Charles Pillow Large Ensemble, “Pharaoh’s Dance,” from Electric Miles (MAMA)
Veteran New York City-based saxophonist, arranger and composer Charles Pillow steps into the spotlight with his latest album, Electric Miles, a large-ensemble reimagining of Bitches Brew, In a Silent Way, On the Corner and other music that Miles Davis recorded from 1969 until 1972. It’s a stellar demonstration of Pillow’s highly imaginative yet inherently accessible arranging style, and it also serves as an invigorating platform for featured soloists Tim Hagans (trumpet) and Dave Liebman (saxophone).
Pillow’s arrangement of “Pharaoh’s Dance,” from Miles 1970 fusion classic Bitches Brew, retains the dark, frenetic energy of the original, but ventures into new territory by ramping up the tune’s inherent groove and melodic structure. In his arrangement, Pillow allowed for some electric bass and electric piano, but otherwise, the instrumentation is acoustic. It’s quite hip to hear Miles electric masterpiece redone in a traditional big-band format. That the music can sound so fresh yet so familiar is a testament to Miles’ original genius and Pillows’ gift for interpretation.