Jason Miles,
(independent, 2004)

Cozmopolitan is a remixed version of Jason Miles' first project as a leader, recorded in 1979. Miles was unable to sell it to a record company, so it was put aside until he rediscovered the master tapes in 2003. Since 1979, Miles has produced and recorded with artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Miles Davis, and been involved with more than 20 projects that have been Grammy winners or nominees.

The CD holds up well, although it is a product of its time. The biggest element that points to the late '70s/early '80s is Miles' use of Prophet V and Arp synthesizers. Synthesizer solos are no longer in fashion in jazz, and Miles' solos with them may even sound a bit cheesy now.

It is hard to find a reason for this. Synthesizers do not seem much more artificial than electric guitars, for example. On this record Miles does not go overboard with the effects, and also plays Fender Rhodes and acoustic piano.

Miles includes a drummer, percussionist and conga player on the tracks, so there is a nice polyphonic background. The late '70s was a time when bass players came into their own, taking leads and having their sound boosted in recordings. Here the bassist is 19-year-old Marcus Miller, who has since had many recording credits.

The original 1979 mixes of two of the tracks are included at the end of the CD. The major difference between the old and new mixes of the title track and "The Man Who Pushes the Buttons" is that the rhythm section is much more prominent in the originals. Although it is easier to hear the individual percussionists, these earlier mixes sound "busier" than the new ones, and Miller sounds too loud by today's standards.

Most of the eight tracks (including the two 1979 mixes) are structured with alternating woodwind and keyboard solos. The title track is a bouncy number featuring Gerry Niewood's alto sax and Miles's synth. "Kashmirian Twist" starts with a tabla solo (there's the '70s again) by Badal Roy. This track melds into a standard sax/electric keys workout, except for two fadeouts for two more tabla solos.

"Gale Warning" and "The Man Who Pushes the Buttons" feature Michael Brecker on tenor sax. Brecker sounds more confident and takes a harder approach than Niewood. "Powder" is softer, with Niewood on flute, and adds Ricardo Silviera soloing on electric guitar. "Poetry" begins with Miles on acoustic piano.

This was the era of jazz fusion, and Cozmopolitan reflects the years in which it was produced. There are plenty of electronics, but it happily avoids overdoing the funk sound that was dominant at the time. The plethora of percussionists stops the sound from having cliched drumbeats. Miller is a bit heavy at times, but he does not pull out overdone funk riffs, either.

Cozmopolitan is not a brilliant CD, and the songs tend to sound a bit similar, even though it is only a bit more than half an hour long, excluding the two original remixes. But the CD has a bright, upbeat sound. It is not a bad way to revisit the days of fusion.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 26 March 2005

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