Somnambule - Writing About Music

Children On The Corner ~ Rebirth

Miles Davis’s first electric period traced an arc from 1969 to 1975 which continues to illuminate the terrain toward which much of the most exploratory Electric Jazz of the past twenty years has travelled. Miles developed techniques (generic cross-pollination, studio cut and paste to name only two) which produced seriously funky and out music and which have inspired a whole slew of innovators including – to take fellow trumpeters as one example - Jon Hassell, Cuong Vu, Dave Douglas, Erik Truffaz and Rob Mazurek. Miles Davis’s legacy continues to serve as a sturdy dam against the waves of conservatism promulgated by the likes of Stanley Crouch, Wynton Marsalis and numerous conservatory graduates. In terms of influence Miles always was and, more than a decade after his death, continues to be both archetypal outsider and right at the very centre of things.

That’s one part of Miles Davis’s bequest, Wadada Leo Smith’s Yo Miles! and Mark Isham’s Silent Way project have taken another route and approached Miles’ 1970s music as repertoire ripe for musical interpretation. Two recently formed groups to have shared this approach comprise former members of Miles’ 1970s groups, one is guitarist Pete Cosey’s Children of Agharta and the other is Michael Henderson’s Children On The Corner. In the latter Miles Davis’s bass player is joined by three other Davis alumni: Ndugu Chancler on drums, Sonny Fortune on sax, Badal Roy on tablas and two others, Michael Wolff on keyboards and Barry Finnerty on guitar.

The eight tracks on Rebirth were recorded at a club date and the sound quality has a rough and ready feel. The problematic nature of this project can be noted in the group’s interpretation of the three tracks which originally appeared on On The Corner. What to this day sets that album apart is the stripped down, foregrounded nature of the harsh, tabla-dominated rhythm section. This emphasis upon the repetitive, the skeletal and the other is repeatedly subjected to the buffeting of studio effects and harsh solos. The production is strikingly prescient of much dance music from the 1990s onwards including hardcore, techno and jungle. Rebirth’s versions of “New York Girl” and “Black Satin” unfortunately don’t recognise the centrality of the sound to the originals. When reduced to musical composition, the essential impact dissipates like a dream upon waking.
Colin Buttimer
October 2003
Published by All About Jazz