Henry Kaiser & Wadada Leo Smith/Yo Miles!


The things I wrote here last year about Sky Garden - the second double CD by the line-up directed by guitarist Henry Kaiser and trumpet player Wadada Leo Smith after their first double CD of the same name, released in 1998, apply here. Assembled in order to pay homage to the post-Bitches Brew Miles Davis (the period in question being 1970-1975 or, better said, '73-'75) by presenting part of that repertoire and new pieces assembled according to the same compositional logic, Yo Miles! is a variable line-up. Upriver comes from the very same sessions which had originated Sky Garden. Here the chosen tracks seem to accentuate the percussive, funk elements, not the "cosmic jams" of the previous release. Obviously, bass player Michael Manring, guitarists Chris Muir and Mike Keneally, saxophone players Greg Osby and John Tchicai, drummer Steve Smith, keyboard player Tom Coster, and percussionists Karl Perazzo and Zakir Hussain are again featured. Again, we have a nice - but all too brief - participation of the ROVA Saxophone Quartet.

The first CD is not bad - a very good opening with Go Ahead John, then the excellent On The Corner Jam, with a good performance by Zakir Hussain on tabla and percussions. It's with the same pleasure that one can listen to the long tracks titled What I Say and Bitches Brew. The second CD has a change of pace thanks to the brief track Macero, a collective improvisation, and the concise Yesterfunk. Maybe the best thing here is the long Thunder & Lightning, penned by Smith. In closing, a nice version of Black Satin, here bearing the subtitle (Slight Return).

At more than 150', the album doesn't sound long. But though there are a lot of excellent saxophone and guitar solos (be sure to check Kaiser's "beyond the fretboard"), I'd say Upriver a slightly less indispensable item than its predecessor - except for those who live and breath this music. Like the previous CD, Upriver is a "double layer" album: CD (the one I listened to) and SA-CD (here you'll need a compatible player).

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2005

CloudsandClocks.net | March 22, 2005