Of the many debate-prompting releases from Miles Davis’ shape-shifting career, On the Corner (1972) may top the list. The trumpeter admitted the music was influenced by funk artists like James Brown and Sly & the Family Stone, the result being an album rooted more in rhythm than electric studio predecessors like Bitches Brew or Jack Johnson. The disc so influenced 53-year-old Nashville-based saxophonist Jeff Coffin that he assembled an all-star lineup to play material from it and surrounding Davis releases in 2015 at the venue 3rd & Lindsley—including the saxophonist from the On the Corner sessions, 72-year-old Dave Liebman.
Liebman’s spoken introduction leads to Joe Zawinul’s title composition to Davis’ 1969 gem In a Silent Way, highlighted by Chris Walters’ plaintive piano. The versatile keyboardist switches to Fender Rhodes as another up-and-coming Music City player, guitarist James DaSilva, recreates John McLaughlin’s lines in “On the Corner.” Coffin harmonizes with Liebman—both on soprano saxophone—amid the rhythmic torrent of bassist Victor Wooten and drummer Chester Thompson.
DaSilva, Thompson, and Wooten, arguably the most athletic fusion bassist since Jaco Pastorius, each get impressive solo interludes. Wooten’s harmonics display leads into the other On the Corner selection, a 12-minute version of “Black Satin” on which the saxophonists put forth stirring solos that incite the crowd. Hermeto Pascoal’s pastoral “Selim” (from Davis’ 1971 release Live-Evil) and Davis’ own strutting “IFE” (Big Fun, 1974) also help make this new On the Corner incarnation what every live album should be—the next best thing to having been there.