The Complete on the Corner Sessions (Columbia)
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., Dec. 7, 2007
Miles DavisThe Complete on the Corner Sessions (Columbia/Legacy)
"I got everybody in the band but the devil on tambourine." So proclaimed trumpet titan Miles Davis around the time of On the Corner. He wasn't kidding either. Spanning 1972-1975, this 6-CD collection, the eighth and final installment in Columbia/Legacy's brilliant metal-spine series, is a cultural melting pot of musicians, featuring cast members from 1969's seminal Bitches Brew (Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, and Mahavishnu Orchestra's John McLaughlin), Herbie Hancock's futuristic piano textures ("Jabali"), and Afro-Cuban percussion from Mtume and Al Foster, with Badal Ray and Khalil Balakrishna adding evanescent Eastern atmospherics via tabla and droning sitar ("Chieftan"). More important is the influence of Karlheinz Stockhausen's aleatoric compositions and the superfly sexuality of Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, and Davis' ex-wife Betty, manifest in the freestyle funk of electric bassist Michael Henderson and guitarist Pete Cosey's fuzz-box magic, everything treated and colored with effects pedals. This revolutionary fusion results in the most liberating and sublimely psychedelic music ever envisioned, from Davis' lyrical and emotive Duke Ellington encomium "He Loved Him Madly" to the radical jungle groove of the previously unissued "Turnaround" and reprise "U-Turnaround." The shape-shifting looping and production by Teo Macero, meanwhile, is magnified through cross-examination of the unedited versions of "On the Corner," "One and One," and "Helen Butte/Mr. Freedom X" with those found on the original album, generously included on disc six and bookended by Get Up With It's "Red China Blues" and edited singles of "Big Fun" and "Holly-wuud." The devil wasn't on tambourine, but he remains in the details.