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Y no te confundas, no nos interesa la piratería, lo nuestro es simplemente desobediencia civil y resistencia cultural a favor del libre acceso al conocimiento (nuestra música es, entre otras tantas cosas, conocimiento).

jueves, 10 de septiembre de 2015

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (1970)


Artista: Miles Davis 
Álbum: Bitches Brew
Año: 1970
Género: Jazz / Fusión
Duración: disco 1: 47:05, disco 2: 58:51
Nacionalidad: EUA

Lista de Temas:
Disco 1

1. Pharaoh's Dance
2. Bitches Brew

Disco 2
1. Spanish Key
2. John McLaughlin
3. Miles Runs the Voodoo Down
4. Sanctuary
5. Feio (bonus track)

Alineación:
- Miles Davis / Trompeta
- Wayne Shorter / Sax soprano

- Bennie Maupin / Clarinete bajo
- Joe Zawinul / Piano eléctrico
- Larry Young / Piano eléctrico
- Chick Corea / Piano eléctrico
- John McLaughlin / Guitarra
- Dave Holland / Contrabajo
- Harvey Brooks / Bajo eléctrico
- Lenny White / Batería
- Jack DeJohnette / Batería
- Don Alias / Batería y congas
- Jumma Santos (Jim Riley) / Shaker y congas


Bitches Brew es el disco que yo hubiera incluido en la nave espacial aquella que se fue a la búsqueda de algo por el cosmos, llevando muestras de lo mejor de la cultura terrestre. Es la obra que representa lo más revolucionario, avanzado, innovador y progresivo del cambio de décadas entre el 69 y el 70; es además una obra capaz de echar por tierra la idea, acuñada entonces, de que la innovación y la revolución iban de la mano de los jóvenes, porque su autor, el imposible, el fantasma, el espíritu flaco venido de un universo imparalelo, Miles Davis, ya contaba más de 45 mayos cuando agrupó a los 12 apóstoles visionarios que le dieron forma a esta utopía musical que había nacido poco antes como quinteto.

La fusión de la que Bitches Brew es muestra va mucho más allá de lo que los críticos dedujeron cuando se hizo presente: se le entiende como el disco que inició la mezcla entre el jazz y el rock, pero cuando uno lo escucha con atención, se encuentra con que ahí también palpitan Stravinsky y los dioses del vudú; en cuanto al jazz, se hace presente desde el swing hasta el free jazz (pasando, claro por la forma modal de acometer la tonalidad, un invento previo de Miles), en cuanto al rock, no solo hay psicodelia y groove percusivo sino también aquello que tanto valor tiene para nosotros los cabezones: el discurso progresivo, de búsqueda y exploración, y sobre todo, la actitud con la que Miles acomete la formación, que no es la de asumirse como creador y líder que se apoya en una serie de músicos (todos genios) contratados para lucir su virtuosismo, sino la de una especie de guía espiritual bajo cuya entrega consigue sacar de todos los demás lo mejor que pueden aportar. Miles no es la estrella de esta música sino el origen de un proyecto colectivo, plenamente colaborativo, libre y a la vez estructurado, en donde cada músico se descubre a sí mismo.

Voy a ser muy sincero: no tengo las palabras y conceptos necesarios para describir esta música. Mientras esperaba que estas ondas sonoras hechas bits terminaran de viajar por el ciberespacio para poder postear estas líneas, lo escuché cuatro veces (no sé cuántas veces lo he oído antes, desde aquel 1992 cuando lo oí por primera vez en casa del gran bajista Demian Cobo), y sigo sin poder descifrar su misterio. Claro, podemos hablar del uso combinado de bajo acústico y bajo eléctrico; del ensamble de percusiones, del juego armónico que se establece entre tres monstruos (Corea, Zawinul, McLaughlin), de los diálogos entre melódicos y eso innombrable que solo se puede mencionar como “el espíritu de Miles” en el que participan Zawinul, Shorter, McLaughlin, Maupin y el genio trompetista; del juego a la vez regular e irregular de los ritmos y las síncopas; de la longitud de los temas que da lugar a viajes atmosféricos con sorprendentes cambios de cadencia y medida, o del uso de técnicas de grabación y postproducción que no eran comunes en la época (dubs, loops, remixes, obra del productor visionario Teo Macero), pero aun así no se llega a describir ni por encima lo que sucede en ese espacio sonoro.

Para saber más sobre el asunto, ahí están en los scans las notas del LP doble original y las del remaster digital de 1990, y los innumerables textos sobre esta obra que se pueden encontrar por ahí, de los que acá abajo les dejo algunas muestras. Pero cuando lo escuchen, si es que aún no lo han hecho, verán cómo trasciende todas las palabras que se puedan escribir sobre él. Siempre es más. Una y otra vez, siempre es más. Es un brebaje mágico, una pócima de las sabias cocineras, porque las “Bitches” a las que pertenece son en realidad hechiceras maravillosas, diosas musas magas brujas, que es lo que yo creo que Miles quería decir al titular así esta obra. Así que hasta aquí mis limitadas palabras, los dejo con el disco que yo me llevaría al exilio aquel en la isla amenazante.



Sobre el disco dicen:

... para muchos oyentes durante este período [fines de los 60], el término “fusión” tenía un significado muy limitado y específico. Describía los diversos intentos de combinar el jazz con el rock. El disco de Miles Davis Bitches Brew supuso a finales de los sesenta un evento señalado en este sentido. Este sonido teñido de rock emergente amplió sustancialmente el público de jazz. Se puede sospechar que desempeñó un papel decisivo en estimular un mejor entorno financiero para todos los estilos de jazz durante los setenta. Los aficionados que se acercaron al jazz a través de la fusión pronto se vieron atraídos por otros estilos de música improvisada. En consecuencia, la base económica del jazz se amplió y estabilizó durante este período, después de años de estancamiento y declive. Abrieron sus puertas nuevos clubes, proliferaron los sellos discográficos de jazz y los músicos expatriados volvieron de sus exilios en el extranjero.
Las ventas de Bitches Brew proporcionaron una medida impresionante de este cambio de las cosas. Las producciones de mediados de los años sesenta, pese a toda su aclamación crítica y perdurable significado, eran vendidas en cantidades por debajo de las cien mil unidades. Pero Bitches Brew vendió cuatrocientos mil ejemplares en su primer año. Davis acogió a esta nueva audiencia con ganas: grabó prolíficamente en los dieciocho meses siguientes, asombrando a los ejecutivos de Columbia que previamente se habían encontrado con dificultades a la hora de atraerlo al estudio; se pone en evidencia ocupándose de las funciones publicitarias de la compañía y participa en espectáculos televisivos; acepta actuar en templos del rock como en Fillmore West y Fillmore East, incluso cuando eso significaba servir como telonero para otra banda. Davis también estaba trabajando ahora con una amplia gama de músicos y sonidos —por ejemplo, en las sesiones Bitches Brew Davis tiene doce músicos a sus órdenes, diez de ellos en la sección rítmica. Sólo Wayne Shorter era un vestigio del quinteto de mediados de los sesenta.
Algunos críticos acusaron a Davis de venderse. Pero lo más notable de Bitches Brew era lo poco que Davis trató de acercarse a las corrientes más imitativas del pop-rock. Todos menos uno de los temas duraba más de diez minutos —prácticamente garantizado que Davis estuviera poco tiempo en antena—. Las canciones estaban muy estudiadas para evitar el comercialismo fácil. Los oyentes que buscaban arreglos rigurosos, ganchos melódicos, sencillos compases bailables o letras memorables era probable que quedaran decepcionados. Ésta era una música cruda, sin filtraciones, laberíntica, discursiva y a menudo rígida. La amplia sección rítmica creaba una textura densa, espesa. Y el líder de la banda permanecía tímido, solía dejar a los músicos que trabajaran sobre largos y estáticos acompañamientos improvisados antes de entrar con la trompeta. Incluso entonces, las líneas del metal de Davis estaban muy lejos de ser solos en el sentido convencional. En su lugar, parecían sólo una capa más de sonido, situada en la cima de todo ese remolino acústico. Este disco puede ser, como muchos afirman, el padre de la fusión entre el jazz y el rock. Pero aún siendo así, es bastante difícil vislumbrar su parecido paterno con los discos de Grover Washington y Spyro Gyra con más arreglos que sustancia.
Ted Giogia, Historia del Jazz, Turner/FCE, Madrid, 2002, pp. 488-489.

Bitches Brew is a studio double album by jazz musician Miles Davis, released on March 30, 1970 on Columbia Records. The album continued his experimentation with electric instruments previously featured on his critically acclaimed In a Silent Way album. With the use of these instruments, such as the electric piano and guitar, Davis rejected traditional jazz rhythms in favor of a looser, rock-influenced improvisational style.
Bitches Brew was Davis's first gold record; it sold more than half a million copies. Upon release, it received a mixed response, due to the album's unconventional style and experimental sound. Later, Bitches Brew gained recognition as one of jazz's greatest albums and a progenitor of the jazz rock genre, as well as a major influence on rock and funk musicians. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album in 1971. In 1998, Columbia Records released The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, a four-disc box set that included the original album as well as the studio sessions through February 1970.
Recording sessions took place at Columbia's 30th Street Studio over the course of three days in August 1969. Davis called the musicians to the recording studio on very short notice. A few pieces on Bitches Brew were rehearsed before the recording sessions, but at other times the musicians had little or no idea what they were to record. Once in the recording studio, the players were typically given only a few instructions: a tempo count, a few chords or a hint of melody, and suggestions as to mood or tone. Davis liked to work this way; he thought it forced musicians to pay close attention to one another, to their own performances, or to Davis's cues, which could change at any moment. On the quieter moments of "Bitches Brew", for example, Davis's voice is audible, giving instructions to the musicians: snapping his fingers to indicate tempo, or, in his distinctive whisper, saying, "Keep it tight" or telling individuals when to solo.
Davis composed most of the music on the album. The two important exceptions were the complex "Pharaoh's Dance" (composed by Joe Zawinul) and the ballad "Sanctuary" (composed by Wayne Shorter). The latter had been recorded as a fairly straightforward ballad early in 1968, but was given a radically different interpretation on Bitches Brew. It begins with Davis and Chick Corea improvising on the standard "I Fall in Love Too Easily" before Davis plays the "Sanctuary" theme. Then, not unlike Davis's recording of Shorter's "Nefertiti" two years earlier, the horns repeat the melody over and over while the rhythm section builds up the intensity. The issued "Sanctuary" is actually two consecutive takes of the piece.
Mati Klarwein created this artwork for Bitches Brew's gatefold cover.
Despite his reputation as a "cool", melodic improviser, much of Davis's playing on this album is aggressive and explosive, often playing fast runs and venturing into the upper register of the trumpet. His closing solo on "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" is particularly noteworthy in this regard. Davis did not perform on the short piece "John McLaughlin".
There was significant editing done to the recorded music. Short sections were spliced together to create longer pieces, and various effects were applied to the recordings. Paul Tingen reports:
Bitches Brew also pioneered the application of the studio as a musical instrument, featuring stacks of edits and studio effects that were an integral part of the music. Miles and his producer, Teo Macero, used the recording studio in radical new ways, especially in the title track and the opening track, "Pharaoh's Dance". There were many special effects, like tape loops, tape delays, reverb chambers and echo effects. Through intensive tape editing, Macero concocted many totally new musical structures that were later imitated by the band in live concerts. Macero, who has a classical education and was most likely inspired by '50s et '60s french musique concrète experiments, used tape editing as a form of arranging and composition.
"Pharaoh's Dance" contains 19 edits – its famous stop-start opening is entirely constructed in the studio, using repeat loops of certain sections. Later on in the track there are several micro-edits: for example, a one-second-long fragment that first appears at 8:39 is repeated five times between 8:54 and 8:59. The title track contains 15 edits, again with several short tape loops of, in this case, five seconds (at 3:01, 3:07 and 3:12). Therefore, Bitches Brew not only became a controversial classic of musical innovation, it also became renowned for its pioneering use of studio technology.
Though Bitches Brew was in many ways revolutionary, perhaps its most important innovation was rhythmic. The rhythm section for this recording consists of two bassists (one playing bass guitar, the other double bass), two to three drummers, two to three electric piano players, and a percussionist, all playing at the same time. As Paul Tanner, Maurice Gerow, and David Megill explain, "like rock groups, Davis gives the rhythm section a central role in the ensemble's activities. His use of such a large rhythm section offers the soloists wide but active expanses for their solos."
Tanner, Gerow and Megill further explain that
"the harmonies used in this recording move very slowly and function modally rather than in a more tonal fashion typical of mainstream jazz.... The static harmonies and rhythm section's collective embellishment create a very open arena for improvisation. The musical result flows from basic rock patterns to hard bop textures, and at times, even passages that are more characteristic of free jazz."
The solo voices heard most prominently on this album are the trumpet and the soprano saxophone, respectively of Miles and Wayne Shorter. Notable also is Bennie Maupin's ghostly bass clarinet, which was perhaps the first use of the instrument in jazz not heavily indebted to pioneer Eric Dolphy.
The technology of recording, analog tape, disc mastering and inherent recording time constraints had, by the late sixties, expanded beyond previous limitations and sonic range for the stereo, vinyl album and Bitches Brew reflects this. In it are found long-form performances which encompass entire improvised suites with rubato sections, tempo changes or the long, slow crescendo more common to a symphonic orchestral piece or Indian raga form than the three-minute rock song. Starting in 1969, Davis' concerts included some of the material that would become Bitches Brew.
Bitches Brew was a turning point in modern jazz. Davis had already spearheaded two major jazz movements – cool jazz and modal jazz – and was about to initiate another major change (like Davis' album Filles de Kilimanjaro, the album's cover also sports the phrase "Directions In Music By Miles Davis" above the title). Some critics at the time characterized this music as simply obscure and "outside", which recalls Duke Ellington's description of Davis as "the Picasso of jazz." Some jazz enthusiasts and musicians felt the album was crossing the limits, or was not jazz at all. One critic writes that "Davis drew a line in the sand that some jazz fans have never crossed, or even forgiven Davis for drawing." Bob Rusch recalls, "this to me was not great Black music, but I cynically saw it as part and parcel of the commercial crap that was beginning to choke and bastardize the catalogs of such dependable companies as Blue Note and Prestige.... I hear it 'better' today because there is now so much music that is worse." Donald Fagen, co-founder of Steely Dan, called the album "essentially just a big trash-out for Miles" in 2007: "To me it was just silly, and out of tune, and bad. I couldn't listen to it. It sounded like [Davis] was trying for a funk record, and just picked the wrong guys. They didn't understand how to play funk. They weren't steady enough."
On the other hand, many fans, critics, and musicians view the records as an important and vital release. In a 1997 interview, drummer Bobby Previte sums up his feelings about Bitches Brew: "Well, it was groundbreaking, for one. How much groundbreaking music do you hear now? It was music that you had that feeling you never heard quite before. It came from another place. How much music do you hear now like that?"
The Penguin Guide to Jazz gave Bitches Brew a four-star rating (out of four stars), describing the recording as "one of the most remarkable creative statements of the last half-century, in any artistic form. It is also profoundly flawed, a gigantic torso of burstingly noisy music that absolutely refuses to resolve itself under any recognized guise." In 2003, the album was ranked number 94 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (however, it went down one spot 9 years later). Along with this accolade, the album has been ranked at or near the top of several other magazines' "best albums" lists in disparate genres.
Thom Yorke, lead singer of English band Radiohead, noted the album as an influence on their 1997 album OK Computer: "It was building something up and watching it fall apart, that's the beauty of it. It was at the core of what we were trying to do with OK Computer."

A master at dangerous play
'Bitches Brew' changed jazz history -- and proved again that Miles Davis was the Proteus of 20th century music.
I first heard “Bitches Brew” the year it came out, in 1969. It was shocking. The opening sidelong notes of Miles Davis’ trumpet in “Pharaoh’s Dance,” insinuating themselves into a restless polyrhythmic jungle of percussion, oddly knowing keyboards, a seething electric guitar and an uncanny bass line that seemed to go everywhere and nowhere at once, announced an alien world, shot through by darkness, whose beauties were indistinguishable from its terrors.
Listening today to “Bitches Brew,” the complete sessions of which Columbia has just released in a four-CD box set, is still shocking. With its maniacal loose-jointed precision, its self-attuned formlessness, its refusal to answer any of the questions it asks, its sense of tendrils rising up out of an unknowable earth, it is a chaotic symphony of the modern — an electric version of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”
Bitches Brew” may be the strangest landmark in jazz history. It wasn’t the first fusion album — that honor is shared by Gary Burton, Tony Williams’ Lifetime and the Fourth Way, among others. But it stands alone. The double album with the frightening extraterrestrial Nubians on the cover marked the first time a first-generation bop master, a giant whose pedigree went back to Bird, Diz and Max Roach, had ventured into the mysterious electric forest. And Miles didn’t just add a few rock elements to his music — he invented a whole new form. And it was bolder and just plain weirder than any fusion before — and probably since. “Bitches Brew” should carry a label: “Warning: Master at Dangerous Play.”
Miles had changed history. But for the greatest creator of improvisational music in the 20th century, changing history was par for the course.
In 1968, Miles was evolving so fast even he couldn’t catch up to himself. At age 43, he stood at the top of the mountain. For four years, he had led what was probably the most formidable quintet in the history of jazz. This astonishing unit, featuring Tony Williams, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, completely changed the landscape of jazz. Miles’ so-called second great quintet moved beyond the bebop formula to explore radically new territory. On classic albums like “ESP,” “Nefertiti” and “Miles Smiles,” the quintet made music that had the intensity and risk-taking quality of avant-garde free jazz, while still remaining in touch with tonality. The result was the jazz version of high modernism — music that neither collapsed into the chaotic, anti-formal gestures of wild men like Cecil Taylor or Ornette Coleman, nor retold the technically dazzling but familiar stories of bebop. The group took group improvisation further than it had ever been taken.
But Miles wasn’t content to rest there. In 1968, he released “Filles de Kilimanjaro,” an album so perfect in its out-there idiosyncrasy that no one has even tried to make anything like it since. In this album — on which “Bitches Brew” stalwarts Chick Corea and Dave Holland made their Miles debuts — jazz seemed to have been boiled down into the most intimate, elusive and enigmatic of essential parts. At once lyrical and off-kilter, it had the weight of a classical composition — and was as airy and insubstantial as a soap bubble. Miles said two of his big influences at this time were Jimi Hendrix and James Brown, and after the fact you just might be able to tell — but it was a strange and convoluted line of transmission. You can feel the same open spaces behind this music that you can in his classic “Kind of Blue,” but it’s a less comforting space now, uncannier, more pop, more machinelike, more electric. It’s the first hint of the chill of those heights Miles was about to explore.
A few months later, Miles jumped into the unknown, breaking completely with tradition with the revolutionary “In a Silent Way.” He’d taken these astonishing leaps at least twice before — with “Birth of the Cool” and with the Ravel-like tonalities and modal improvising on “Kind of Blue.” But it is still breathtaking to reflect that Miles went from “Nefertiti” to “Bitches Brew” in only two years. It’s as if James Joyce had evolved from the 19th century mastery of “Dubliners” to the modernism of “Ulysses” to the avant-garde explorations of “Finnegans Wake” in 24 months.
A trance lullaby of velvet sound, inspired by the ethereal, open-ended compositions and playing of Joe Zawinul (who was also the single most important catalyst in “Bitches Brew”), “In a Silent Way” drifted down endlessly upon the listener like a comforting cloud. It was the first jazz album that didn’t really sound like “jazz” at all. (Miles always hated the word “jazz,” regarding it as limiting, and placed the words “Directions in Music by Miles Davis” on the album’s cover, as he would on “Bitches Brew.”) But it didn’t sound like rock either, although the rock revolution, with its heavy bass lines and simple harmonies, clearly influenced it. Miles was going even deeper into the note than before, slowing everything down even more. He had always been jazz’s great stopper of time, his deceptive, muscular simplicity working against the form’s innate tendency to spin out into technique. Now, having laid the ground over the last two years of experimentation, he had completely changed the form. There was no going back.
And then, in the summer of 1969, he struck, with a savagery and audacity that still makes the hairs on the back of your neck stick up when you hear it. “Bitches Brew” was like “In a Silent Way’s” evil outer-space brother. It seemed to blast in from some particularly frozen and unspeakable part of the cosmos, burn up everything in its vicinity and then roar off in an angry red and black glow. It is a terrifying and majestic piece of work. Even its imperfections — and it may be the most intentionally imperfect masterpiece ever recorded — are an essential part of its vision. Miles’ guiding spirit of freedom turned accident into a new kind of beauty.
The most remarkable thing about “Bitches Brew” is the infinite variety it derives from such simple, almost amorphous musical structures. There are only six “tunes” — the word is laughable here — on the double album, but those six contain multitudes. “Pharaoh’s Dance,” the ungraspable Zawinul composition that opens the album, is the most complex and multifaceted, literally stitched together out of dozens of component sound-parts. Miles had been using editing as a compositional technique for several years, but now he took the technique to new levels. In Bob Belden’s informative essay on the sessions that accompanies the box set, he describes how “Pharaoh’s Dance” was pieced together out of no less than 19 edits — a post-recording technique that may have been unprecedented in its time. Miles experiments with staccato phrasing in a single mode here, restricting himself to jabbing at the edges of the rhythm. Strange pleasures, like the demented hip-hop-like atonal bass line that enters at 9:00, rise up and vanish. John McLaughlin’s incisive guitar, here as throughout the album, simultaneously adds edgy melodic color with jagged, lightning-fast runs and holds the loose and baggy monster together. And the explosive flexibility of drummers Jack DeJohnette and Lenny White, the eccentric, noodling intelligence of keyboardists Corea and Zawinul and the odd insinuation of bass clarinetist Bennie Maupin (whose eerie sound is one of the album’s signatures) push the wild parade on.
Bitches Brew,” the gloriously terrifying title track, is also a virtual orchestral suite, from the monstrous echo-and-reverb-laden trumpet line that comes riding in out of some electronic purgatory to its peculiar shift into a finger-snapping rubato section. “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” is a straighter tune, driven by a wonderfully funky New Orleans rhythm laid down by percussionist/drummer Don Alias, with propulsive offbeat support from the twin bass team of Dave Holland and Harvey Brooks. Miles attacks his solo in a more coherent, extended way before yielding to a maniacally inspired Corea solo. “Sanctuary,” the lovely Shorter composition, is the most conventional tune on the album, building to a powerful climax.
The album’s masterpiece, however, is “Spanish Key.” For all of their demented beauties, the three other long tunes lack melodic unity; they don’t hit a single target. Somehow, on this tune, everything came together — dynamics, harmony and melody, all kicked along by a propulsive beat. A series of long modal teases that builds to a truly exultant head, “Spanish Key” combines Miles’ earlier melodicism with the ferocious rhythmic power of his new team. You can hear “Sketches of Spain” in here, and “Kind of Blue,” that haunting Miles sound someone once described as sounding like a little boy who’s locked out and trying to get in — but the sound is blown up to the passionate grandeur of rock. Shorter felt it: His solo here is a logical, passionate triumph. If there was one direction one could wish Miles had followed out of this album, it would be that of “Spanish Key.”
But Miles was too restless to go back inside, back to tunes and sounds, however stirring, that had a beginning, middle and end. He wanted to experiment with coloration, simple figures and rhythm, and that’s what he did. Most of those experiments, however, lacked either the majestic coherence of “Spanish Key” or the weird, sui generis brilliance of “Pharaoh’s Key” or “Bitches Brew.”
Which is the weakness of this box set. Once you get past the “Bitches Brew” cuts, the musical quality declines, sometimes precipitously. There were eight “Bitches Brew” sessions recorded over several months, and all of the music from them is found here, but the spirit only really spoke on the three August sessions that ended up on the album. The next-best tunes are “Great Expectations” and “Orange Lady,” simple and haunting experiments in color and repetition (with sitar and tabla added) that appeared on Miles’ 1974 album “Big Fun.” But even these tunes are below the “Bitches Brew” standard, and by the time you get down to previously unreleased tunes like “Corrado” and “Feio” — well, everything Miles did is worth listening to, but there’s a reason why some things make it out of the can first. It’s interesting to hear Miles’ version of David Crosby’s pretty “Guinevere” (a shorter edit of which is available on the 1979 compilation “Circle in the Round”), but it ain’t worth 50 bucks.
Columbia is planning to release No. 5 in its wonderful series of boxed Miles soon, featuring the “In a Silent Way” period, the bridge between “Filles de Kilimanjaro” and “Bitches Brew.” It wouldn’t have been as comprehensive for Miles collectors, but it would have offered more value to have combined those selections with the six “Bitches Brew” cuts and the two from “Big Fun” and released the rest separately. Compared with the extraordinary richness of the second Quintet box (No. 4 in the series), “The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions” doesn’t quite measure up.
But if the sessions don’t all show Miles at his best, they still show a master at work — and a master whose legacy was more than just his art. Davis was that rarest of creators: an artist who combined mastery with ceaseless exploration.
What he left us with was not just magnificent art, but something stranger and harder to define — the gift of creativity itself. His career affirms limitlessness, the irrepressibility of invention, the infinite ways that humans can express their lives.
With “Bitches Brew,” Miles changed the future of jazz. Not everyone liked the future he ushered in: “Bitches Brew” not only was Miles’ bestselling album ever, converting thousands of rock fans, it was also the most denounced. Miles’ traditionalist critics were outraged — it was Dylan at Newport again. Miles, as usual, ignored the critics. And his fellow musicians followed him: Out of these sessions came musicians who would form the leading fusion groups that would take the music in new directions in the ’70s. Zawinul and Shorter’s Weather Report, McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, Hancock’s Headhunters, Corea’s Return to Forever — all were Miles’ children.
But Miles himself had gone as far as he was going to. Who would have thought, in 1969, that “Bitches Brew” would be Miles’ last great achievement — that he would never again turn himself, and the music of his time, inside out? For many reasons, he was to lose that precarious balance, fall into the dead-end of funk aggression and mere street hipness — the free fall started with “On the Corner” and, with some interesting exceptions, never stopped. It didn’t matter: He had given us enough, more than enough. And during those three August days, he did it again. He ran the voodoo down. And as he did, he waved high the banner of freedom — his own, and now, forever, ours.

Six months after recording In a Silent Way, Miles recorded what was to become the defining document of the jazz-rock movement, Bitches Brew. Released in 1970, Bitches Brew became the fastest selling album in jazz history. With its mixture of jazz, rock and electronics, it inspired countless imitations.

In 1969, jazz music was widely regarded as old music made by irrelevant “stiffs” in suits. Certainly very few members of the hippie counterculture would admit to owning a jazz recording. Even Miles Davis, jazz’s only superstar and not long before regarded as the coolest man on the planet, had become one of yesterday’s men. All this changed in August 1969, when In A Silent Way was issued, and even more so in April 1970, with the release of Bitches Brew . These two albums established Miles Davis as the first major jazz artist to crossover to a rock audience and jazz-rock as a hip kind of music to listen to. Oh, and in the process In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew changed the direction of the history of music, no less.
In A Silent Way, recorded during a single session on February 18th, 1969, announced this new direction with a whispering. Because of its gentle cyclical grooves and peaceful atmosphere the album became one of the blueprints of what later became known as ambient music. It still sounds astonishingly modern today. Although jazz lovers generally speaking didn’t know what to make of it, the album quickly gained a solid reputation with large sections of the hippie community as the perfect album to get stoned to. The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions 3-CD boxed set, released in the fall of 2001, includes several previously unreleased tracks and further illustrates the pioneering nature of the original In A Silent Way album.
Bitches Brew, recorded during three hot summer days in New York, August 19-21, 1969, was the Big Bang of jazz-rock. Musicians had been experimenting with combinations of jazz, rock, soul, and folk music since the early 1960s, but Bitches Brew was the first album that translated the concept to the masses. A double LP featuring long, abstract tracks resistant to radio play, it was never expected to sell in large numbers, but it became Miles’s first gold album and is still a best-seller. Downs Beat called it “the most revolutionary jazz album in history,” but other jazz commentators have called it a “sell-out,” “a bunch of noise,” or “dollar-sign music.”
Composer/keyboardist Joe Zawinul made no secret of the side he’s on in jazz’s civil war when he commented: “That’s because these guys are idiots. They don’t have a clue.” Bitches Brew was never controversial in the rock world, where it was generally received very positively. Rock lovers recognized mystery and mastery in the boiling cocktail of African-sounding cyclical grooves offset by the preacher-like intensity of Miles’s trumpet, whipping the large ensemble (in one case twelve players) into a frenzy.
Although very different in mood, In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew are companion albums, emerging from the same musical concept of multiple electric keyboard players, an understated John McLaughlin on electric guitar, and repetitive bass lines and grooves. Almost all the players involved have since attained legendary status as key players in some of the greatest jazz-rock bands of all time, such as Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return to Forever. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter, keyboardists Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Zawinul, Britons John McLaughlin on guitar and Dave Holland on bass, and drummer Tony Williams all accompanied Miles on In A Silent Way. With the exception of Tony Williams and Herbie Hancock they were also present during the recording of Bitches Brew, complemented by Jack DeJohnette and Lennie White on drums, Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet, Larry Young on organ, Don Alias and Jim Riley on percussion, and Harvey Brooks on electric bass.
An important part of the legend of In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew concerns the extensive post-production that was involved in their making. Producer Teo Macero, who had worked with Miles since the late 1950s, played a central role. His influence in Miles’s music can be likened to that of George Martin with The Beatles. Macero was the one who tied the many disparate musical segments together, and edited them into a new whole, in some cases virtually recomposing the music. In A Silent Way, for instance, contained less than 27 minutes of musical material in its pre-edited form, and was cleverly looped by Macero to extend the music to 38 minutes. And the two opening tracks of Bitches Brew, “Pharaoh’s Dance,” and “Bitches Brew,” are completely restructured courtesy of 17 and 15 edits respectively.
In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew were far ahead of their time, making it amazing that these visionary albums caught the public mood immediately after their release. In fact, they were so unusual that even the musicians involved often had no idea what was going on when things were going down. Herbie Hancock recalled about the In A Silent Way session: “After we finished we walked out of the studio, and while we were standing in the hallway John came over and whispered to me, ‘Can I ask you a question? I answered, ‘Sure’. He then said, ‘Herbie, I can’t tell... was that any good what we did? I mean, what did we do? I can’t tell what’s going on!’ So I told him, ‘John, welcome to a Miles Davis session. Your guess is as good as mine. I have no idea, but somehow when the records come out, they end up sounding good.’ Miles had a way of seeing straight through things and knowing that over time people would figure out what was really happening.”
And Joe Zawinul remembered: “After the Bitches Brew sessions Miles took me home in a limousine, and I didn’t say anything. He asked, ‘Why don’t you say anything?’ and I said, ‘Because I didn’t like what we just recorded.’ We had played a lot of stuff that was OK, but I was not impressed. Several months later I walked into the CBS offices, and through some closed doors I heard some enormous, fantastic music. I asked ‘Wow, what is that?’ and a secretary replied, ‘Well, Mr. Zawinul, that’s you playing with Miles on Bitches Brew!’”
There was an inexplicable magic that went into the making of In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew, with only Miles and Macero having any inkling of what was happening. The two recordings are evidence of their visionary abilities, as well as Miles’s talent for drawing extraordinary performances out of his musicians.







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