Still enjoying this newfound freedom I’ve discovered in this massive 25-disc Pioneer CD changer, I thought I’d break out one of my favorite CD Box sets, Miles Davis’ The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions.
Back during Christmas of 2011 I’d started getting pretty heavy into Miles. I’d bought Bitches Brew, In A Silent Way, and Nefertiti on vinyl and was scouring the earth for more. I’d recently heard Jack Johnson and was looking for a decently priced first pressing. When I couldn’t locate one, I decided to clunk down the $40 required by Amazon and I bought The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions. Very glad I snagged this one, as it’s a beautifully scuzzy window view into the recording sessions of one of Miles Davis’ funkiest records.
I think Jack Johnson is the purest funk and rock and roll record Davis ever released. The suit and tie, slick jazz was gone, and the heady, technical late 60s quintet stuff had come to an end. Davis had gotten the Band of Gypsies, acid-burnt world of Bitches Brew out of the way, so it was time to just have a little fun. With Jack Johnson Miles Davis was playing the lead in a funky jam band. Guitarist John McLaughlin was let loose with some serious blues chops and a wah wah pedal. The original release was just two tracks, “Right Off” and “Yesternow”, and both were groove monsters that put McLaughlin and Davis in the limelight, with some heavy lifting courtesy of Michael Henderson on bass and Billy Cobham on drums(an uncredited Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland show up for the last part of the “Willie Nelson” section of “Yesternow”.) Jack Johnson is the last truly great Miles Davis record before he went into a rather tumultuous phase in his career, with his next studio album being On The Corner.
Here’s what I love about this 5-disc box set of the making of Jack Johnson, it’s like a peak into the studio and watching these guys at work making this great album. There are hours of jams and progressions that Teo Macero dug through and cut and pasted into just a little over 50 minutes to give us the final record. Now this wasn’t the age of music software and fancy mouse click editing. No sir, this was old school tape. This was cutting and pasting actual 2 inch tape. Jams were assembled from free form sound excursions. The idea of that just blows my mind. Davis and Macero did that with In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew, and On the Corner as well. What’s cool about this whole process is that the extended jams used to create a cohesive 2-track album are great on their own. Hearing rhythms progress and Davis jamming over it is pretty remarkable to hear. The drum and bass work on this one is quite astounding. And like I’ve heard before about this album, Davis’ trumpet playing is on par with some of his best on here. It’s also the strongest he’s sounded. He’s up front on most of this album, and the individual takes on this session show just how strong a player he still was.
I don’t often find myself in the mood to sit for 6+ hours and zone out to The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions, but when I do, I’m glad I’ve got it. Plus, I can just throw the vinyl on and enjoy the end result of many hours of hard work(I found a NM first pressing for $19 a couple years back.) If you’re a huge fan of Miles Davis, or just a fan of the process of creating music, I would highly recommend this set.
Over and far out.