Miles Davis - Complete Bitches Brew Sessions

album review

Sony/ Columbia

Original release date: June 1970

Re-release date (with many additional tracks) May 11th 2004

Recording dates: Columbia Studio B, NYC, August 19,20,21, 1969; Columbia Studio E, NYC, November 19 and 28, 1969; Columbia Studio B, NYC, January 27,28, and February 6 1970

 Miles Davis: Complete Bitches Brew Sessions


Personnel:

August 19,20,21: Miles Davis (trumpet), Bennie Maupin (bass clarinet), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, Larry Young (electric piano), John McLaughlin (guitar), Dave Holland, Harvey Brooks (bass, electric bass), Jack DeJohnette, Lenny White, Don Alias (drums), Don Alias, Jim Riley (congas, shaker)

Tracks:
Pharaoh's Dance*, Bitches Brew*, John McLaughlin*, Sanctuary*, Miles Runs the Voodoo Down*, Spanish Key*,

(*These tracks were released as the original 2CD album 'Bitches Brew')

Personnel:

November 19 and 28: Miles Davis (trumpet), Bennie Maupin (bass clarinet), Steve Grossman (soprano sax), Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock (electric piano), Larry Young (organ), Khalil Balakrishna (electric sitar), Bihari Sharma (tambura, tabla), John McLaughlin (guitar), Ron Carter, Harvey Brooks, Dave Holland (bass), Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette (drums), Airto Moreira (percussion)

Tracks:
Great Expectations, Orange Lady, Yaphet, Corrado, Trevere, The Big Green Serpent, The Little Green Frog

Personnel:

January 27, 28 1970: Miles Davis (trumpet), Bennie Maupin (bass clarinet), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul (electric piano), Larry Young (celeste), Khalil Balakrishna (electric sitar), John McLaughlin (guitar), Dave Holland (bass), Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette (drums), Airto Moreira (percussion)

Tracks:
Lonely Fire, Guinnevere, Feio*, Double Image

(*added as a bonus track to the 'Bitches Brew' CD release)

February 6, 1970: Miles Davis (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul (electric piano), John McLaughlin (guitar), Dave Holland (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums), Airto Moreira, Billy Cobham (percussion)

Tracks:
Recollection, Take It Or Leave It

Review:

1969 was a pivotal year in Miles Davis' career and in his life and this matched the widespread feeling that the world and music with it was changing. As he told Quincy Troupe:

'(That) was the year rock and funk were selling like hot cakes and all this was put on display at Woodstock. There were over 400,000 people at the concert… And jazz music seemed to be withering on the vine, in record sales and live performances. It was the first time in a long time that I didn't sell out crowds everywhere I played….. we played to a lot of half empty clubs…. I wasn't prepared to be a memory yet, wasn't prepared to be listed only on Columbia's so-called classical list.... I had seen the way to the future in my music, and I was going for it like I had always done. Not for Columbia and their record sales… I was going for it for myself, for what I wanted and needed in my own music.'*

That future was the 2 CD album "Bitches Brew". It sold over a million copies, a sharp change on the respectable 60,000 or so that Miles Davis albums had been selling up that point. The Miles Davis Band opened for the Grateful Dead before 5,000 at Fillmore West, San Francisco in April 1970, playing "Bitches Brew" to considerable acclaim and then went on to play Fillmore East in New York with Laura Nyro.

This marked the beginning of the entry of jazz as 'fusion' into the popular world. Many of the musicians that Miles Davis brought together in these sessions (and for the earlier "In A Silent Way") went on to found their own musically successful and widely popular bands - Herbie Hancock and Bennie Maupin with 'Headhunters', Chick Corea with 'Return To Forever', John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham with 'The Mahavishnu Orchestra', Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and Airto Moreira with 'Weather Report'. Once again Miles Davis had sparked the next wave in jazz – just as he had done with cool, modal jazz and time-no–changes.

And just as before, there were those in the jazz that applauded (Duke Ellington famously called Miles Davis 'the Picasso of jazz') and many more who decried this as a sell-out to commercialism and 'the end of jazz'.

There are parallels with the outcry on Bob Dylan's move to using electric instruments at Newport five years earlier in 1965. Though everyone knew that altogether authentic blues performers like Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker had been playing in bands with electric instrumentation since the 'forties and jazz guitarists of the stature of Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell were playing electric guitar, there was held to be something inherently authentic in acoustic music. So here was Miles Davis insisting that Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea play electric piano, importing English electric guitarist John McLaughlin whose early solo records had made more than a passing reference to Jimi Hendrix and going further than on "In A Silent Way" by using new-fangled tape loops and multi-track recording techniques. Many in the jazz world were (and still are) resistant, to say the least.

There was truth in this. So successful was fusion in reaching a wide audience that acoustic jazz almost died. Established musicians like Freddie Hubbard had to adapt or fade away. Joe Henderson joined the rock band 'Blood Sweat and Tears'. Labels like CTI emerged to offer a more cosmeticised, big budget form of funky jazz that was long on effects and production values and short on the kind of creativity that had flourished in the low-tech acoustic days of Blue Note or Prestige records.

Blue Note, itself unable to adapt, had gone into serious decline by 1975. It took the success of the acoustic revival band V.S.O.P. – in effect the Miles David band of the 'mid 'sixties with Freddie Hubbard replacing Miles himself - in Japan and Europe in the late 'seventies, led by Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, to show that mainstream acoustic jazz had a future, something that we now take for granted. The relaunch of Blue Note in February 1985 was effectively the signal that the bad times for acoustic jazz, after fifteen lean years, were over.

And, outside of 'Headhunters, 'Return To Forever', 'The Mahavishnu Orchestra' and 'Weather Report', much poor music masquerading as jazz was produced and sold.

Yet Duke Ellington had a point in his estimation of Miles' need to continually challenge himself and invent new forms in his work. Looking back, Miles would see this time in the same light as the other truly creative periods in his life. He was married (briefly as it turned out) to singer Betty Mabry who had a great influence on him. She introduced him to both Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix, both whom she knew well. She changed the way Miles dressed. She put him in touch with the way that a new Black generation was thinking and expressing itself. And what Miles heard in Jimi Hendrix's blues and Sly and the Family Stone's funk was a new assertiveness, a new means of shaking off the shackles of the past that had led musicians like himself to play music composed by commercial composers, dress like businessmen and play in clubs that most young Blacks would not want to be seen in. Jimi Hendrix's take on "The Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock – check that out at YouTube - said it all. He had arrived at a similar place to John Coltrane's deconstruction of "My Favorite Things" but was performing it for an audience of 400,000.

But there were other, less widely publicised influences. Miles Davis had met English composer and cellist Paul Buckmaster in London and invited him to New York and he had introduced him to the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Later, Miles would say: "I studied.... Stockhausen's concepts of music. I got further and further into the idea of music as a process. I had always written in a circular way and through Stockhausen I could see that I didn't want to ever play again from eight bars to eight bars, because I never end songs, they just keep going on."*

So, yes, "Bitches Brew" is influenced by funk and Jimi Hendrix's blues and his novel use of multitracking, as has been widely observed. But in this context and above all, "Bitches Brew" is music that comes about as a result of a way of working. And Miles Davis has left us with a very clear account of how this was done:

"I had been experimenting with writing a few simple chord changes for three pianos... So I had been writing these things down, like one beat chord and a bass line, and I found out that the more we played it, it was always different ……Then I started to think about something larger, a skeleton of a piece.… I told the musicians that they could do anything they wanted, play anything they heard, but I had to have this, what they did as a chord… I told them that at rehearsals and then I brought in these musical sketches that nobody had seen, just like I did on "Kind Of Blue" and "In A Silent Way"…"*

Once the recording sessions began, producer Teo Macero was told to keep the tapes rolling.

"So I would direct, like a conductor, once we started to play and I would either write down some music for somebody or I would tell him to play different things I was hearing, as the music was growing, coming together…. So that recording was a development of the creative process, a living composition. It was like a fugue, or motif, that we all bounced off of. After it had developed to a certain point, I would tell a certain musician to come and play something else, like Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet…. Sometimes, instead of just letting the tape run, I would tell Teo to back it up so we could hear what we had done. If I wanted something else in a certain spot, I would just bring the musician in, and we would just do it… It was just like one of them old-time jam sessions we used to have up at Minton's in the old bebop days."*

It is this creative process that defines "Bitches Brew". The much commented on use of overdubs and tape loop effects is far less important. And the result is a tumultuous, sometimes cacophonous but always challenging new jazz. Not atonal like the free jazz that Miles Davis despised yet with a shifting tonal centre that defies easy characterisation. Held together by thumping funk derived rhythms, often driven by simulataneous use of two basses, two drummers and multiple percussionists.

And, as the cover illustration so strongly hints, suffused with African-ness, as if the blues of Jimi Hendrix and the funk of Sly Stone was being turned back towards Africa. In that sense, "Bitches Brew" is not just the birth of fusion but a stepping stone toward the development of world music. That great, now almost forgotten breakthrough of the 'sixities – that Western civilization with its art and culture was just one amongst a large number of equally important cultures – taken up by Miles Davis and delivered into the world of jazz.

For the musicological developments that Miles' insight produced we have Jarno Kukkonen's excellent online Sibelius Institute thesis Early Jazz-Rock: The Music Of Miles Davis, 1967–72.

Overall and in summary:

"In the various aspects of his music, Davis introduced elements previously considered anomalous to jazz. These included rhythm (unconventional time signatures and changing meters, alternating even eighth phrasing with triplet phrasing and grooves), harmony (triadic “pop” harmony, harmonies reduced to a pedal point, a complete rejection of chordal harmony), form (elasticity, augmentation and diminution, open forms), tone color (expanded instrumental palette, number of instruments, unconventional ways of using instruments), the treatment of thematic material (using themes as interludes or ostinatos, assigning thematic material to the bass, eliminating thematic material altogether), the recording process (using the studio as creative laboratory, uninterrupted recordings of studio sessions), postproduction editing (additional effects, recomposition of pieces from different takes and sections) and production (side-long tracks, uninterrupted flow of music)."**

Each point is examined in detail in the thesis. We can only note a few of the more interesting features that Jarno Kukkonen identifies. The first is the use of even eighths, as used in rock, rather than the triplet based swing eighths of most jazz. Miles Davis first used this in "Eighty One" on "ESP" and on Wayne Shorter's "Masqualero" in 1968. But from "In A Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew" on, even eighths become the norm in Miles Davis' music. This became a defining feature of fusion (and has been under revival in the recent work of Chris Potter, Dave Douglas and Christian Scott, for example). The second is the use of the augmented scale, which is based on alternating augmented and minor second intervals. Oliver Nelson had used this in "Hoedown" on "The Blues And The Abstract Truth" and Miles Davis now uses this extensively in the "Bitches Brew" era. That appears to be at the core of the shifting tonal centre of much of this music.

The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions release has been criticized as a bringing together of material that is more diverse than the original "Bitches Brew" CD release. Columbia have muddied the waters here by releasing some of this material on expanded versions of "Big Fun". However, the final point that can be taken from Jarno Kukkonen's view is the continuity in the reworking of composed material that was such a feature of Miles Davis' approach at this time:

"(Miles Davis) made three different versions of Joe Zawinul’s ballad, “In a Silent Way.” For the version used on the album In a Silent Way he only used the middle section of the piece’s three parts. He renamed the two remaining sections as “Recollections” (the opening section) and “Take It or Leave It” (the closing section) and recorded these later as separate pieces. Both were released on The Complete Bitches Brew. Zawinul recorded the complete “In a Silent Way” on his album Zawinul in the way he had originally intended it."**

And,

"(Joe) Zawinul’s “Orange Lady (Mulher Laranja)”…… offers a prime example of Davis’s reuse and treatment of musical material composed by others. On his recorded version of “Orange Lady” Davis used the first section of the piece over an E pedal point, as he had done with “In a Silent Way.” He omitted the next section and later recorded it as “Yaphet.” He then repeated the first section, modulating up a major second as in Zawinul’s original version. At the end of the repeat Davis added a tag, a three chord sequence, that he later recorded as a separate piece, “Corrado.”…….Macero used “Orange Lady” as the middle section of Davis’s piece “Great Expectations” ……. (Weather Report recorded “Orange Lady” on their first album "Weather Report").… Davis often eliminated the harmony and played the thematic sections randomly over a pedal point or bass ostinato. Besides “In a Silent Way” he did this on Zawinul’s “Double Image”,……the aforementioned “Recollections” and Wayne Shorter’s “Feio.” These are all included on The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions."**

In other words, you only get to appreciate these types of progression if you consider these sessions as a whole.

And of course, recent changes in pricing policy (you can usually find the box set at half price) now make this four and a half hours of music a considerable bargain.

This groundbreaking music is not to everyone's taste in the jazz world but it is one of the great jazz albums of all time not just for its music but for its impact on the future of jazz.

Star Rating ****



Related reviews: Miles Davis "Nefertiti"   Miles Davis "Live at the 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival"    Miles Davis "Cookin'"   Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue"



Bookmark and Share




*"Miles - The Autobiography" by Miles Davis with Quincey Troupe
Miles - The Autobiography thumb
amazon.com amazon uk amazon.de amazon.fr

"Miles Davis - The Definitive Biography" by Ian Carr
Miles Davis - The Defintiive Biography thumb
amazon.com amazon uk amazon.de amazon.fr


**To download thesis by Jarno Kukkonen
Early Jazz-Rock: The Music Of Miles Davis, 1967–72

To preview and purchase "Complete Bitches Brew Sessions" on CD at amazon:

amazon CD
 Miles Davis: Complete Bitches Brew Sessions cover


To preview and purchase "Complete Bitches Brew Sessions" on MP3 at amazon:

amazon MP3
Miles Davis: Complete Bitches Brew Sessions cover


To look for books on Miles Davis at Amazon:

amazon.com amazon UK amazon Germany amazon France

To look for DVDs of Miles Davis at Amazon:
amazon.com amazon UK amazon Germany amazon France

Other useful information on Miles Davis:

Details of just about every Miles Davis record release
Complete Miles Davis discography

Details of just about every Miles Davis recording session (see how the sessions were assembled as albums)
Complete Miles Davis sessionography

Major information resource on the music of Miles Davis
Miles Ahead- essential Miles Davis site

Free chord progressions for some Miles Davis compositions with listenable piano chords / drums and printable score
Miles Davis at Song Trellis

Review by Tyrone Williams at "Other Voices" of Gerard Early (Ed): "Miles Davis And American Culture"
Review: "Miles Davis And American Culture"

Miles Davis on CD at amazon.com

Miles Davis on DVD at amazon.com

Miles Davis MP3 album downloads at amazon.com

Books on Miles Davis at amazon.com

RETURN TO: The Story So Far

RETURN TO: Main Page



amazon.com logo
Jazz at amazon.com

Add to Technorati Favorites

Add a link to this site




















free web page counters

1 comment:

lagot said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Sara

http://pianotutorial.net