Miles Davis "Bitches Brew"

(Columbia/Legacy)

Date of Release: April 1970

It’s rare for an artist to constantly be at the forefront of their respective craft, but trumpeter Miles Davis always found a way to push the envelope.  Between 1969 and 1970, Miles Davis single-handedly changed the face of jazz music with a series of highly electric and experimental albums. Beginning with 1969’s In a Silent Way, Davis began to incorporate a wealth of other influences into his music from the Sly and the Family Stone, to James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and even the Grateful Dead.

Riding the wave of In a Silent Way, Davis released Bitches Brew in April of 1970. Unlike its predecessor, Bitches Brew was full of attitude and gravitated much more heavily towards funk and rock.

Incorporating multiple rhythm section members, the recording sessions for Bitches Brew included a who’s who of jazz royalty including saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist Dave Holland and drummers Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette. Opening the album is the Joe Zawinul penned “Pharaoh’s Dance,” a free moving piece that features the bass clarinet artistry of Bennie Maupin as well as three keyboardists; Chick Corea, Larry Young and Joe Zawinul.

While the musicians were the prime driving force behind the music, Davis’ recording engineer Teo Macero was like the Oz of the project, weaving and blending together hundreds of minutes of analogue tape to create the sonic masterpiece that helped to redefine the trumpeter’s career.

The true genius of Bitches Brew is how the band moves between themes.   Most of the music wasn’t scripted and many of the musician’s weren’t even aware what had been recorded from these recording sessions so the band’s cohesive style throughout the album is a testament to their level of musicianship.  On the title track, Miles introduces the trumpet theme with squelches and yelps in the high register as the band rides this thematic development into a funk groove three minutes into the track.

“Spanish Key,” features dynamic drum work by Lenny White and Jack DeJohnette and sounds at times like a demented hard bop track with added textures. Other songs of note including “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” and “Sanctuary,” are both solid examples of Davis’ willingness to create sonic pieces that were representative of the funk and soul being heard throughout American music at the time. Particularly on “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down,” the band sounds at home over an exaggerated, outer space funk groove.

Very few albums in the history of jazz music have been as groundbreaking as Bitches Brew. Not only was it one of the best selling albums of all time in the genre, it also laid the foundation for the jazz-fusion movement of the 1970s. Many, if not all of the musicians that made an impact in this genre were featured on either In a Silent Way or Bitches Brew. They say Miles changed the face of music several times in his career and this album undoubtedly represents one of those moments.

By Jared Pauley

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