Miles Davis – E.S.P.


1. Poor girl looks scared for her life on that cover.

2. On this album, Gary Giddins offers only the oxymoron “surprisingly tame” in Visions of Jazz. I disagree: there’s nothing tame about the way Ron Carter smokes his way through “E.S.P.” or “R.J.”; nothing tame about the viciously hacks at his strings throughout “Agitation” (despite what you might have heard about this album’s reputation of having E.S.P. towards Davis’ jazz fusion future, the only song that does that is “Agitation”); nothing tame about Tony Williams’ 2-minute introduction on the same song (hellfire and brimstone); nothing tame about the way Tony Williams slashes at the cymbals on the title track; nothing tame about Wayne Shorter does between 1:11 – 1:15 on the same track; nothing tame about the way the theme’s melody on “Eighty-One” sounds like a kid skipping down the street, jogging downhill one moment and then long-jumping the next; nothing tame about the weird-ass chords that Herbie Hancock plays during his solo at the end of “R.J.”.

3. The other three songs do qualify however, and the debates about whether or not Herbie Hancock’s “Little One” is better here or on Maiden Voyage miss the larger picture: that neither are that great to begin with; and “Mood” goes on for too long to justify Ron Carter playing the same interval for its 9 minute runtime, and Miles Davis is mixed way too high compared to the rest of the gang on that song. To the album’s detriment, it’s sequenced extremely poorly, with the fast-paced “R.J.” randomly closing out the first side and the album’s two ballads (and longest tracks) sequenced one after the other exhaustingly. But at the same time, it had to be sequenced this way: at almost 50 minutes, E.S.P. is one of the longest jazz players around at the time, and I don’t think it was possible to put switch “Iris” or “Mood” with “R.J.”. But we do have the technology to do that now…

4. Exhaustingly isn’t a word, apparently.


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