CJ Shearn

Miles Davis' "Aura"-where do you rate it?

38 posts in this topic

the album, not his aura as a musician :-D How do you feel about it? The reason I ask is because my friend Daniel and I were IM'ming the other night, and he's talking about "Aura" claiming it was Miles' "most far out shit since BB". Daniel is an electric Miles fan, who's really been heavily into jazz the past few years, myself, have been digging acoustic Miles for a long time as many of us have, and just really have been beginning to explore electric Miles myself (IaSW is on my priority list, the single remastered disc tho b/c I mostly enjoy those Columbia albums by him in their original sequence, as is BB- just two I never got around to yet.. shameful, I know) And while in the very small bits I've heard of prime electric Miles, this stuff is great music, but later on, the era of 80's Miles particularly on record has troubled me. Because the stuff just hasn't dated as well, and while his playing was always great the surroundings he was in, with players like Foley, Holzman, Irving, etc. didn't sound as good on record as they did live. Even the "Live in Munich" DVD, which I've since sold, was an enjoyable trip into his 80's repertoire even if some of the tunes and synth sounds were a little cheesy. (bad sampling, too cold) Anyway, Daniel sent me some "Aura" tracks, "Indigo" and "White" and after hearing them several times, they do nothing for me. "White" has some interesting dissonant writing but it's nothing I haven't heard before in the Evans type orchestration, and the writing is a little rigid. "Indigo" just sounds like "Nefertiti" era stuff without the same thrills. Do any of you consider "Aura" in the midst of Miles' career and tremendous legacy to be another milestone in his career? I may have to pick up the album and give it a whole listen, but opinions would be appreciated. Unlike Hardbop I'm not averse to hearing prime electric Miles although primarily I really dig his acoustic work as do many of us. Anyway, Daniel because he hasn't heard a lot of Miles' work from 1955-68 and because he listens to music for a different reason, is unable to critically evaluate what he likes or dislikes about a work, something that happens when I ask him what he feels about a work. In time hopefully he'll gain this ability. I used to think everything Jimmy Smith did was great, but as I got older I got more critical about his best work compared to what was total garbage.

Edited by CJ Shearn

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I think "Aura" is probably one of the most important albums Miles recorded after his comeback. Now is it anywhere near as important as his dozen best albums prior to 1975??? -- probably not.

But, it's still a pretty darn interesting album, and much of it has some real merit - in my opinion. I can't cite specific track names as I don't have the disc handy, but I'd say half of it has some really amazing writing in the charts, and soloing too, for that matter. Some of it gets a little thin occasionally, but no matter what else you think about it - "Aura" was and is easily one of the most challenging things Miles ever did after 1980.

Find a used copy, or get it cheap on eBay - but I think it'll mostly be worth your attention. It's not a perfect album, but it has it's moments -- lots of them in fact -- and probably more of them than almost any other Miles album from the 80's until his passing.

Also, sometime in the next year or two, Columbia will surely be coming out with a new single-CD release of Miles' "Jack Johnson", probably with a bonus track or two. (The “Complete Jack Johnson” box is due out in September of this year.) By all means, get it first - when you decide to get some electric Miles from the 70's. Initially I liked it better than Bitches Brew, and some days I would probably stick with that assertion.

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I agree with you about the live eighties material being better to listen to than the studio.

Aura is a nice recording. . .not a milestone if you ask me, and not entirely HIS project in important ways if I'm thinking correctly about it. I break it out every now and then and enjoy it. I bought the new remastered edition. . .didn't add much sonically or liner note wise. It's good, it's not one of my favorites, it's Miles!

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interesting Rooster Ties and Lon. I would agree that it is a challenging work, compared to say simpler funkier stuff like "Tutu", "Perfect Way", "Me and U" etc. I'd rather keep an open mind to it rather than a purist attitude, I think it also says something about classic and challenging being two separate entities even tho as in the case of say "Sorcerer", or "Filles" the two are now intertwined. It seems to me that if we forget about anything recorded from 1955-70 in the moment and look at his 80's catalog, it ranks as one of his best 80's discs, if it's looked at in the context of his more cherished albums, it may not rank as high, but I've been trying to find as much as I can about "Aura" in the past few days to try to understand and contextualize it better. Next time I go to Barnes and Noble I may just get a copy.

Edited by CJ Shearn

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I don't think of it as a continuation/extension/whatever of the Miles/Gil thing as much as I do a revival of the Miles/MUSIC FOR BRASS thing - Miles as featured soloist in somebody else's context, and a challenging context at that. As such, I think it's an excellent piece of music. Not "Miles Music", but rather a chance to hear him as (almost) a sideman in a "serious" compositional context not of his own making.

It's easy to forget that Miles was not just one of the most important player-bandleaders of all time, but that he was also a PLAYER, pure and simple. It's a subtle but real distinction, I think. AURA for me is an opportunity to hear the player removed from the leader, and I enjoy it very much as such.

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Well said, Jim. And actually, you've reminded me how much I would have liked to have heard Miles play (just play) in all kinds of other situations, not of his own design.

Much like hearing tapes of Ornette playing with The Dead, it's often REALLY nice to hear someone who is such a strong voice in "contexts" of their own creation... ...to hear them play in someone else's world, especially if it's quite different from their own.

For instance, I would have loved to have heard Joe Henderson playing in Frank Zappa's band in 1988.

And I think we all would have loved to have heard Bird react to Ornette, and/or especially to have played with Ornette.

Sure, some things just wouldn't work, like the Miles of 1963 playing with Sun Ra. Or Miles and Andrew Hill (any year). But still, it is nice, often, to hear this bandleaders just being hired-guns as soloists, especially in really different contexts that are somehow not completely removed from their own idiom.

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CJ, if you are interested I have a cheap used copy for sale of the first cd issue. . . .

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Maybe the "problem" with Aura is that, although the music was written for Miles, it is essentially a Palle Mikkelborg album with Miles playing the trumpet part. The compositions have the same feeling as Mikkelborg's other projects, which mostly rely on written parts and don't have a lot of space for improvisation.

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Depends on whether you see that as being a "problem" or not. I guess it could be, in so much as it's Miles' name on the thing, and hell - Mikkelborg doesn't even get a single credit of any sort!!! (Or at least not on the original CD issue - perhaps that's changed with the newer one.)

But as a musical concept, independent of how it's marketed and labeled - it's certainly not a "problem" for me, for Miles to have been a soloist in a context that is relatively far-removed from anything he'd done in such a long time.

Jim's nailed it, by mentioning the "Music for Brass" recordings from the late 50's. That's what "Aura" is all about. There is some also similarity to the Miles/Evans colaborations, perhaps - in instrumentation at least, but really the "Music for Brass" recordings are the model upon which Aura is based, though very loosely.

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thanks for the offer Lon, but I will just go w/ buying the remastered version sometime soon, but I appreciate the kind offer, I really like what Columbia has done in remastering Miles' catalog. Claude, in the two tracks I was sent, I hear what you mean, I am not familiar with Mikkelborg's other works but I sense a very composed kind of thing that sets up an unusual terrain for improvising. In "White", it's hard to hear where the composition begins and ends in the framework of Miles' solo.

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Well, no problem CJ. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say after you've digested the cd.

One Miles-loving friend of mine says "Aura is like On The Corner, not really enjoyable or important." Now I personally ENJOY the HECK out of On the Corner, though I can also see a similarity in the fact that both are collaborations (though Miles is far from a "sideman" on On the Corner.)

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I have to conserve cash before I move back into my dorm but I'll PM you when I check out the disc. Maybe even the Binghamton Public Library has it, which might be cool too, but I personally prefer buying discs :-D

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Mikkelborg doesn't even get a single credit of any sort!!! (Or at least not on the original CD issue - perhaps that's changed with the newer one.)

Yes, the booklet of my CD (Made in Austria) says "Produced by Palle Mikkelborg" (also on the CD label) and "All songs written by Palle Mikkelborg". Mikkelborg writes: "Aura was composed when Miles Davis received the Sonning Music Prize in 1984. It is my tribute to him"

But his name should also be on the cover, just like Gil Evans' name was on the covers of his albums with Miles.

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I hadn't listened to Aura in quite some time, so this thread inspired me to pull it out and give it a spin. I'm glad that I did for several reasons. There are some interesting connections which I have with this album, including a newly discovered one. Please indulge me.

When my wife and I visited our youngest son in Japan several years ago, among other things we shopped for was music. I found Aura in a very hip, well-stocked store in Kyoto and purchased it. I've always liked it, immediately drawing some connections with Miles' earlier work with Gil Evans, and for good reason, apparently. I must also say that I wasn't a huge fan of much of Miles' output during this timeframe, but something about this recording captured my imagination and fascinated me.

Yes, Palle Mikkelborg is credited on my pressing as both the producer and composer. The complete quote from Mikkelborg concerning his motivation(s) to write Aura follow:

"Aura was composed when Miles Davis received the Sonning Music Prize in 1984. It is my tribute to him. I called my composition "Aura" because I wanted to project my impression of an image which reflected Miles's musical aura. Miles said to me: 'You must have been following.' It's true. Since the first time I heard "When Lights Are Low" (a revelation), his sound and musical universe have been very important in my life. Musically, Miles is to me what a Zen master is spiritually. Thanks, too, to Gil Evans for life-long inspiration. Thanks to my guardian angel for making this possible"

- Palle Mikkelborg

Now, fast forward to last month, when my wife and I were in the Pacific Northwest on vacation. Among many wonderful moments was the full evening we spent at Tula's Restaurant & Jazz Club in Seattle. We were there to hear our friend, singer Lynn Bush, backed by the very capable trio New Stories, who also appear on Lynn's recording "Still Life". About midway through the 2nd set, two men appeared in the doorway, one of whom was carrying a trombone case. They walked over to the table next to Patti and me and sat down, inserted the trombone case under two chairs and ordered a drink. At the break, Lynn approached their table and chatted with them. I figured that it was a case of someone asking permission to "sit in", which was correct. What we didn't know, was that we were in for a real treat. The trombonist was Vincent Nillson, one of the finest jazz trombonists in Europe, who was visiting Seattle on some Lutheran church-related event. What an amazing player and warm, humble, friendly man. We had a nice conversation, exchanged e-mail addresses, and he promised to send me a CD of his. He did, indeed, and I'll treasure it. He was fascinated that we lived in Alaska, among other things.

Yesterday, while looking through the liner notes on Aura, I discovered that Vincent Nilsson is playing 1st trombone on this recording. No surprise, now that I know who he is and have heard him play in two settings. He's had a relationship with Palle Mikkelborg for years, as well as the Danish Radio Big Band, and has performed with Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie as well as Miles.

Small world, eh?

In his autobiography Miles says of AURA: "I think it's a masterpiece, I really do".

Edited by Ron Thorne

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Vincent Nilsson is a heck of a writer, too. He has an arrangement of "Lament" by JJ Johnson on the new Renee Rosnes/DRBB album.

Mike

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'Aura'. like most if not all, of Miles' 'Comeback' albums is pretty forgetfull.

Live, Miles was still fun, listening to his 85 Malmo concert right now and loving it.

Miles wasn't really into recording anymore. 'Tutu' might have been the exception, because he had just signed ( a dreadful deal) with Warner Brothers. He recorded because that's what you did when you were a famous musician.

Anyone out there has "Amandala' always in their Cd player? or' Dingo"? Or 'You're Under arrest'? Kenny G couldn't make as bad an album as those.

The hip hop album might also be an exception. He seemed actually interested in the process.

Miles was into trying to keep the Grim Reaper at bay for as long as possible, during those years.

He was going to retire in 88. But, when Gil died, he immediately checked himself out of the hospital and had his manager book a tour.

When I was booking him in 91, he was doing 2 1/2 hour shows. Almost blind, totally, excuse the expresion, 'blotto. No idea what was going on around him, or where he was, except the show.

In the finest tradition of Showbiz...The Show Must Go On!.

The most incredible thing to me about Miles was his will to PLAY! To be in a band! To the very end.

After all the bullshit that was and will be written about Miles, he was the essential Jazz Musician. Always!

Listen to the live gigs. They capture his love of being part of a band with other Jazz Musicians better than the records.

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I don't think Dingo was as bad as Kenny G, but I think I understand your displeasure.

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'Aura'. like most if not all, of Miles' 'Comeback' albums is pretty forgetfull.

Perhaps you meant to say "forgettable"? In any event, it's curious that Miles didn't agree with your assessment of this particular session, apparently.

I think many of us here would be quite interested to learn more about your relationship with Miles Davis.

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I think "Star people", "Decoy" and "Amandla" are very good albums. They can't be compared with "Dingo" or "Siesta", which are not really Miles' projects.

As far as post-comeback live albums are concerned, I prefer "We want Miles" to his later concert recordings, which tend to rely on the same few tunes ("Time after time" and so on). His post-1987 live recordings are overrepresented on official albums and bootlegs.

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i won't compare it to any previous work by Miles but i really think Siesta it's a beautiful album. i would love to have it duly remastered.

peace

Marcus Oliveira

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I always dug this album. ProgRock meets Miles at the crossroads with some blazing Mahavishnu guitar work. I'd say this was his best post-comeback work, but it wasn't miles ahead of the pack. There were other albums almost as good for me. B)

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'Dingo' IMO, was a pretty good album. Not up there with his more popular recordings, but I enjoyed it much more than 'Tutu'. Maybe it has to do with the compositions (by LeGrand), but his playing was very nice, and I think it perhaps is a little underrated. Aahh, what do I know? I think 'Doo-Bop' is underrated as well.

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'Dingo' IMO, was a pretty good album. Not up there with his more popular recordings, but I enjoyed it much more than 'Tutu'. Maybe it has to do with the compositions (by LeGrand), but his playing was very nice, and I think it perhaps is a little underrated. Aahh, what do I know? I think 'Doo-Bop' is underrated as well.

Ummm ... Jad, with all due respect, this thread was solely focusing on Miles' album Aura and its impact upon us within his oeuvre.

What are your impressions of the album under discussion?

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With some mo' due respect, threads go off the rails around here quite often, Ron.

IMHO, discussing "Dingo" is more "on topic" than some twist and turns have taken plenty of other good threads in the past.

That said, I'd welcome some more discussion of "Aura" as well, or "Dingo", or any of the more "outside the norm" recordings Miles did in the 80's and 90's.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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