Miles Davis: Willie Nelson (take 2)


Willie Nelson (take 2)


Miles Davis (trumpet)


The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (Columbia Legacy 803180)

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Miles Davis (trumpet), Bennie Maupin (bass clarinet), Chick Corea (electric piano), John McLaughlin (guitar), Sonny Sharrock (guitar, Echoplex), Dave Holland (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums).

Composed by Miles Davis


Recorded: New York, February 18, 1970


Rating: 86/100 (learn more)

There are no less than six alternate takes of "Willie Nelson" to be heard on The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions. One of the takes, "Insert 2" according to liner note writer Bill Milkowski, was dropped into "Yesternow" on the original commercial release of A Tribute to Jack Johnson by producer Teo Macero. The version reviewed here was not used.

The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions is a treasure trove for several reasons. It becomes very clear that Teo Macero did a remarkable job cutting and pasting for the original Jack Johnson release. As presented on this 5-CD collection, the tunes are disparate creations. They are still great in their own way, but Macero managed to create context after the fact! I am also taken aback about how organized the sessions truly were. We are always being told how loose the jamming was during these recordings. But the band went through this tune six times and each time there is not that much difference. They were trying for something. It is just that that something was decided after the fact! This collection also gives you a wonderful inside seat in Miles's digs during the creative process. What a thrill it is to listen and feel as if you were there. To hear Miles speak to his fellow musicians while history was coming down is a special gift.

"Willie Nelson" is built entirely around a dark funk riff. McLaughlin starts it off. But he is quickly followed by bassist Dave Holland. The Echoplex sounds emanate from guitarist Sonny Sharrock. His brief outbursts were not credited on the original album for some reason. There has been much confusion about his contribution over the years because of this oversight. Drummer DeJohnette maintains a steady pulse isolated in one channel. Miles finally enters with well-placed staccato blowing. Eventually he plays some lines over the electric cacophony. The tune moves nowhere and everywhere simultaneously. The previously mentioned "Yesternow" was not as successful as the album's flipside "Right Off." But it was still an important harbinger to the fusion movement. The inclusion of a snippet of "Willie Nelson" was one of the reasons. As a standalone piece, "Willie Nelson" receives an 86 rating. Put into its created context by Macero in "Yesternow" would raise that rating to 93.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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