Fifty years ago this month, Miles Davis was in the studio continuing to plumb the depths of jazz and rock fusion sounds, recording hours of jam sessions and musical explorations that eventually yielded the album On the Corner, released in 1972. Like Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson, and Live-Evil before it, On the Corner employed an incredible lineup of musicians, featuring multiple keyboardists and percussionists, like Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, and Billy Hart and Jack DeJohnette. In addition to Davis’ continued explorations of music by Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, and Ornette Coleman, On the Corner also introduced influences of Indian classical music, with both sitar and tabla prominently featured.
Initially, On the Corner failed to gain listeners due to a conspicuous lack of marketing from Columbia Records, and it was vilified by many musicians and critics. Saxophonist Stan Getz decried, “That music is worthless,” and critic Bill Coleman described it as “an insult to the intellect of the people.” However, for discerning listeners, it was a pinnacle of Davis’ explorations into the expansive possibilities combining jazz improvisation and philosophy with modal harmony, free musical forms, funk rhythmic idioms, and rock orchestrations.
Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and today On the Corner is remembered as one of Davis’ most innovative and groundbreaking musical statements. With its extensive use of tape editing (a la record producer Teo Macero), funky guitar riffs, world percussion, and loops, On the Corner anticipates the emergence of hip hop and even today’s popular crossovers between jazz, hip hop, funk, and R&B with acts like Robert Glasper, Brandee Younger, and Snarky Puppy.
For jazz fans, On the Corner continues to yield new sound discoveries with each listen, finding new sonic combinations and new ideas and concepts around dialogue and interplay within the band. Hear more from Miles Davis’ electric period – and the countless artists and records influenced by his work – every weekend with host Tony Szajowski, Saturday and Sunday nights from 8:00 PM to midnight on Jazz 93.5.