David Liebman/Jeff Coffin ‘On The Corner Live! The Music Of Miles Davis’ CD (Ear Up) 5/5

It seems appropriate that Dave Liebman should get top billing on this album, as he played on the first side of the original On the Corner which was released in 1972. Early in 1973, Liebman also joined Davis’s touring band. However, the current album is not a recreation of the music produced in 1972. This is more of an overview of the music that Miles Davis was producing during the period when he was beginning to produce an essentially collective music which focussed on multiple rhythms and textures. This was something that had its genesis in 1969 with the release of In a Silent Way.

After a spoken introduction about Davis and this period from the leader, it is the title track from that album which we hear first and which is performed with a kind of delicate intensity. This is a curtain-raiser for what follows which is indeed the title track from On the Corner. Here the heat increases greatly with the twin soprano saxophones of Liebman and Jeff Coffin going into battle.

‘Wili’ is next. Originally appearing on the Davis album Dark Magus from 1974, the version here opens with atmospheric keyboards from Chris Walters soon joined by the leader on wood flute and the rhythm team of Victor Wooten on bass and Chester Thompson at the drums putting down a rock steady beat. Soprano saxophone and flute in unison prove to be very effective here and it’s not long before we get to hear the guitar artistry of James DaSilva adding to the tension. This performance has a similarly atmospheric feel to ‘In a Silent Way’.

The various themes are interspersed with features for the band members and so a bass interlude is inserted between this and ‘Black Satin’ which readers will recognise as being on the original On the Corner. This is no slavish copy. Clearly the instrumentation differs. I particularly like the change in tempo around nine minutes in allowing Walters to shine again.

‘Selim’ which featured on Live-Evil from 1971, opens with a thoughtful piano introduction before a most delicate soprano saxophone interlude and some equally wonderful clarinet from Coffin. The unusual soprano/clarinet voicing is mesmerizing here and leads into a guitar interlude before the band return for ‘Ife’ from Big Fun released in 1974. This is moody, mysterious and intense music but never abandons the funky rhythmic bass and drum figures which hold the performance together. A drum interlude follows and the album is rounded out with a frantic ‘Mojo’ and, for me, the outstanding track from the album ‘Jean Pierre’ from We Want Miles, the most recent album represented on this collection dating from 1982. This is great fun and is a fantastic closer to this live set. Everyone seems to be having a great time and the electric saxophone of Coffin is particularly outstanding. This album succeeds in delivering a mix of jazz, funk, rock and fusion all expertly performed and so there should be something for every listener to enjoy during this hour or so of music-making.

Alan Musson