‘A Tribute to Jack Johnson’ by Miles Davis (TMR 39)
There’s heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson on the cover of Miles Davis’s Jack Johnson (Columbia, 1971), driving a flashy car, smiling his golden smile, and surrounded by beautiful women. There’s Davis in the interior art, in the ring and looking ready to shadowbox the cameraman. And there’s guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Billy Cobham jangling and bangling in the opening electric noise of “Right Off,” the first of the album’s two half-hour tracks. Falling between the smash hit Bitches’ Brew (1971) and the urban heat of On the Corner (1970), Jack Johnson has the latter’s way of establishing a groove and repeating it a little different each time, undergirded by Michael Herderson’s bass line. Of the ten retrospective reviews on the album’s Wikipedia page, seven give it full points. It was the Seventies, Miles was going strong, and he was still the cutting edge.
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