Right Off (feat. Steve Grossman, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Michael Henderson & Billy Cobham)
Yesternow (feat. Bennie Maupin, John McLaughlin, Sonny Sharrock, Chick Corea, Dave Holland & Jack DeJohnette)
If Bitches Brew is the revolutionary jazz fusion album and On the Corner is dirty street-funk masterpiece, then 1971’s A Tribute to Jack Johnson is Miles Davis’ exemplary answer to rock. The two tracks here (assembled from two sessions in 1970) were the soundtrack for a film about controversial African-American boxer Jack Johnson, whose taste for the high life resonated with Davis. For rock you need electric guitar, and both John McLaughlin (whose slashing rhythm playing on “Right Off” and general riffage are some his finest moments set to tape) and Sonny Sharrock can be heard here. Session visitor Herbie Hancock (who had business elsewhere in the studio) and Chick Corea are also on hand, as are funk bassist Michael Henderson and drummers Billy Cobham and Jack DeJohnette, among others. This is more stripped-down than the densely layered Bitches Brew, with the spooky opening to “Yesternow” offering some of Davis’ most direct playing ever. Those who can’t get enough of this endless boogie can also check out The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions, which features 42 tracks.