pete Cosey turns in a guitar solo, but the once soaring Cosey now supplies only subterranean snarls from an overly processed guitar, possibly that is on purpose.

Hearing the tune from “In a Silent way” played like a classic raga is a real treat, but the following “Its About that Time” seems to forget the delicacy of the original and just lapses into another well played, but not particularly remarkable fusion jam. “Jean Pierre” closes CD 1 with its familiar 80s hip-hop groove, it’s a great song, but except for a virtuoso Indian styled flute solo from Rakesh Chaurasia, this version is not particularly different from the original.

CD 2 opens with “So What” having its swing feel replaced with an Indo-fusion groove that really doesn’t go great with original riff. Once again, trying to mix the older Miles material with the Indian music seems like a clumsy experiment at best. For the rest of CD 2 you get a couple more decent fusion jams, plus an unexpected Indian vocal rendition of “Blue in Green”, also a short and inconsequential track from John McLaughlin and a very disappointing rendition of the classic “Great Expectations”. The original “Expectations” was a masterpiece of time and space distortion on which Miles presented a struggling groove that ground to a halt over and over only to restart, finally blossoming slowly into an Indian flavored electric piano nirvana. This remake seems to ignore all that, blindly rushing through the changes in a hurry to reach a meaningless conclusion. The only plus to this track is hearing Adam Holzman play the original electric piano tracks on acoustic piano, nice work on that re-enactment.

The good points to “Miles from India” are the several Indian influenced fusion tracks, with the bad points being the clumsy attempts to merge with songs from “Kind of Blue”, as well as the missed opportunities to expand on some of Miles’ more interesting experiments. A lot of people have picked up on the fact that Miles played futuristic psychedelic rock during the 70s, and its nice he finally got noticed for that, but there was so much more. Much of what Miles was experimenting with in the 70s was related to his interest in Stockhausen’s attempts to freeze time, and both Miles and Karlheinz were looking to classical music from Asia for inspiration. Its very disappointing that this Indian flavored look at Miles’ past did not seem to recognize this most salient feature of Miles’ music.
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