This past Thursday, I went and saw Burnt Sugar perform at the Vision Festival. Met up with Greg Tate beforehand, and we talked briefly about some unreleased live stuff (the material taped at the Cellar Door club in Washington, DC in December 1970, some of which was edited down for Live-Evil) I'd sent him. (I got it from a guy who downloaded it off the web.)
It's killer stuff - six CDs' worth, only two of which feature John McLaughlin on guest guitar. The other four are just the regular touring band of that time - Miles, Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett, Michael Henderson, Jack DeJohnette and Airto Moreira. Listening to Discs 5 and 6 (the ones with McLaughlin), it's almost impossible to pick out where Miles and Teo Macero decided to slice out a chunk for Live-Evil. There are many moments when I find myself thinking, "Oh my God, that wasn't an edit - they did that live!"
Anyhow, Burnt Sugar's set was really good. It was live funk with a guitarist, two drummers, three bassists (two upright, one electric), a cellist, a violinist, a pianist, a keyboardist, and a percussionist. And two vocalists, a man and a woman. The man was great; he sounded sort of like Mos Def, and scat-sang along with the band in a very cool way. If you've ever heard the Leftfield track "Afro-Left," from Leftism, his vocals sounded something like that, only more hip-hop-oriented. The female rapper, though, was annoying. She was freestyling, but her subject matter was clichéd braggadocio, and didn't mesh well with the band's groove at all. I was wondering why Greg (who was conducting) didn't shut her down, but I guess his tactic is more to indicate where someone should come in; what they do once they are in is up to them. In the liner notes to Burnt Sugar's first CD, Blood On The Leaf, he compares himself to Mickey Mouse in the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" section of Fantasia, and that's somewhat accurate, if excessively self-deprecating.
I'm sure that next month is going to bring many shameful realizations, and many mad scrambles for the dictionary and/or thesaurus as I realize how very, very many clichés and half-baked ideas I've relied upon in the last 14 months or so. I can't wait. Writing this thing has been a thrill-ride. It's opened my ears, and my mind, a little wider just about every day. I've been forced to re-think ideas I held onto for years, and to think about entirely new things. I've had to teach myself not to be a knee-jerk naysayer, but not to be a yes-man for received wisdom and dogma, either. That's a balancing act that has made me wonder, more than a few times, whether, if I agree with so much of what everyone else has already said, I should have bothered writing a book at all. But I guess that's for someone else to judge. I've gotta finish the aforementioned revisions, and then figure out what I'm gonna do for my next