Mike Stern - 4 Generations of Miles with George Coleman, Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb
Original Release Date: September 24, 2002
Audio CD: March 25, 2003
Label: Chesky Records
Bitrate: 320 kbps
Of the four musicians presented here, saxophonist George Coleman is the least represented on record with the great Miles Davis. But he's swinging here like he wants to play catch-up on this straight-ahead set recorded in a studio with an audience. The concept is as sound as the music, but don't expect any fusion-like explosions from guitarist Mike Stern, who joined Miles in the early '80s. The guitarist doesn't sacrifice the essence of his "dirty" sound; it's just that he's much more in the tradition than he ever was during his tenure with Miles. Stern and bassist Ron Carter do reach back into Miles's In a Silent Way prefusion era on a haunting version of "Blue in Green," circling and darting around the slow meter while Coleman rains down a Coltrane-like sheet of sound. Jimmy Cobb, one of the trumpeter's more subtle drummers, continuously makes sure his voice is heard throughout this nine-song set without ever getting in the way, just as he did with Miles in the late '50s and early '60s. This is really Coleman's record though, with Stern delivering some excellent solos, particularly on Carter's "81." This obviously heartfelt tribute finds the quartet completely on their game, and with Coleman's tasteful, underrated saxophone style leading the way.
4 Generations of Miles (on the Chesky Records label) is just what it sounds like. Miles had a very long career, spanning the 40s to the 90s. I don’t know if it was a deliberate choice from the start or they decided on the name of the album after the fact, but Jimmy Cobb, who worked with Davis in the 50s, Ron Carter and George Coleman who worked with Davis in the 60s and Mike Stern, who worked with Davis in the 80s got together and did some live dates playing tunes associated with Miles.
Wisely, they chose tunes from the 50s and 60s, for lots of reasons. These tunes are the most familiar to fans. Everyone knows them, and that would include the musicians. Then there’s the fact that most of the musicians would not be comfortable with Miles’ fusion and funk periods. On the other hand, Mike Stern can play straight bop if he wants to, although he adds some B.B. King-isms, and uses a modified version of his standard 80s guitar sound, fattening up his tone a little with some reverb and a touch of echo. It works out great, adding a modern touch to these golden oldies. Which is not to say that George Coleman is mired in the style of the early 60s either. He was always a fairly advanced player, harmonically. It’s stimulating to hear him shred these tunes with Coltranish sheets of sound. He’s also not above judiciously adding a few overtones here and there.
Ron Carter and Jimmy Cobb of course add a rock solid, swinging bottom to the proceedings. None of this is going to blow your head off, of course, but it works out as well as you could hope for. There are intelligent readings of such classic tunes as All Blues, 81, and On Green Dolphin Street. 4 Generations of Miles won’t make you want to chuck your Miles Davis CDs, but it’s a good listen.
George Coleman, tenor sax
Mike Stern, guitar
Ron Carter, bass
Jimmy Cobb, drums
Mike Stern - 4 Generations of Miles Tracks:
01 There Is No Greater Love [Jones, Symes] (9:02)
02 All Blues [Davis] (7:03)
03 On Green Dolphin Street [Kaper, Washington] (7:20)
04 Blue in Green [Davis, Kaper, Washington] (7:28 )
05 81 [Carter, Davis] (6:30)
06 Freddie Freeloader [Davis] (6:34)
07 My Funny Valentine [Hart, Rodgers] (10:01)
08 If I Were a Bell [Loesser] (8:02)
09 Oleo [Rollins] (5:02)