“I didn’t think much of it,” David Liebman said about On the Corner, the funk-driven 1972 Miles Davis album on which the saxophonist appeared. Initially dismissed as one of the trumpeter’s lesser works, the Teo Macero-produced release’s reputation has steadily been rehabbed, a process that accelerated with 2007’s six-CD box set documenting the sessions.
On the Corner Live! has Liebman coming full circle, reanimating Miles’ electric music from that period with a roomful of Nashville cats, including saxophonist Jeff Coffin (Dave Matthews Band, the Mu’tet); Coffin’s former Flecktones bandmate, bass-guitar virtuoso Victor Wooten; drummer Chester Thompson; keyboardist Chris Walters and guitarist James DaSilva. The sextet, caught live at 3rd & Lindsley, an unassuming Music City venue tucked away in a strip mall, takes on two pieces from On the Corner and also digs into other Miles tunes from the same era.
The laid-back, Joe Zawinul-penned “In a Silent Way,” with Liebman and Coffin out front, serves as a mellow prelude to the deep rhythm-section grooves, harmony riffs and bustling, effects-edged solos of “On the Corner.” A sprawling, nearly 12-minute “Black Satin,” also from the On the Corner album, features a lengthy duel between the saxophonists, as they call and respond to each other’s lines and sometimes harmonize before taking off on separate flights of improvisation.
Hermeto Pascoal’s “Selim,” from the Live-Evil album, offers a meditative respite from the furious funk. Unaccompanied interludes by Wooten, DaSilva and Thompson, respectively, give those musicians a chance to display their considerable chops. And the disc is capped with two more blasts of funky, chunky groove making: “Moja,” from Dark Magus, offers a showcase for DaSilva’s acid-washed guitar shredding; and “Jean-Pierre,” from We Want Miles, features Liebman and Coffin conspiring on a familiar, catchy theme before giving way to solos by Walters and others. Electric Miles? Yes, we still want.