Song Of The Day 10/20/2016: Miles Davis – “On the Corner/New York Girl/Thinkin' One Thing and Doin' Another/Vote for Miles”
So what is this most mysterious and outré of albums? The culmination of Davis's two-decade-long quest for the African roots of his music, On the Corner has a huge, extended rhythm section rotating around circular, one-chord bass riffs. But there were a number of other things that set the album apart. First there were the influences of (Karlheinz) Stockhausen, Paul Buckmaster, and Ornette Coleman's atonal "harmolodics". These were superimposed over grooves and bass riffs that were more tightly circumscribed than ever before. On the opening track, the bass plays the same few notes for 20 minutes. Inundated by an ocean of rhythm instruments, including sitar, tabla and three electric keyboards (played by Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, among others), and without any harmonic development, the soloists had very little space, and became merely strands in a tangle of grooves and colours.I don't want to get too deeply into jazz theory, but let's just say when you cite Stockhausen as an influence, you ain't playin' "Tea for Two." There's a repetitive strain about On the Corner, and its utter lack of any concession to song structure or melody made it a very loud failure at the time. There was an eventual re-appraisal, although it seemed to take a lot longer than other musical objects of disdain. But you can hear elements of post-punk and future funk in On the Corner's grooves. It's there. I know it is. I read about it.