Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fusion Pipe Dreams: Part One

By the mid-Sixties, if not earlier, Miles Davis was actively listening to pop and rock music. By the late-Sixties his own music was displaying rock influences -- hear the Hendrix-derived "Mademoiselle Mabry" from the 1969 opus "Filles de Kilimanjaro" for starters. In 1970 Davis recorded a spacey, Indian-infused take on David Crosby's "Guinnevere," which had debuted just a year earlier on the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album. Ever since hearing that performance (first released in 1979) I've tended to file away classic rock tunes that I wish Davis had looked into. "Coming Back To Me" is one of the Jefferson Airplane's masterpieces, a moody sonic dream that stands as one of the great ballads of the era. The Airplane had certainly been listening to Miles: Grace Slick, the composer of "White Rabbit," -- yet another masterpiece from the glorious "Surrealistic Pillow" album of 1967 -- described the song as being a cross between "Sketches of Spain" and "Bolero." Although Slick had actually written the song for an earlier band, The Great Society, Davis was obviously still in her ears. Hear her recorder obligato to Marty Balin's plaintive vocal on "Coming Back To Me." In her own modest, hesitant manner, Slick is channeling Davis. Maybe that's what alerted me to the song's potential for an MD interpretation. I can just hear Davis etching his way through a diaphanous melody that seems to evaporate in the air, right after piercing your heart.
File this one under Fusion Pipe Dreams...

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