Miles Davis - Bitches Brew Live

Miles Davis
Bitches Brew Live

(Columbia/Legacy)

First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2011, Volume 18, #5

Written by John Metzger

Fri May 20, 2011, 06:30 AM CDT

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In the late 1950s, Miles Davis began to tower over the rest of the jazz community. He wasn’t the only artist to cause seismic shifts in the genre’s foundation. Nevertheless, his reign over the industry lasted for so long that he arguably left a greater mark than any of his peers or followers. A decade later, however, jazz was rapidly being displaced by rock ’n‘ roll. Determined to maintain his commercial presence, Davis searched for and found ways of broadening the scope of his work by applying amplified instrumentation — and the raw firepower it inevitably entailed — to his arrangements. Featuring material from a pair of concerts that were held 13 months apart, Bitches Brew Live highlights the rapid evolution of Miles Davis’ visionary approach.

The first half of Bitches Brew Live contains Davis’ performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in July 1969. The show not only preceded the initial sessions that produced Bitches Brew, but it also was held prior to the release of In a Silent Way. Understandably, the concepts that Davis was exploring on stage and in the studio were just beginning to take shape. Nevertheless, the burbling, R&B-fueled eruptions that permeated Bitches Brew — as well as Davis’ later endeavors — had already begun to surface.

At the time of Davis’ appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, bassist Dave Holland had yet to make the transition to an electric instrument. As a result, his contributions frequently were buried in the mix. In addition, saxophonist Wayne Shorter missed the Newport gig entirely because he was stuck in traffic. Nevertheless, Davis — along with keyboard player Chick Corea and drummer Jack DeJohnette combined forces to unleash a ferociously energetic performance on the assembled crowd. With its rhythmic strut, Miles Runs the Voodoo Down set an urban tone for the proceedings. Although the fragmented meditation of Sanctuary provided a brief respite from the mayhem, It’s About that Time was transformed into an anxiously frenetic, rock-fueled jam.

The latter portion of Bitches Brew Live is devoted to Davis’ performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970. By this point, not only had Holland begun using an electric bass, but also Davis’ outfit had blossomed into a loud and funky septet. Once again, Sanctuary provided the only true moment of reflection; the rest of the set was a churning, heady brew of pressure-cooked music. Directions rode upon an explosive groove, while a moody rendition of Bitches Brew shifted from its air of cosmic solitude into an intensely ominous stomp. It’s About that Time was propelled by the full fury of Davis’ expanded band, and when Gary Bartz unleashed a blaring saxophone solo during Spanish Key, he ultimately leant the tune a Traffic-esque ambience.

Looking at this era in the grand scheme of his career, it’s clear that Davis was just beginning to explore the possibilities of how the idioms of jazz and rock could be melded together to form something that appealed to a younger generation. Bitches Brew Live offers a glimpse into his thought process, and it demonstrates that his stage show was several steps ahead of his studio recordings. In one fell swoop, Davis not only was redefining his own legacy, but he also was redrafting the ways in which music was classified and consumed. starstarstarstarstar

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Of Further Interest...

Bruce Hornsby / Christian McBride / Jack DeJohnette - Camp Meeting

John Scofield Band - überjam

Sly and the Family Stone - Stand!

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Bitches Brew Live is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2011 The Music Box