Vinyl Vlog 516

Vinyl Vlog 516

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Monday, 23 August 2021
COLUMN

Miles Davis
Champions
Rare Miles from the Complete Jack Johnson Sessions

Jazz is like art to me. I don’t understand it, I think it’s pretentious and I think it hasn’t been good for decades, but I know what I like when I experience it. What’s a person like me to do? It’s been more than a decade that I decided to give jazz a shot and I haven’t looked back since. I have my favorite artists, albums, and songs. I have no idea what makes them special, but I recognize that feeling I get in my brain when I hear what I like. Jazz is more and more becoming something scholars and other jazz musicians can truly experience. The rest of us are left watching from the outside admiring the tip of the iceberg, completely oblivious of what’s left hidden beneath the surface.

There is absolutely nothing we can say on this site to put Miles Davis into context for our readers. Many other journalists have done it already, and done it pretty well. So, let’s just say Miles Davis is one of the essentials. Personally I categorize his music as before and after the electric period. The “before” stuff sounding more straightforward and what the laymen would consider “normal” jazz, and the “after” which sounds abstract and “nuts”. It’s an ignorant way to label the man’s work, but it helps me make sense of his chaotic career.

Champions is a collection of songs that comfortably places the listener in the “after” era. Culled from the Jack Johnson sessions, which were Miles Davis composing the soundtrack to the Bill Cayton documentary about Jack Johnson, the select tracks assembled here for the first time on vinyl sound seriously experimental and funky. There’s nothing “smooth” about the Jack Johnson sessions, but these songs are also remarkably listenable. And for someone who doesn’t shy away from the “tougher” parts of an artist’s story, I found these songs very easy to appreciate.

As for me, the “philistine”? I’m shocked that I still have the wherewithal to appreciate Davis’ music and find new things to enjoy in it. In that sense, Champions was a delightful surprise to me. I don’t “get” it, but I sure as shit really like it.

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