Whenever the man puts his lips to his horn is an event… –True words by one of many musicians to work with Miles. Miles Electric is an excellent documentary about Miles’ switch from acoustic jazz to electric fusion. That’s right, “fusion”–the dirty word in music, that combination of jazz and rock that makes anyone with any sort of punk/alternative credentials head for the hills, screaming. But any student of trip hop or electronica should watch this documentary to get a much needed musical education.
Combining rare live footage and recent interviews with fans (Carlos Santana), critics (Stanley Crouch), and a laundry list of Miles’ sidemen from that time period, Miles Electric looks at the different reasons and ramifications of Miles’ switch to electric instruments.
Musically, Miles and his band would weave in and out, improvising on a bed of percussion and sparring with each other. Delivering diabolic atmospheres, tectonic plate-shifting jams and raging funk, Miles created new musical universes with each “song.” I use the term “song” loosely, because they’re actually multiple jams spliced and edited in the studio.
The live footage provides fascinating glimpses of band members’ reactions while journeying into the unknown. What’s really interesting is watching how the bands react to Miles’ presence. He’s such a powerfully intimidating musical figure, you can see that the players step up their game and their intensity level whenever he wanders over to their side of the stage.
While there are plenty of musical snippets from various lineups, the icing on the cake is the full 35-minute jam that Miles played at the Isle of White Concert in 1970. When asked what the name of the piece was, Miles infamously answered, “Call It Anything.”
After listening to this little masterpiece, I would call it Everything. – 2004