NEFERTITI represents the final "straight-ahead" offering by Miles Davis' legendary '60s quintet, the culmination of a creative arc which began with E.S.P.. On four subsequent albums–MILES IN THE SKY, FILLES DE KILIMANJARO, IN A SILENT WAY and BITCHES BREW–Davis forged a fresh creative arc in which he allowed elements of electronics, blues, funk and rock to intermingle with his own post-modernist sensibility to launch the jazz-rock fusion era.
NEFERTITI was the fruition of all Davis' experiments in free form, bebop, cool and modal jazz. Davis's signature as an improviser and musical editor is writ large on each composition, particularly in the provocative use of space. On Shorter's famous title tune, the trumpet and tenor saxophone shadow each other's line in a deliberately inexact manner, almost like a form of silkscreening, as Hancock's piano tolls away suggestively and Tony Williams drops percussive grenades all over the canvas–as if the drums were the lead voice (and don't think they aren't).
By the time Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams recorded SORCERER in 1967, they were the most acclaimed ensemble in all of jazz. The Miles Davis Quintet had by this time perfected an intuitive style of collective improvisation that distilled the revolutionary changes of '60s jazz, but without rejecting elements of the mainstream tradition. In fact the Quintet's approach to melody, harmony and rhythm on SORCERER and NEFERTITI formed the basis for many of the Marsalis Brothers' popular recording projects of the 1980s.
Nefertiti, the fourth album by Miles Davis' second classic quintet, continues the forward motion of Sorcerer, as the group settles into a low-key, exploratory groove, offering music with recognizable themes – but themes that were deliberately dissonant, slightly unsettling even as they burrowed their way into the consciousness. In a sense, this is mood music, since, like on much of Sorcerer, the individual parts mesh in unpredictable ways, creating evocative, floating soundscapes.
This album is definitely one of the more progressive Miles Davis efforts. It was the last "straight-ahead" jazz album he made before experimenting with electric bass and keyboards in his rhythm section on Miles In The Sky and Filles De Killemanjaro (both released the following year, in 1968). Mister Hip-Hop
With their second album, Miles Smiles, the second Miles Davis Quintet really began to hit their stride, delving deeper into the more adventurous, exploratory side of their signature sound. This is clear as soon as "Orbits" comes crashing out the gate, but it's not just the fast, manic material that has an edge – slower, quieter numbers are mercurial, not just in how they shift melodies and chords, but how the voicing and phrasing never settles into a comfortable groove. This is music that demands attention, never taking predictable paths or easy choices.