Miles Davis: Catembe
Miles Davis (trumpet)
Amandla (Warner Bros. 9 25873-2)
Kenny Garrett (sax), Don Alias (percussion), Mino Cinelo (percussion).
Composed by Miles Davis.
Recorded: New York, 1989
Rating: 85/100 (learn more)
In Miles: The Autobiography, the book Davis wrote with Quincy Troupe, Miles said "amandla" means "freedom" in Zulu. Wikipedia says it means "power." That's the same thing.
Amandla was actually one of the lesser records Miles made in his '80s comeback. This was the third album on which he was produced or co-produced by rising star Marcus Miller. There are different ways to look at these recordings. Many felt Miles surrounded himself with great young musicians and let them do the heavy lifting. Those taking this view point out that Miles did something similar in the early fusion days with Hancock, Williams, McLaughlin and so on. Others who dug this music believed Miles knew this was where the new music was going and wanted to be part of it. Miles was always cool like that.
"Catembe," a town in Mozambique, is similar in form to pieces found on the earlier and superior Miller- produced Tutu. Much of the sound is layered synthesizer, ambient echo and electronic funk. Miles takes an interest in the tune from the start as part of the chorused trumpet introduction. The melody is deep and somewhat murky. Electronic drums are ever present. After some Milesonian flourishes, the tune becomes a rather basic jazz-R&B number even as Garrett starts to funk it up a bit. Some jazzier call and response is introduced over the synthetic background. The tune has a strong beat. It has a groove. It has a brooding melody. It is just not everyone's cup of tea.
The fact is that whether you get into this music or not, two decades later it is still recognizable as Miles Davis music even if it is partly Marcus Miller music. To create music that maintains its own identity is a credit to both Miles and Miller.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky