If you are a jazz fan of any sort, chances are when you hear the word Nefertiti in the context of a song … you think Miles Davis. More specifically you recall the version of the Wayne Shorter composition that was the title and opening track of the epic 1968 Miles recording.
Yet many other jazz fans might say ‘hey wait, there is a great 1976 Andrew Hill recording by that name’ – and they would be correct. So would those who point to the classic ‘Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come’ by Cecil Taylor. I have been listening to that recording quite a bit recently, and it was pure serendipity that on a recent drive back and forth between different office locations for work I heard all three songs called Nefertiti.
Each one is excellent in its own way. Andrew Hill threads a memorable (but somewhat out there) melody with unusual instrumentation. Cecil Taylor imbues the entire recording with risk-taking and ‘beautiful chaos’ that makes his songs unsettling yet soothing. And the timeless Miles version varies from the standard jazz ‘head-solo-head’ format by having the trumpet and saxophone state the theme and variations repeatedly in a fluid manner, while the piano provides color and the real ‘action’ is between the bass and drums.
Miles Davis – this is from a concert in France during the summer of 1969, just before Miles took the band into the studio to record Bitches Brew.
Cecil Taylor – this is ‘Lena’ from Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come. The two versions of the title song are not available, but this gives the flavor of the recording.
There is also apparently a song of this title by Blues Traveler, but apparently it is a marginal song from a marginal album and lost to the years.
Another version of the Wayne Shorter composition I love was done in 1971 by the group Circle, which was an acoustic unit half-formed from Miles Davis early electric bands. You can hear a snip at iTunes, but as the song is nearly 20 minutes long all you get to hear (even with the 90-second preview) is the piano intro … another minute you would have heard the basic theme before everything broke loose!
I have no idea what the attraction was for these artists to the ‘Great Royal Wife’ of Pharaoh Akhenaten … but I am thrilled at the music that has resulted!
Do you have a favorite Nefertiti song?