MILES DAVIS — Miles in the Sky (review)

MILES DAVIS — Miles in the Sky album cover Album · 1968 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Miles Davis wrote his own history. This fifth album by the Second Great Quintet is among Miles' best albums, yet sometimes forgotten. It is here we hear the first signs of jazz-rock he would later revolutionize. Electric pianos appear thanks to Herbie Hancock and a rare appearance of Ron Carter on electric bass, something he did not usually prefer to play. The quintet is augmented by guitarist George Benson on "Paraphernalia", further showing Miles' interest in rock music.

Now by no means is this a jazz-ROCK album, it is still very much the experimental post-bop this group had been playing, but electrified, with a little R&B mixed in.

The opening "Stuff" doesn't beat around the bush and gets right into action with classic Herbie e-piano playing, but I find Miles' playing on this song one of his best performances, his horn is full of power and I slightly attribute it to the fresh environment of electric instruments and 'rockish' beats; in which Tony Williams is not just adding rock beats to the mix, but is fusing rock rhythms with jazz sensibilities.

Adding George Benson to the mix is very cool, since this would have been the ultimate lineup if Benson stayed with the group, but he is just here as a guest. However his playing on "Paraphernalia" is classic. I was actually aware of Benson's music before I heard this album, so when I heard this song, I was amazed at how he blended in with the music.

At this point, Herbie is back to piano, and Carter on acoustic bass; and this lasts for the rest of the album. The music here is much more like the previous post-bop Miles albums, but again, with the guitar added. Miles is, again, on fire here and Williams drums like a mad man. Wayne Shorter on sax is particularly good on this song. I sometimes forget how good he is on this album, what with everything else going on with the electrified instruments, one of Miles' best performances, and George Benson being present; who's presence is a very fresh.

This album is groundbreaking, though not revolutionary. It is a big step in the eventual creation of what would eventually be called, Jazz-Rock/Fusion, and is not to be missed for the jazz-fusion fan; one that is interested in the genre's history. For those who aren't big fans of fusion, have no fear. If you enjoy the 60s Miles Davis albums and can handle the sound of the electric piano and electric bass, you should thoroughly enjoy this album. I would say a non-fusion fan would get into this easier than a jazz-rock/fusion fan, as this album is still 100% jazz, well maybe 98% ;)

This is the last album with this lineup intact. They would appear on the next album Filles de Kilimanjaro, but only on half the album. This is also Miles Davis' last full jazz album despite the appearance of electric instruments on "Stuff". This album is a big turning point in Miles' music, and music in general. A very underrated album.
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