MILES DAVIS — E.S.P. (review)

MILES DAVIS — E.S.P. album cover Album · 1965 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
My first Miles pre-fusion album.

I had heard So What long before I even got into Miles’ music, but when I got the urge to check out his pre-fusion albums, I went with this one first. I bought it mostly because of the lineup. Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Ron Carter are a who’s who of jazz-fusion (well except maybe Carter) but I knew it wasn’t jazz-fusion. I did, however, want to hear what they were doing with the great Miles Davis before the fusion scene exploded.

I fell in love with this CD. At the time I thought this was one of his best, and perhaps one of the best jazz records of all time. As my jazz collection has grown over the years, I can tell you this is a great record, one of Miles’ best, but not the best of all time. It is like a slightly avant-garde post-bop record, mostly due to Wayne Shorter having probably the most contribution to the music on this record.

What’s funny is that if you’re listening closely, you can hear all the sidemen’s nuances that they would later capitalize on later on in the 70s. Hancock with his neo-classical style mixed with R&B flavored chords, Williams being the usual monster on the set, and Shorter displaying his great talent for melody which would become classic in Weather Report.

Then there is Miles himself. The thing about this lineup is he seemed to take a backseat to the other members, and there is a lot of time where he is not playing. This is not unusual for him, but it is even more so here. However, I think this era of his music was his peak technically and playing-wise. Miles’ playing is just hot fire, and his solos are fast a lot of times, but of course never forgetting to be melodic. I think working with younger musicians at this stage in his life kept his chops up and made his playing fiercer (and not the kind of fierce heard on albums like Bitches Brew). His playing is very bright. Of course, there is still the cool Miles Davis, as heard on Little One, where I personally get this mid-60s vibe, very relaxed playing.

This lineup would evolve throughout the 60s and make even more interesting music. If you’re looking for great Miles jazz, this is a good place to start. I got this one and went chronologically into Miles’ fusion period. Good addition to any jazz collection.
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