MILES DAVIS — Bitches Brew (review)

MILES DAVIS — Bitches Brew album cover Album · 1970 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
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.

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