(Mama Records MAA 1005. CD review by Frank Griffith
Charles Pillow leads his New York City-based Large Ensemble on his 2018 CD, Electric Miles. In his reimagining of Miles Davis’ “electric” years (1969-1972) Pillow draws from the seminal albums, Bitches Brew, In A Silent Way and On The Corner. His 18-piece big band transforms the sonic palette that was so innovative 50 years ago into a much more acoustic setting. Those who appreciate these compositions of Miles, Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter will, no doubt, find this tonal “fusion” a rewarding listen.
Arranger, alto saxophonist and flutist, Charles Pillow, presents Miles’ music from this period not with extended jams and post recording studio splicing by producer Teo Macero, but with orchestral treatments with one or two soloists per piece. Of particular note are guest trumpeters, Tim Hagans and Clay Jenkins, as well as Miles alumni, Dave Liebman, on soprano sax. Liebman’s solo on Black Satin is especially apt as he appeared on the 1972 On The Corner album on which Black Satin was originally recorded. Lieb’s sinewy and fiery soprano also scores well on Yesternow as does the leader’s sensuous and haunting alto flute outing on this track.
The trumpet solos of Hagans and Jenkins go to great heights in recognising Miles’ distinguished solo presence and leadership yet not attempting any fealty to the great master. Their unique language and post-Milesean tonal sensibility sparkles and excites throughout.
Pillow has thoroughly encapsulated such an important era of jazz in executing these arrangements with rich voicings underpinned with a powerful rhythmic propulsion enabling the music to relentlessly move forward. The sounds herein offer the listener a matured version of Davis’ sound, integrity and timeless beauty.