MILES DAVIS — Bitches Brew

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4.57 | 87 ratings | 8 reviews
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Album · 1970

Filed under Fusion
By MILES DAVIS

Tracklist

A Pharaoh's Dance 19:25
B Bitches Brew 26:45
C1 Spanish Key 17:30
C2 John McLaughlin 4:23
D1 Miles Runs The Voodoo Down 14:03
D2 Sanctuary 10:54

CD (1999,Columbia – C2K 65774) bonus track:
2-5 Feio 11:49

Line-up/Musicians

Bass – Dave Holland
Bass [Fender] – Harvey Brooks
Bass Clarinet – Bennie Maupin
Trumpet – Miles Davis
Drums – Don Alias, Jack DeJohnette, Lenny White
Electric Guitar – John McLaughlin
Electric Piano – Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul (tracks: A to C1, D2), Larry Young (tracks: A, C1 to D1)
Percussion – Jim Riley
Soprano Saxophone – Wayne Shorter

About this release

Columbia – GP 26 (US)

Recording Dates & Location:
B, D2: 8-19-69 NYC
C1, D1: 8-20-69 NYC
A, C2: 8-21-69 NYC

Thanks to Abraxas, snobb for the updates

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MILES DAVIS BITCHES BREW reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

MilesBeyond
I can still remember where I was when I first "got" Bitches Brew. I'd gone to my parents' house for Christmas and was spending a quiet evening on my own listening to music, when the track Miles Runs the Voodoo Down came on. I'd tried giving the album a few listens before but never really enjoyed it - until now. Something inside me clicked. The music had a sort of raw, chaotic energy that spoke to me on a powerful level. It was the first music I'd heard in a long time that sounded truly alive.

When I first heard Bitches Brew, I was a little surprised: For such a popular album, I found it remarkably obtuse. Understand when you go into this album that this isn't Kind of Blue with guitar. This is a raw experiment in sonic energy; nothing like it has existed before or since. It took me a couple of listens, but after a while I could break things down into solos and interludes, and then I began to truly appreciate the beauty of it. This was Miles allowing musicians the freedom to express themselves however they desired, in loose compositions in a style unheard of, and it changed the face of jazz - and, to an extent, rock - forever.

I won't go through on a track-by-track basis because I feel as though that would be missing the point. The tracks aren't "songs" or even "compositions" in the traditional sense as much as they're platforms for ideas. A brief melodic or rhythmic fragment would be all that was given, then Miles would conduct the band as they expand on it and transform it into something else entirely. You really can't hope to understand it until you've heard it.

Bitches Brew is not an album for the faint-hearted. If you find yourself intimidated, I'd recommend starting with the shorter tracks on the second disk. John McLaughlin, Sanctuary, and the aforementioned Voodoo are good introductions before you tackle the longer jams. Regardless, it is an essential album for any jazz fan: Love it or hate it, it was the conquest of a new world, and something that needs to be listened to and digested by anyone who claims to be a listener of jazz music.
dreadpirateroberts
'Bitches Brew' is one of those albums that attracts all kinds of adjectives, mostly ones like 'revolutionary' and 'ground-breaking' but it also brings to mind words like 'dense' and 'meandering.'

In terms of its impact on genres, critics and more importantly, players - it is mammoth. But in some ways it's also a very logical step forward from 'In a Silent Way.' Here that sound is built upon and complicated, in a release that ruffled more than a few feathers in the jazz world at the time of its release.

From the composing credits and the 'wing-it' approach he favoured on 'Bitches Brew,' it's clear this is still very much a Davis album. However, not for the first or last time, Teo Macero plays a part, that of 'assembler.' Making a range of subtle edits throughout the long improvisations and jams that make up much of the material, his role shouldn't be overlooked, and rarely is nowadays.

I first came across 'Bitches Brew' in conversation with a friend over a game of pool, we were barely eighteen and Led Zeppelin my favourite band - jazz was an unknown world. My friend was obsessed with finding it when we went to a store, and when he did, the cover art caught my eye but I didn't get to hear it myself until a few years later when I'd already been given 'Kind of Blue,' 'The Birth of the Cool' and 'Round About Midnight.' It was hard for my rock-brain to get it at first, though I recall loving 'Round Midnight' right away. And I eventually got there. Months later and I remembered 'Bitches Brew' and one summer night of considerable stuffiness, when I'd finally purchased it, I put the headphones on and played the opening to 'Bitches Brew' and it stunned me.

It was alive in a brooding way, as if the music itself were totally uncomfortable and had to move. It heaved itself, shambling and sharp, across my mind and made me look around in the dark while I typed away at my work. (It's still one of the most eerie albums I've ever heard.) Miles was an echoing ghost and his high notes were relentless, while the jangling guitar of McLaughlin was sliding in and out of my consciousness, and the twin drum kits pummeled away and odd sounds seemed to creep out of every available space. Perhaps what made it so revolutionary on a personal level was it helped force me to take a step outside of Miles and look for other artists, as back then I used to be much slower to look outside my comfort range - and much poorer t afford to do so!

The key shortcoming of the album seems clear. With such a large cast, it's messy at times, and some of the pieces drag, especially if you've never heard the music before. With so many instruments needing to have a voice, it is dense. Part of it's joy is that density, for without it, 'Bitches Brew' may not be anywhere near as lasting. You have to dig in to repeated listens to get the most from it and the lumbering feel to this giant isn't cut by as many tempo changes as perhaps it could be. A lot of time is spent simply exploring, testing. It almost sounds live, and again, this isn't always a bad thing. On 'Miles Runs the Voodoo Down' for instance, it works wonderfully, whereas the title track covers a fair amount of similar ground in its wandering.

For anyone interested in the youth of Jazz Rock Fusion, and the point where it exploded into the public consciousness, then 'Bitches Brew' is a must. Miles Davis fans who may have steered clear of this album for whatever reason, will find a confident Miles in regards to vision, if not composition - if indeed such a word can be used to describe the thickets of music within. Four stars.
js
Here it is, that odd bastard child of Ornette Coleman and The Grateful Dead that ended up being called 'Bitches Brew'. Whereas jazzers like Coltrane and Albert Ayler, and rockers like The Cream and Hendrix took an aggressive approach to improvisation, Ornette and the Dead were more relaxed in a rural sort of way. This album, with it's meandering interacting semi-solos has a strong resemblance to a Dead live concert, but with the freer jazz approach of Ornette. It's no mystery why this album is more popular than some of Miles' more focused and better composed fusion albums such as 'Get Up With It', 'Agharta' and 'Big Fun', from the beginning this album was all about promotion and making big bucks for Columbia records. A lot of older jazz musicians hated this album before they even heard it because they saw all the 'rock star' hype that it received. Subsequently, the older jazzers still see almost all jazz fusion as an attempt to cash in, and often for good reason.

Despite the lack of composition and direction, the music on here is still interesting because all of the performers involved are so talented and great at interacting with one another. Corea and McLaughlin in particular are the glue that keeps this wandering jam on track. Another star is Bennie Maupin and his subtle, almost humorous contributions on bass clarinet, often sounding like that annoying friend who hums along with records at a volume that is barely audible.

Although Miles would later do full-blown hard rock music, the music on here is still closer to jazz, with the bass (basses) mixed low in volume and the drum beats often vague and abstract. Although brilliant in places, some of this music has not aged well. The song 'Sanctuary' in particular seems overwrought in it's slow buildup to Miles' blasting trumpet notes. Also, other songs on here seem to meander forever, we certainly had a lot more patience and time on our hands back in the early 70s.

The songs that have aged best are 'Miles Runs the Voodoo Down', with it's relaxed semi-funk groove that foreshadows much of Miles' music in the mid-70s, and the song 'John McLaughlin', which hints at the weird futuristic African grooves that will appear on 'Get Up With It' and 'On the Corner'. Thanks to the contributions of the ultra- talented performers on this record, Miles' large group improv experiment 'lucked out' and he came up with a pretty good record, but stick around, within a year or two much better things would be on the way.

Members reviews

siLLy puPPy
Does it get any more classic or classy than this? This double album from 1970 just cries out sophistication from the very first note and no doubt considering the lineup. Some of the absolute best in all of jazz is here to offer up some of the tastiest fusion ever to grace the eardrums and despite being more on the jazz side of the equation than rock it still does both and unapologetically surpassing all that came before including Miles' own attempt on his previous album IN A SILENT WAY.

Although Miles opened the doors with fusing the jazz side of music with rock features on that album, this was this album that burst open the flood gates and allowed the slew of musicians to cross-pollinate all the musical ambitions that had been veering closer together throughout the 60s. In fact John McLaughlin on this album would soon go on to up the ante even more with The Mahavishnu Orchestra as well as Chick Corea with the revered Return To Forever.

The rest of the lineup is none other than absolutely phenomenal and Miles has never sounded better on his trademark trumpet and that I must say is a tall order indeed since he has more classic jazz albums than should be permitted by law single-handedly ushering in everything from cool to modal jazz. A triumph in the first degree. Not only did Miles utilize the current technology of the day and expanded it beyond previous limitations but also utilized the songwriting techniques of other world music such as the Indian raga in his fusion to create long symphonic orchestral pieces. I'd give this more than five stars if I could.
Cannonball With Hat
Historical context is everything.

Yes, when this album was first was released I'm sure it was incendiary, controversial, heart stopping, interesting, engrossing, fascinating, and completely out of left field. Unfortunately, in 2009 (when I first heard the album) none of those adjectives seem to apply. I've read many reviews of this album (and Miles' albums in general) and am astounded by the undying praise. All the things people say...powerful, jaw dropping, earth moving, mind exploding, unyielding...and I find that I can not agree with any of these words. The music is so...lifeless, meandering, unfocused, uninteresting. As if it is just occurring in the background, not meant to be focused on, just existing in some form for some time and then stopping. Occasionally, things do get interesting, get worthy of spending time to listen to, but they are soon replaced with something else, usually less interesting. However, for that point, this isn't a complete failure. Pharaoh's Dance is probably the best (or perhaps most interesting) track here. The inclusion of multiple drummers and bass clarinet, certain gives Bitches Brew some brownie points as well, as I'm a fan of both of those things. (Though as a fan of percussions I do wish the drums were given more room to breathe and more involvement to the proceedings. I fully recognize this as a personal sentiment and I weight it as such.)

This review may seem alarming. Or may give the impression that I'm a 'jazz snob' or something sinister like that. I can assure you I'm not. I love most types of jazz, I love avant-garde, I love things that don't have structure, I love improvs, and I love things that just sound strange. This fits most of those criteria. And yet...it falls almost completely flat to my ears. Certainly the players have talent. Some of the biggest names in jazz play on this record. Yet, for me, this talent doesn't shine through enough to give it that certain pizazz, even though I can see the appeal of having all this talent in one place and that same time. But judging it just on name recognition would be disingenuous, in my humble opinion. And on a musical level, things fall apart too quickly and meander far too long. I think the most important thing about this album is the groundwork it laid out for the fusion 'community' (even though I hear this album as much more of a heady electric jazz album). Which is grand in the overview, but not so much on a microcosm level.

All in all, this is one of the most important albums in jazz. From this historical context, it set the gridlines on the map much more than any other album in it's time. However, for me, this formula has been done better (by Davis and others) since then. But, this is also a pillar of jazz music. No serious jazz collection should be without Bitches Brew. For this reason, I'm awarding BB five stars. It is essential. I don't not consider it a masterpiece of jazz music, just an important one. Miles did it better.
Warthur
Emerging from the fog of In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew coalesces Davis' new electric sound. Not yet featuring the heavy funk influence which would dominate the likes of On the Corner, this iteration of Miles' fusion experiments involves a seamless melding of traditional jazz improvisations and more rock-influenced playing in loose, hypnotic frameworks that yield more and more surprises with each listen. Again featuring a grab-bag of future fusion pioneers, the dark, brooding atmosphere would eventually be taken to an extreme by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, although the playing never really gets as fast as that on, say, The Inner Mounting Flame and in fact is usually somewhat laid back (though there are occasional outbreaks of volcanic, frenzied playing, as in Sanctuary just after the four and a half minute mark). In truth, there isn't very much that quite sounds like it, though many imitators would try over the ensuing years. Five stars.
Sean Trane
Directions In Music or Music In Directions??

On the heels of ISAW, Bitches’ Brew extended the electric formula, and slapped the jazz world, starting with the stunningly beautiful artwork gracing the gatefold (courtesy of Klarwein, also responsible for Santana’s Abraxas) of this double album. BB also receiving the subtle subtitle “Directions In Music By Miles Davis”, which I find is an honest description, only a little vague. With BB, Miles even throws away the idea of a “line-up” per se, since we seem under the era of everybody plays with everybody and whoever is missing, too bad. Actually it sounds chaotic, but it’s not: Miles’ strongest point was to assemble musicians and loosely direct them, but leaving them a great freedom, accepting their input, probably not always giving the writing credits where due (Zawinul and Shorter getting the nod here). Among the missing is Hancock (Off to Fat Albert Rotunda and latter Mwabdishi), Tony Williams (off to, his own group Lifetime) and Ron Carter. Newcomers to Miles’ realm are Larry Young (from TWL), Benny Maupin, Harvey Brooks, Jack DeJohmette (future Abercrombie &Jarrett), Lenny White (future RTF with CC) and a few more in Billy Cobham and Airto Moreira. With BB, Miles returns to a bit longer albums as both discs well over the 45-mins tiling, somewhat far more than the unusual IASW.

Although the album will be released in April 70 (creating a real shock, not just electrically or artwork-wise, but Miles’ brutal playing), this album had been recorded in just three days in august of the previous years (so six months before its release), and Miles once called this session “a living composition”.. The BB Complete sessions will show there was a warm up the day before recording, but that’s it. So in most of the tracks, Miles’ cohorts include at least two drummers (one in each channel) two bassist s (but only one is electric) and two keyboardists. Just six tracks over four vinyl sides is again very much keeping with the times, where such amounts were sign of quality and developed “songwriting”. Right from the first few notes, the album will let you know that you’re in for a fascinating ride if you want to follow the master of ceremony, Miles himself. And there is no better starts to a Miles album than with the vibrant Pharoah’s Dance. One of the thing that strikes is the lo-register wind instrument, Benny Maupin’s bass clarinet, which will give throughout the whole double album so much of its distinctive sound. The 27- mins title track fills the flipside, much of which is an hypnotic trance, and Miles’ eructions through his horn can appear brutal compared to just a few months before in FDK.

The second disc starts on the incredible Spanish Key, a track where Miles shows again his fascination for the Hispanic world, although, we’re far from Sketches here. Particularly impressive is Maupin’s drones done by his wind instrument, here the bass clarinet.. This is Maupin’s sole contribution to Miles’ classic fusion era, as he will move into Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi era group. The album’s third side is closed by a shorter Davis-penned Homage to J McL., where you’ll guess, McL gives an excellent bout of guitar and shines brighter than the sun. The fourth side of the album starts with Miles Runs The Voodoo Down, which is a bit contrary to the album’s artwork (where it looks like he’s running it, period!!) and with Maupin again contributing with the bass clarinet underlining the soloists (Miles mainly here), this track smokes and is somewhat reminiscent of the previous album, IASW...The much quieter Sanctuary closes one hell of an album

The now-previous remastered version boasts one bonus track, the 12-mins Feio, a tracks that’s also available on the BB Complete Sessions boxset. This track This track is right in the line of Sanctuary, remaining calm and low key, butt it’s got a bit of a menacing mood to it, from the sinister lines of wind instruments or electric guitar. Anyway, as you’ll guess over the course of this double album, there are some inevitable lengths, but nothing bothersome, drums solos are avoided as are most unaccompanied solo from any instruments. How can one not give the maximum rating for such an influential album, even if it is not flawless.

Mmmmmmhhh!!! In 2010, a new Legacy version appeared of this legendary album, featuring different bonus tracks (four with only two alternate takes, the other two seemingly from the Big Fun sessions), but Feto is gone and even more important a Live In Copenhagen DVD 1969 (this was circulating as boot for years, but it’s now legit and in prime quality, both image and sound wise. Holland, Corea, DeJohnette, Shorter and Miles are in a fairly dissonant mood (for that time), more so than Live Evil but nothing close to Black Beauty or Fillmore, but we’re closer to Brew (three tracks from that album but jazzier) than in Silent Way, even if the only electric instrument used that night is Corea‘s Rhodes. Miles had also spray-painted (I think) his trumpet red to appear more psychedelic and match his very trendy shirt. This 3-disc slipcase-less digipak affair suffers from a few flaws, the discoloured original artwork (incomplete on the outside cardboard cover too), and a badly calculated (and too tick) width that makes it bend on its rear-side. Of course de DVD is indispensable to Miles buffs, but I preferred the previous package with its slipcase, especially so that the new (colour) booklet is not any more complete, just adapted.

AtomicCrimsonRush
This album has to be considered a milestone in jazz fusion at it's most experimental, with wild flourishes of African drum beats and crazy trumpet solos. At times it is Santana meets Osibisa. There is no doubt that the fusion on this is inspirational and a Milestone, though for me it really blends together as an overlong jam session, and sounds rather dated these days. The 60s hippy movement and drug culture may have revelled in this but I found it increasingly irritating in places. Perhaps it is too repetitive and heavily reliant on congas and percussion. It has become an early 70s icon no doubt. The voodoo beat is not my cup of tea, however, as it all feels a bit witch doctorish, like the soundtrack to the scene in "Live And Let Die" where the voodoo dancers are tripping out around the fire.

There is no real compositional structure from track to track though perhaps that is the appeal of the album; the improvisational feel is hard core fusion and the mood is always darkened by the competing instruments and non synchronic metrical patterns. As a double album it was groundbreaking for jazz rock but the music tends to drone on for a long time, repeating motifs and non variations of funkadelic grooves that simply lock in. Jazz fans of course would love this and that is the main target audience, and will remain so for all of Davis' albums. The instrumentation of bass clarinet and tenor saxophone is marvellous and the real drawcard for subsequent listens, along with Davis' trumpet brilliance.

If you are looking for a highlight track to listen to as an example, perhaps the 27 minute Bitches Brew, and Spanish Key at 17:34 are worthy contenders. But you will need patience because this music builds painfully slow at times, with random blasts of trumpet and dissonant chords that jolt constantly, and if you are not a fan you may find yourself wanting to switch to something else with more structure. I prefer Davis' 'Kind of Blue' or 'In A Silent Way', but 'Bitches Brew' is still an interesting curio that stands alone in the extensive Davis' catalogue.

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