Plenty of people have interpreted tunes from Miles Davis’s “electric period” (meaning his music from 1969-75; he continued to work with electric bands when he returned in 1981, and until his death) in the past, but they usually do it in a manner that sticks pretty close to the original. Conductor and arranger Charles Pillow has done something much weirder — he’s turned these pieces, originally created with live jamming and tape edits, into big band workouts. Two trumpeters, Tim Hagans and Clay Jenkins, are up front. Hagans has grappled with electric Miles on his own in the past; his band Animation released a full live version of Bitches Brew as Asiento in 2011. Soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman, who played on On The Corner and Get Up With It, is also here. Probably the weirdest track is “Black Satin.” Originally a handclap-driven vamp based on a single hypnotic figure, the big band creates a romantic(!) intro before diving into the deep funk groove. The horns blast and squawk; where the Davis recording was a sea of overlapping electric keyboards and intricately layered percussion, this is more like a horn chorale. Hagans takes a high-flying hard bop solo; trombonist Michael Davis goes into a Fred Wesley/James Brown zone; and Liebman takes the only solo that hints at the wildness of the original. I can’t quite figure out what I think about this album, but it’s a fascinating idea.
Stream “Black Satin”: