In a rare faucet of duality, Miles Davis was an iconic musician that transposed the genre of jazz with his immaculate writing and performance talents. While he was able to conquer the sound system by his own articulation, the real vivid paints came from how he was able to morph musicians together to create gold on wax. The seal of approval came from his compilation record, Water Babies that included a foreshadowing intro to what would become a new age of music.
Water Babies has a striking album cover that uses this heat-sensitive depiction of black youth playing within a fire hydrant’s blast of water. The cover has “Miles Davis Water Babies” in this groovy, late 60’s font that almost creates a disconnect within the music. The music for the time is progressive and a naturally forward-thinking performance that covers this transitional period where Davis had actually retired from music. Coming from the original pressing of only five total tracks, Water Babies recruits a powerhouse of artists to support Davis as the assault begins.
With Wayne Shorter on the tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock handles the keyboards, Ron Carter is on bass, and Tony Williams covers the percussion on just the first three tracks. It is intentionally engaging as the tracks switch players as if it was a pick-up basketball game. Seeing the sides suddenly split and add both Chick Corea on the electric piano, and Dave Holland who covers the bass for the last two tracks also sees this inevitable morphing on the style of sound as well.
From the first track which is self-titled to the fourth track “Two Faced,” there is a noticeable shift in resonance. The bass lines become more prominent and the sporadic nature is almost abandoned as a more clear-cut adoption instead. “Two Faced” is this creeping jazz illustration that relies more on the back keys and subtle percussion to create a flash of blackened color at the forefront of Water Babies. Davis can be an abstract poet of performance at times, but here works to incorporate a more visible strength in direction. As the waves pile up, it seems that Davis accompanies the danger with his own pushback.
The final ensemble is a 13-minute opus entitled “Dual Mr. Tillman Anthony” where the rising action comes back into frame to command the almost random nature. The ability is still unmatched as the skill comes through the record just as it did when it was first released in 1976. As a collection of mostly B-sides and other obscure sounds, Davis works to power through and create a splash in the hot sun.