The least-well known true masterpiece of Davis' career, the 1971 record – like Bitches Brew, seamlessly assembled from sessions by producer Ted Macero – was a victim of scant promotion. But to those that heard it, among them critic/musician Robert Quine and renowned writer Robert Christgau, A Tribute to Jack Johnson
surpasses everything that came before. Davis treated it as a personal manifesto: An opportunity to salute the championship boxer admired for his threatening image to the establishment and taste in clothes, cars, women and music. Davis explains in the liner notes his affinity for Johnson – a stance revealed in the music, which simultaneously hits with a prize fighter's brutal force and reflects the graceful elegance with which a pugilist navigates the ring.
Producer and journalist Michael Cuscuna may have summed up the record's significance in 2003: "The dense textures introduced and developed the prior fall on the Bitches Brew
recording sessions gave way to a lean, stripped-down, guitar-heavy sound. There was now only one drummer, and that kept the groove more pronounced and defined. The three-keyboard configuration appears only on the last session; the rest have none, one, or two, and they are used sparingly."
- Right Off