Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Miles Davis: Dark Magus [Columbia/Legacy, 1997]
The guru-manipulator shifted gears at will in his early-'70s music, orchestrating moods and settings to subjugate the individual musical inspirations of his young close-enough-for-funk subgeniuses to the life of a single palpitating organism that would have perished without them--no arrangements, little composition, and not many solos either, although at any moment a player could find himself left to fly off on his own. Harsher and dreamier than In Concert, louder and sweeter than Agharta or Pangaea, this well-tweaked 1974 concert culminates the aesthetic. Where pure funk subsumes jazz and rock in a new conception, albeit one that privileges rock, Miles leaves the two elements distinct and recognizable. Dave Liebman is good for wild-to-mellow jazz input that's solidified by a Coltranesque house call from Azar Lawrence, and for rock there are three guitarists: Reggie Lucas and Dominique Gaumont wah-riffing the rhythm as Chess session man turned cult hero Pete Cosey launches wah-wah-inflected noise into the arena-rock stratosphere. The beat belongs jointly to Michael Henderson and Al Foster. And Miles is Miles whether blasting out clarion notes or letting his Yamaha drench the scene. A