Children on the Corner

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Rebirth Review

by Thom Jurek

Even more come across the time-worn paths of ether and obscurity: Children on the Corner is a collective made up of ex-Miles Davis sidemen from his eclectic years that include Sonny Fortune, Michael Henderson, Badal Roy, Ndugu Chancler, and Barry Finnerty. The band is led by keyboardist and composer Michael Wolff, the only non-Davis personnel. Rebirth was recorded live over two nights at the popular Oakland, CA, nightspot Yoshi's. The program is a set of tunes from Davis, as well as some group and Wolff originals. The album kicks off with one of the most inspiring readings of Josef Zawinul's "Directions." For over 21 minutes, Fortune and Wolff explore the outer reaches of Davis' loose harmonic universe. The small vamps and riffs are deceptive in that they provide a framework for all kinds of harmonic interaction across numerous planes. Dissonance and groove enter into a beautiful dialogue as Fortune blows the living hell out of his ax. Wolff's fills with the right hand to provide a reference not for returning, but for jumping off, and Finnerty's razored chords and riffing patterns keep blues and funk in the forefront of the groove itself. "New York Girl" is done is two parts here with the band's own "Oakland Raga" -- featuring Roy's shimmering tables on the tip of the greasy funk underneath inserted between sections of Wolff's own compositions. "Madimba" and "Tone Poem" are melodic tonal studies that borrow from Davis' modalism as much as they do his minimalism and open the way for the psychedelic street jam "Bb Philly Funk." The set closes with an elongated, greatly inspired performance of the singsong-y "Black Satin," with the rhythm section bringing it home into the mysterioso Selim S'evade darkness with nods to George Clinton. In all, this is a fine, deftly played, and emotionally fired-up recording, one of the better post-Davis tributes out there; it deserves to be heard for the depth of inspiration and sheer musicianship between bandmembers alone. That the music stands on its own outside the Davis connection is a tribute to the emotional and musical commitment of Children on the Corner.

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