Amandla

Miles Davis/ Marcus Miller

AmandlaI got into Miles via this late-career electronic pop & funk influenced stuff. Amazingly, though he now feels like he belongs to a long gone and distant era, Miles was still an active, live, gigging, recording artist at the time when I was getting into him. He died in 1991, just as I was digging ever more deeply into his life and music. He famously played the SECC in Glasgow during the Glasgow International Jazz Festival as part of the Year of Culture celebrations – I snobbishly refused to buy a ticket, for fiercely held reasons I can’t remember, instead choosing to see a band called The Pointy Birds at the Third Eye Centre. I became a devoted fan, too late.

The title is a Zulu word, and references the struggles against South African apartheid, which Miles was outspoken about. Aptly, it means ‘power’. Listening to this again, I’m struck by how powerfully infectious the whole thing is. It’s deeply groovy, hugely melodic with a lot to delight in. I can still sing back many of the jerky funk riffs and solo lines, hum its scattered melodies, and my shoulders and ass keep wanting to pop and shake with the groove. Apart from some dated sounding synth and the odd wank-rock solo, the textures are absolutely incredible – the bass clarinet, the tone of the sax player – and I think this is what stays with me much more than Miles’s trumpet – here, less of a solo star, more the kind of star that can light up a beautiful, colourful universe of sound. The whole thing sounds like Miles paints.

The cover art intrigued me and, after reading an article in Wire magazine I bought a book of his paintings, which still sits on my shelf. It got me into painting for a while. Miles was everything for me for about a year, probably longer.

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