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Album Review

Miles' last recording for the Columbia label before heading for the financial allure of Warner Bros. in the mid-'80s was not released until 1989. This critic's guess is because largely they had no idea what to do with it. Unlike anything else in his catalog, Aura is a ten-part suite composed by Danish flügelhornist Palle Mikkelborg as a tribute. Influenced deeply by serialism and the inspiration of Gil Evans, Mikkelborg composed a theme from ten notes based on the letters of Davis' first and last names. The notes yielded a chord, which led him through the work. Employing a full orchestra and the guitar talents of former Davis collaborator John McLaughlin and famed European bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pederson, Aura's sections are named for the color spectrum, with the addition of white and "electric red." The music is an amalgam of classical impressionism, European new music, jazz, rock, electronic, and other genres. As a tribute and separate orchestral work, it's quite moving and beautiful, full of moody interludes and evocations of nuance, color, texture, and dynamic. With Davis added, soloing in his trademark muted, rounded warmth, the music becomes almost breathtaking. The Gil Evans influence is everywhere apparent in the way strings segue into keyboards and float there until the trumpet or wind section comes for them and brings them home. It's easy to be cynical about a work like this, and call it a pastiche of Miles clichés. Far harder is it to place the entirety of Davis' career in one place and hear it expressed with so much warmth and elegance, because that career was so mercurial. Mikkelborg gave Miles a fine parting gift when he left Columbia, and listeners are so very fortunate for his generosity.

Customer Reviews

Grew to love this album

I originally bought this soon after it was released. My only previous experience was with Kind of Blue and We Want Miles, both of which I still love.

I remember taking a little while to warm up to it, but now that I listen to it again, I'm glad I had the patience to let it work its way into my appreciation. Now I think it's incredible, nice tone, great bass & guitar work, all very nice.

Red & Electric Red bounce along atop a sinister undercurrent built by the low key rhythm section, great understated stuff.

Biography

Born: May 26, 1926 in Alton, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Throughout a professional career lasting 50 years, Miles Davis played the trumpet in a lyrical, introspective, and melodic style, often employing a stemless Harmon mute to make his sound more personal and intimate. But if his approach to his instrument was constant, his approach to jazz was dazzlingly protean. To examine his career is to examine the history of jazz from the mid-'40s to the early '90s, since he was in the thick of almost every important innovation and stylistic development in the...
Full Bio