With Madlib, you can take a specific musical adventure with him or attempt to go on them all and just get sonically blown away by what he does. I love what he has done with Erykah Badu so far, and I’m a complete nut for the Quasimoto stuff, but what moves me more than anything is the music he has created under the Yesterdays New Quintet umbrella. In 2010, that umbrella covers what Madlib calls ‘The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble,’ and like the title indicates, this thing is distant from anything going on today.
Miles Away sounds like as if Madlib talked with Quasimoto, obtained a time machine and put the titles on 1969/1970 to create some of the most far out funky jazz anyone has ever heard or seen. The title may suggest a hint of In A Silent Way or Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis, and it might be close but imagine if everyone at those sessions left and Madlib snuck into the Columbia Records studios for about an hour and brought in his friends, family, and select list of “guest musicians.” This would be the end result. For a moment, put yourself in a venue featuring the Last Electro Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble. The songs are long and drawn out jam sessions, at times it’s hard to tell when songs begin and/or end, or if you’re merely listening to nothing but mid-sections. The titles indicate that they are in honor of some musical legends: “Def (For Derf Reklaw),” “Waltz For Woody (For Woody Shaw),” “The Trane & The Pharoah (For John Coltrane & Pharoah Sanders),” and “Mystic Voyage (For Roy Ayers).” The album lists musicians like Clyde Harrison, Willis Austin, Lady Faye, Kamala Walker, Chuck King, Ahmad Miller, and Otis Jackson Jr. himself, so one can imagine Madlib being the conductor and arranger of all of these people and becoming someone along the lines of a David Axelrod. Then you remember: aren’t all of these people Madlib? Nah, it can’t be.
What one hears on Miles Away is the kind of tripped out jazz and funk that every record collector has on their holy-grail list. It’s a laid back, stoned out groove session that a bedroom producer would like to find and chop ten years down the road. Or perhaps when you hear this, it’s a challenge to your MC friends to try to come up with a rhyme at these unusual tempos and time signatures. This isn’t hip-hop, but rather an album that was what inspired hip-hop to become what it is or was. What? Exactly. In the right mood, you might be able to find this music in a dream and find all of the answers about who and what this Ensemble is or means. In an awaken state, you find this to be a continuation of someone with one of the most creative minds in music today, of any genre. It reminds me of a stoned out comedy skit by Murray Roman, where he spoke about himself being on the side of himself, behind himself, and in the center of himself. That’s this record, a man within, without, under, over, and above himself while hearing and conducting himself, by himself. When a certain Sun Ra record said “there’s no limit,” Madlib had taken that as a life mission, and what an incredible mission it is so far.