By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Get Up With It (recorded between 1970 and 1974) brings everything into relief through extremes. If you like what Miles is after on these records, then it’s the best because it’s the most. The first track is an audacious 32-minute track, a dirgelike sprawl called “He Loved Him Madly,” recorded soon after Duke Ellington’s death. The stars here are a trio of guitars (Pete Cosey, Dominique Gaumont and Reggie Lucas) that work around Dave Liebman’s flute. Davis moves deliberately through the track, making his two or three notes matter. “Maiysha” bears some trace of Miles’ then-recent trip to Brazil, though it ends up mostly pop lite. But: 10 minutes in, there’s a funky breakdown so good it makes Pete Cosey feel like playing the theremin, which he does by playing his guitar. Pete Cosey should be paying taxes on another planet. One day, we will catch up to Pete Cosey.
Recorded in 1970, “Honky Tonk” is an implication of funk, its shadow entering the room. The vamp is solid gold: Herbie Hancock needles the clavinet and Keith Jarrett drops three big, distorted Fender Rhodes chords, slowly. It is what a vamp should be, and this music is half vamps. The cuica squeaks, John McLaughlin skronks (when he’s not doing a slow Chuck Berry) and stuff goes plink. When he enters, Miles is very open, not the cloaked presence he makes himself later. “Rated X” is the song that Bill Laswell’s spent a lifetime trying to re-create. The center is two bass notes, locked in a thrash-metal loop. Miles sits on an organ drone, tablas go haywire and FREEZE! Teo hits the mute button to usher in some fucked electric sitar. Ay, it’s freaky and charged, and, ay, why does it end after seven minutes?
“Calypso Frelimo” is the ur-bubbler. Al Foster bubbles on his toms, Mtume bubbles on hand drums, and Miles stabs and tears on trumpet when he’s not playing the dopey carnivalesque organ figure that stands as the only repeated melodic information in the track. “Mtume” and “Billy Preston” sound like yet another new style, a furious, inward Afro-funk that crackles. Pete Cosey is in there, but not loud enough.
These albums are sacred cows, big fat turds, diaries of extreme trips, multitrack tape landmarks, very deep, not for everyone, perfect for the whole family, European art-funk, black as coal. They’re also music, but they are equally impressive as evidence of somebody going after something way off the map. Miles listened to recordings hard enough to hear music beyond the live event, a full sound world that he needed a band to act out. Miles used opposites to frame that world, playing the heaviness of Michael Henderson’s street bass lines against the almost-there clouds of trumpet and percussion, the robot intrusions of editing against the stretches of very human improvisation.
Miles’ biggest triumph here may simply be the way he got these bands to sound; their sonic style is as instantly identifiable and catchy as “You Really Got Me.” Miles got virtuoso players to play nonvirtuoso music, which is why it doesn’t sound like “fusion,” what with its heroism and fireworks. It would be silly to conceal the fact that much of this music is desultory, wandering and off-the-cuff. But I never ever get tired of it.