I object. Obviously, the jazz critics who wrote this off at the time of its release because it was anything but were wrong to do so. But the non-jazz kids who are calling it the best jazz album ever because its production techniques are in common with hip-hop and the persistent drumming is a common trait in rock, electronic and funk (and hip-hop), aren’t right either. To defer to Robert Christgau, “Because the tracks are very short, because Miles plays more organ than trumpet and not much of that, and because the improvisations are rhythmic rather than melodic […] most jazzbos have thrown up their hands at this one. Well, poo on jazzbos. But that’s no reason for rockbos to sing hosanna to the highest–rhythmic improvisations are hardly the equivalent of a big beat and don’t guarantee a good one. I’d like to hear “Black Satin” right now. But the rest I can wait for.” Yeah, “Black Satin”‘s a goodie, the only song here that knows a lot of overdubbing and rhythms aren’t a good substitute for melody. And if the melody weren’t enough, the handclaps trading with sleighbells are hooky enough (and on that note, the record as a whole makes use of interesting sounding drums, either because they’re unconventional to begin with, or cut suddenly so they’re made to sound unconventional).
The rest? It moves such that listening to the album in one sitting isn’t much of an issue. But that’s exactly the problem: you’re sitting down. You can’t dance to this. If this were being played at a concert, everyone would just be bopping their heads out of a sense of obligation – that staying still would be insulting to Davis and they don’t want to be called a bunch of motherfuckers for it. Or, they might shuffle, and if they do, they won’t do it too much for fear of stamping on the person behind them’s foot. There’s not a single moment on the album where you’re going to throw your hands up in the air in an ecstatic blur to catch it, not a single dynamic shift on the album where you might get low and bounce back. If you twirl a girl, you’re an asshole for doing so. If you grind on a girl, it’s because twirling isn’t an option. And if you think these things – head-bopping, shuffling and grinding – constitutes as dance, I don’t want to be there for your wedding day.