Miles, a Movie/TV Bad Guy and Studio Rio

July 10, 2014 

Kind of Blue-Legacy Edition," Miles Davis (Columbia/Legacy, HHHHH) was released January 2009, and the original 1959 album is rated No. 12 on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest LPs of All Time" list. However, Miles continued to evolve, and the live recording reviewed below shows how far-removed he was in the early 1970s from what was his coolest period to this jazz doofus. The next review concerns a book by Anthony James, telling the story of "a Hollywood bad guy with a good guy's heart." My review of a CD mixing classic songs with Brazilian music wraps up the week

'Miles At The Fillmore,' Miles Davis (Columbia/Legacy, HHHH)

This four-disc box set has been here since March 25, which shows how little "Bitches Brew" Miles appeals to me. This set presents four nights of performances from Bill Graham's Fillmore East when Miles' band included future superstars Keith Jarrett (organ and tambourine), Chick Corea (electric piano), Dave Holland (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums). They'd been at the core of the "Bitches Brew" sessions, along with saxophonist Steve Grossman and percussionist/flautist/vocalist Airto Moriera, who joined the touring band in 1970. The LP sides were originally edited by producer Teo Macero to make a "seamless sampling" of Miles' music. These CDs present unedited full shows for the first time, or 100-plus minutes of previously unreleased music. Since I'm not a fan of what became "fusion" music, I'll mention song titles that might be familiar to some readers. Each set contains "Directions," "The Mask," "It's About That Time" and "Bitches' Brew," followed by a short "The Theme."

"I Fall in Love Too Easily," "Willie Nelson," "Paraphernalia," "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" and "Footprints" pop up on this excursion into top-notch sound quality and noodling. Miles' and fusion fans will want this one.

'Acting My Face: A Memoir,' Anthony James (University of Mississippi Press, HHHH 1/2)

Anthony James, who changed his name from Jimmy/James Anthony to get his SAG card, made his motion picture debut in 1967 in the Academy Award-winning best picture 'In The Heat Of The Night," beginning a four-decade career acting in roles spotlighting his face and tall, lean physique.

He appeared in 1992's Best Picture "Unforgiven," then retired from acting to care for his aging mother, who immigrated to America from Greece in 1940. Her husband/his dad died when James was 8 years old, sending the family into poverty. Nonetheless, she provided for her only son and the two of them headed to Hollywood in 1960 so that James could become an actor.

James was in many other movies, including one of my favorites, "High Plains Drifter;" and appeared on tons of TV shows, especially when Westerns were the top TV format.

This is an interesting, easy read, even when his Mom's turbulent early life causes mental/physical troubles as she ages.

'Studio Rio Presents: The Brazil Connection,' Various Artists (Legacy Recordings, HHH)

This release (vinyl May 27, CD June 23 and digital already available) blends iconic performances from Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Sly & The Family Stone and many others with new samba/bossa nova arrangements inspired by Brazilian music. This column is being completed ahead of time, so I hope that U.S. interest in the World Cup and Brazil is still percolating by publication time. The "Studio Rio" collaboration with Bill Withers on "Lovely Day" sounds familiar and great.

Other highlights include newly minted versions of Billie Holiday's "You've Changed," The Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing" and Mel Torme's "I've Got You Under My Skin."

Some other tunes didn't fare as well: Sarah Vaughan's "Summertime" and Dave Brubeck's "Take 5" are much cooler as originally performed.

Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at rickyflake@bellsouth.net.

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