Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Miles Davis: Agharta [Columbia, 1976]
This is the most commonly disparaged of Davis's many '70s double-LPs--it's said that Davis was so unhappy with his own playing that he abandoned the release to Teo Macero half-way through. But Miles isn't the hero here--he gives the album to the band, whose virtuosity is the ground of four apparently unstructured segments. Mtume, Reggie Lucas, and especially Michael Henderson provide the variable pulse, with drummer Al Foster moving from body to spirit rhythms in an effortless, guileless show of chops. Sonny Fortune triples on alto, soprano, and flute in the best reed playing on a Davis record in this decade. And guitarist Pete Cosey is simply astonishing--the noises he produces for the second half of side one comprise some of the greatest free improvisations ever heard in a "jazz"-"rock" context. Angry, dissociated, funky, and the best Davis music since Jack Johnson. A