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Russell Gunn Plays Miles

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Album Review

Trumpeter Russell Gunn has always been a forward-thinking musician, incorporating his love of hip-hop and electronics along with his obvious talent for edgy post-bop improvisation. So, it should come as no surprise that Russell Gunn Plays Miles, while obviously a record paying tribute to one of Gunn's biggest influences, the legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, is an edge-of-your-ear experience. Not only has Gunn not made a straight-ahead, acoustic jazz album, he's made a '70s-'80s fusion-era Davis album that defies expectations even on those far-reaching terms. Which isn't to say this is the most "next level" or innovative jazz album in recent years; on the contrary, many of the jazz-funk sounds Gunn re-appropriates on Plays Miles will be almost cozily familiar to any longtime fans of such similarly minded funksters and Davis acolytes as Herbie Hancock, Eddie Henderson, the Jazz Crusaders, Donald Byrd, and others. The rub here is where and when Gunn has chosen to employ these sounds. By the third track in, after you've grown accustomed to Gunn's layered groove on such iconic Davis cuts as the leadoff track, "Tutu" (in itself a bold statement of purpose), and "Bitches Brew," his slow-jam, R&B-infused version of "Blue in Green" is at once tantamount to sacrilege and the hippest joint imaginable. Similarly, Gunn's propulsive and Latin-esque take on Davis' usually spare and dreamy "Eighty One" is unexpectedly rootsy in its dance-oriented funkiness, and comes off as something along the lines of Bootsy Collins backing the Fort Apache Band. Ultimately, the real tribute here is not so much that Gunn is playing Miles, it's that he gets Miles.


Born: 1973 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s

Trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Russell Gunn was born and raised in Illinois; weaned on rap, he turned to jazz in his professional pursuits, although hip-hop remained a primary influence on his work. First attracting the attention of critics and audiences through his contributions to Wynton Marsalis' Blood on the Fields, Gunn also backed the likes of Jimmy Heath, Roy Hargrove, James Moody, and R&B hitmaker Maxwell, appearing on the latter's MTV Unplugged session. After a handful of independent releases,...
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Russell Gunn Plays Miles, Russell Gunn
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  • $13.52
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: 30 January 2007

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