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"Miles Davis: The Jack Johnson Sessions"


ghost of miles
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This January PBS is broadcating Ken Burns' new documentary about Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion. Burns' is not the first film about the boxer; in 1970 William Cayton made a documentary as well, with a soundtrack by Miles Davis. This edition of Night Lights features music taken from the Sony/Legacy box-set MILES DAVIS: THE COMPLETE JACK JOHNSON SESSIONS, including recordings done from February to June of 1970. Musicians appearing here range from John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham to Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett. Although BITCHES' BREW remains the best-known of Miles' "fusion" or jazz-rock dates, some critics now contend that THE JACK JOHNSON SESSIONS more suitably represent the fruition of Davis' stylistic evolution in this regard.

The program airs this Saturday evening at 11:05 (8:05 California time, 10:05 Chicago time, 11:05 New York time). You can listen to it live on WFIU,

or on Monday when it will appear in the Night Lights archives.

More information on both the Jack Johnson sessions and Davis' own interest in boxing can be found here. In addition, there is an online interview with Michael Cuscuna and Bob Belden, co-producers of the Legacy set, which sheds some light on Teo Macero's editing methods as well as the production approach to the new collection.

Edited by ghost of miles
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  • 2 weeks later...

It's part of what constitutes THE JACK JOHNSON SESSIONS... some of the material I use, such as "Duran," wasn't released for years. For syndication purposes, I also have to open the program with a track that's less than 5 minutes long. It has to do with NPR "clocks"... basically, some stations may play only your 1-minute opening tease or "billboard" and then cut away for 5 minutes of NPR news. The trick is to do a backlist and land back at 6:01, talking as if the past 5 minutes didn't occur. I'm still trying to master it and the later breaks... we're hoping to offer up the program later this year to other stations.

I also picked "Nem Um Talvez" because it was one of the quieter tracks on the box-set... wanted to ease some listeners into the material.

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