Like the career of Miles Davis himself -- and, in particular, the part of his career to which this two-disc set pays homage -- this album presents a maddeningly uneven collection of material and performances, ranging from intense and lovely elaborations on Davis' original themes to numbingly tedious and overlong expositions of others. The experiment was the brainchild of experimental guitar hero Henry Kaiser and trumpet player Wadada Leo Smith, who teamed themselves up with bassist Michael Manring, drummer Lukas Ligeti, and a large number of other musicians both famous (John Medeski, Elliott Sharp) and obscure to rework some Miles Davis compositions from his electric jazz-funk period. Kaiser is a guitarist of multi-layered genius who is equally at home producing experimental noise with Fred Frith and accompanying Hawaiian slack-key guitarists and Okinawan folk singers; Smith is a trumpet player with a rich, brilliant tone who has worked with Anthony Davis and Muhal Richard Abrams, among many others. But despite the generally attractive noises they create with their band, too many of the tracks on this album are strung out far too thin; there tends to be far more elaboration than the conceptual content of the tunes can support. "Ife," for example, has a smoldering, minimalist groove and lots of great moments, but 35 minutes of one chord is just too much, no matter how deep the groove is or how intrepid the soloists. On the other hand, "Maiysha," which follows it, is perfectly crafted (and relatively concise at just over eight minutes) and features a scorching Henry Kaiser solo. On the second disc, "Moja-Nine" stands out with its refreshing, punky intensity, and the "Themes from Jack Johnson" medley works, despite its extended length, because the themes vary so widely. So all in all, this album is by no means a failure -- it just needed some trimming.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2