‘Bitches Brew’: Miles runs the voodoo down
10:52 am


Miles Davis
Teo Macero

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Back in the heyday of Demonoid, some magnificent person, or persons, unleashed an ISO file that had been made from a quadraphonic reel to reel tape of Bitches Brew, the groundbreaking Miles Davis jazz-rock fusion album of 1970.

Quad was a four channel surround sound format the record labels tried out in the 1970s that was ultimately abandoned. For several years you could buy quadraphonic albums, 8-track tapes and reel to reel tapes (the ultimate “Rolls-Royce” audiophile format of the era) that decoded to four speakers. It was similar enough to today’s 5.1 home theatre systems except that today’s 5.1 music is mixed with an assumption of a front facing listener, whereas with quad it was four speakers and you were more or less in the middle of it. No front or back orientation. It was as if you were standing in the room when it was recorded. Not in the booth, with the band. Popular quad titles included Black Sabbath’s Paranoid (Imagine the sound effects of “Iron Man” swirling around you) and The Best of The Doors which included a live version of “Who Do You Love?” not released in another format and a mix of “Hello I Love You” a 360 degree flanging sound effect. Gimmicky, but very cool. Quad was marketed as “music for people with four ears.”

But back to Bitches Brew. Every serious music fan would have to have at least some familiarity with this album. It’s justifiably included in every single “top 500” of all time lists and most “top 100” lists as well. It is in the top ten best-selling jazz album of all time, too. I’m not going to “review” an album that’s been a well-established cornerstone of 20th century music, but I will say that hearing the performances on Bitches Brew in surround sound is an incredible revelation, almost like hearing it for the first time.

Here’s why: There is a hell of a lot going on at the same time in Bitches Brew. There were two electric keyboard players. Joe Zawinul was placed in the left channel of the stereo mix and Chick Corea in the right. (They’re joined b the great Larry Young on a third electric piano in “Pharoah’s Dance”!) There were two drummers, 19-year-old Lenny White’s kit is heard in the left channel and Jack DeJohnette is on the right. You had both Don Alias and Juma Santos (credited as “Jim Riley”) on congas and other percussion. Dave Holland played floor bass while Harvey Brooks played electric bass.

And then you still had Miles’ trumpet, Wayne Shorter’s sax, Bennie Maupin’s bass clarinet and John McLaughlin on guitar! This is a very “crowded” thing for two speakers to accurately reproduce, but the quad mix opens all of this up into a considerably wider sonic vista and gives the listener a very, very good spatial sense of who was standing where when the recordings were made and even how big the studio was. It’s probably as close as you can get to being in a room with Miles Davis playing his trumpet, like an audio hologram.

The album was recorded live on eight tracks over the course of three sessions (August 19-21, 1969) in New York and then extensively, even radically, manipulated in post production by producer and longtime Davis collaborator Teo Macero. Ray Moore (mixing and editing engineer) quoted by Paul Tingen, author of the fascinating book Miles Beyond: Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991 gives some insight into the recording:

Like In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew was recorded live on 8-track tape, which meant you had a lot of spill. Engineer Stan Tonkel complained to me that Miles wanted John McLaughlin right next to him, which meant there was a lot of trumpet on the guitar track. You had the good and the bad together on all the tracks, and a lot of information that you didn’t really want, which meant that we had to work hard on the mixing. Teo decided where the edits would be, and I executed them for him. Some of the edits were done on the original 8-track, others on the 2-track mix. The edits could be for musical, or for technical reasons, for example to correct levels. We also added effects to the mix, such as the repeat echo on Miles’s trumpet [which can be heard at the beginning of “Bitches Brew” and at 8:41 in “Pharaoh’s Dance”]. When I was working with Teo in the early 1990s on a recording of a performance by Miles in Newport in July 1969, I was surprised to hear that Miles was actually playing an effect like that. So he and Teo must have been talking about this effect before the recording of Bitches Brew.

The sessions included Davis compositions that had been developed live by the band, “Pharaoh’s Dance,” composed by Joe Zawinul and the Wayne Shorter ballad “Sanctuary.” Macero then worked his magic utilizing tape loops, delay, reverb chambers and echo effects. Macero’s contributions to Bitches Brew are well-documented. He would lift a few inspired bars from one thing and graft it on to another section, or repeat something in order to give the improvisations a structure that listeners would recognize as “songs.” It was an unprecedented way to work in a studio at that time.

Why Sony has never put the quad Bitches Brew out on a legitimate release baffles me, it’s not like they don’t do a new Bitches Brew release every few years. Maybe they don’t even realize it’s in their vaults? Who knows? Sony did do jazz fans and historians a favor when they put out a fascinating box set of the sessions that followed the August 1969 Bitches Brew recording with the somewhat confusingly titled The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions. It’s not the raw material recorded before Macero worked his magic on the tapes, as you might expect but rather the best of the material recorded with (basically) these same musicians in the months afterwards. Come the following year Miles would dump the multiple keyboard line-up and go with a more guitar-heavy jazz rock sound. There’s also the Bitches Brew: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition that came out in 2010 that features the 1988 remastered version of the album (which was always considered notoriously “murky” sounding), a vinyl replica of the original 2-record set gatefold sleeve by Mati Klarwein and a DVD of a stellar live set of the Miles Davis Quintet filmed in Copenhagen, in November 1969, just weeks after Bitches Brew was laid down.

In the video below, Teo Macero reveals his trade secrets of working on Bitches Brew, how he supported Miles Davis creatively and does the single best Miles impression you’ll ever hear:


Smoking hot live version of “Spanish Key” performed at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970

This post was sponsored by POPMarket.

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
In a Silent Way: Hear Miles Davis’ voice before he lost it in rare 1953 radio interview
09:15 am


Miles Davis

In October 1955, Miles Davis had an operation on his larynx, and was given strict instructions by the surgeon not to even use his voice for ten days afterwards. According to legend, though, he got into an argument, raised it, and so begat the instantly recognizable rasp that he would be stuck with for the rest of his days.

It has always impressed me as quite the irony that Davis’ sobbing, pellucid trumpet tone and massacred speaking voice could emerge from the selfsame lips. Which is partly what makes the following so riveting. Kicking off at 3:36 (following a short 60 Minutes appearance from 1989, presumably included for the lurid contrast) here is a very rare recording of a 1953 Radio KXLW interview with Miles, who sounds a little hoarse, pretty out of his tree (a little horse?), characteristically diffident—but not a bit like a Dalek

Written by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and Paul McCartney: The supergroup that wasn’t
06:55 am


Miles Davis
Jimi Hendrix
Paul McCartney

Due to the release of what is supposed to be the final final unheard cache of Jimi Hendrix recordings, People, Hell & Angels, worldwide interest has been stirred in a tantalizing bit of memorabilia currently residing in the collection of the Hard Rock Cafe in Prague: A 1969 telegram from Jimi Hendrix inviting Paul McCartney to record with him, Miles Davis and jazz drummer Tony Williams in New York.

The telegram, seen below, was sent to the Apple offices in London on October 21, 1969:

“We are recording and LP together this weekend in New York STOP How about coming in to play bass STOP call Alan Douglas 212-581 2212.

Peace Jimi Hendrix Miles Davis Tony Williams.”

Imagine that…

Beatles aide Peter Brown replied on Macca’s behalf, informing Hendrix that McCartney was on vacation and would not return for another two weeks (This was around the height of the “Paul is dead” rumor and a pissed-off McCartney was holed up with his family on his farm in Scotland trying to escape that mess).

Below, The Jimi Hendrix Experience covers “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”(I think just two days after it was released and with more than one Beatle in attendance)—this is probably as close as we’ll ever get to knowing what this supergroup might’ve sounded like:

Thank you kindly, Michael Simmons!

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
When Miles Davis gave Kenny G the side-eye
07:32 am


Miles Davis
Kenny G

Apparently this photo was taken some time in the late-80s, when Kenny G opened up for Miles Davis.

It’s like Miles is saying “Bitch, please!” with those eyes.

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Kind of Spicy: Miles Davis’ recipe for ‘South Side Chicago Chili Mack’
10:12 am


Miles Davis

From John Szwed’s Miles Davis biography, So What: The Life of Miles Davis. Page 145:

Miles Davis’s South Side Chicago Chili Mack

1 tablespoon bacon grease
2 pounds ground lean chuck
salt and pepper
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
3 large cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 can tomatoes
1 can beef broth
1/2 jar of mustard
1/2 shot glass of vinegar
pinto or kidney beans

Apparenlty there were no instructions in the book on how to prepare Miles’ Chili Mack. But I did find the method here, you know, if you’re curious or want to test it out for yourself.

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Miles Davis: Jazz’s ‘dark magus’ as a little boy
02:48 pm


Miles Davis

I’ve never seen this photo before of a young Miles Davis. I’m not sure how old he would be here, eleven or twelve?


Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Brubeck in context: The BBC’s ‘1959: The Year That Changed Jazz’

Pianist Dave Brubeck’s shedding of his mortal coil yesterday reminds us how important it is to view a figure like him in relation to his time.

Luckily we have BBC4’s 2009 documentary, 1959: The Year That Changed Jazz to do just that. Produced by documentarian Paul Bernays and UK jazz DJ Jez Nelson, 1959 scrutinizes the impact of Brubeck’s classic Time Out album alongside three others from that year: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, Charles Mingus’s Ah Um and Ornette Coleman’s The Shape Of Jazz To Come.

The main Brubeck segment starts 12 minutes in, and the doc explores both the racial politics inherent in the Brubeck phenomenon, and the influence of his band’s groundbreaking 1959 tour of the Soviet Bloc, Mideast and South Asia on Time Out. But the whole hour is worth watching, if only for the compelling close-readings of masterpieces like Davis’s iconic “So What,” Coleman’s intense “Lonely Woman,” Mingus’s firey “Fables of Faubus.” The doc’s juxtaposition of Brubeck’s ascendance to Mr. Cool-ness against Coleman’s Cold War-tinged urgency is also a nice touch.

With an interview roster that includes Hal Wilner, Lou Reed, Stanley Crouch, Charlie Haden, Sue Mingus, Herbie Hancock and Nat Hentoff, 1959 offers up some crucial background as to what made Brubeck and his contemporaries what they were.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Dave Brubeck Quartet: In Concert, Germany 1966


Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
‘Miles just called and said he wants this album to be titled: ‘Bitches Brew’
09:09 am


Miles Davis
Bitches Brew

A letter dated November 14, 1969 from record producer Teo Macero to Columbia/CBS Records executives regarding Miles Davis’ suggested title for Bitches Brew.

“Please advise.”

Click here to see larger image.

Via High Definite

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Genius, Hustler, Superstar: ‘The Miles Davis Story’

Miles Davis was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. He was at the forefront of various Jazz movements, including Be Bop, Cool, Modal and Fusion. He lived a life that was a complex mix of genius, superstar, pimp and street hustler. Duke Ellington nailed it when he described Davis as “the Picasso of Jazz”.

The Miles Davis Story is an Emmy-winning documentary that gives a fairly good overview of the man and his incredible career and controversial life, mixing interviews together with some amazing footage (including rare concerts from the 1960s and 1970s). There is a good selection of interviews, but occasionally I wanted to hear more from Davis and his music and less from the contributors. This small quibble aside, The Miles Davis Story is compelling viewing.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

Like A Spiritual Orgasm: Miles Davis plays the Isle of Wight Festival

Impressions of John Coltrane: 3 vintage TV performances


Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Impressions of John Coltrane’: 3 vintage TV performances

Impressions of John Coltrane is an excellent trio of television performances featuring John Coltrane,  with his own quartet, the Miles Davis Quintet and alongside Eric Dolphy. Filmed between 1959 and 1963, each performance reveals the quality and range of the great man’s playing.

The first comes from the series The Jazz Casual, originally aired in 1963. Here you’ll find the perfect line-up of Coltrane (tenor sax/soprano sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums). This is said to be the only time Coltrane’s “classic” quartet was caught on camera. Together they give great versions of “Impressions” and “Afro Blue”.

The second is from 1959, and has Coltrane playing with the Miles David Quintet - Davis (flügelhorn/trumpet), Coltrane (tenor sax/alto sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). They are accompanied by Gil Evans and a 15-piece orchestra. And certainly get going on “So What”, “The Duke”, “Blues for Pablo” and “New Rumba”.

The third is from West German TV in 1961, which shows Coltrane playing with Eric Dolphy (alto sax/flute), McCoy Tyner (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums), who hit the spot with “My Favorite Things” and “Impressions”.

Track list:

01. “Alabama”
02. “Impressions”
03. “Afro Blue”
04. “So What” (with Miles Davis)
05. “The Duke” (with Miles Davis)
06. “Blues For Pablo” (with Miles Davis)
07. “New Rumba” (with Miles Davis)
08. “My Favorite Things” (with Eric Dolphy)
09. “Impressions” (with Eric Dolphy)

Thanks to Jazztification

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Like A Spiritual Orgasm’: Miles Davis plays the Isle of Wight Festival

When Billy Eckstine came to St. Louis, with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Miles Davis went to see them play.

Davis was playing trumpet with Eddie Randle’s Rhumboogie Orchestra, and one day, after rehearsal, he went round to the theater to see Gillespie and Parker perform.

Davis arrived with his trumpet slung over his shoulder, dreaming of how one day he might be up there playing along with the likes of his idols Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie or Charlie Parker. Just as he reached the theater, Gillespie appeared, noted Davis’ trumpet and rushed over to the young musician.

‘You play?’ Gillespie asked.

Davis told him he did.

‘We lost our trumpeter, and we need one fast. You got a card?’

Davis nodded ‘Yes’.

‘Then you’re in.’

Davis played with Gillespie and Parker for the next 2 weeks, and this was the start of Mile Davis’ incredible career.

In 1970, Miles Davis played to a 600,000 audience at the Isle of Wight Festival. It was the largest pop festival in history. At the time, many questioned why Davis had agreed to perform at it, as man of his success and talent was middle of the bill, sandwiched between Tiny Tim and Ten Years After.

Davis had just released his double album, Bitches Brew, which proved to be a game-changing moment in Modern Jazz. The album divided critics. Some reviled it, claiming Davis had sold out, and was no longer relevant. But the audience loved it. And Bitches Brew became Davis’ biggest success, going gold within weeks.

In August 1970, Davis decided to play Bitches Brew at the Isle of Wight Festival. It was a myth-making appearance, where Davis improvised much of his performance.

That festival, and Davis’ role in it, are revisited here in Murray Lerner’s documentary Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue, which inter-cuts Miles’ astounding performance together with members of his band and those who knew the great man.


Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Squeaky door in Chicago does Miles Davis impression
10:00 am


Miles Davis
Bitches Brew

The YouTube description says, “An ingenious door in a Chicago parking garage will not “die with his music inside of him.”

Via BuzzFeed

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Dark Magus: Miles Davis live evil at Montreux, 1973
09:32 am


Miles Davis

[I’ve got the flu today, so I’m retooling an older post from 2010 with a different video while I go feel sorry for myself!]

In 2010, The Quietus blog ran a feature where they asked musical luminaries like Nick Cave, John Lydon, Iggy Pop, Mike Patton, Wayne Coyne and Ennio Morricone what their favorite Miles Davis album is. Unsurprisingly, asking these iconoclastic fellas, the majority of the nods go to Miles’ incredibly far out 70s album (from Bitches Brew to Dark Magus basically), the ones that most jazz fans, and even staunch Miles Davis fans used to absolutely hate, but that have been reconsidered critically in recent years as the public caught up to them

For me, I started to get into this “difficult” spot of the Miles Davis catalog about ten-twelve years ago. I already owned Bitches Brew and Get Up With It (which features a incredible sidelong elegy to Duke Ellington titled “He Loved Him Madly” improvised in the studio after Miles heard Ellington had died. The piece was cited by Brian Eno as the beginnings of ambient music) but it was A) getting a really good stereo system in 2002 and B) reading this amazing rant by Julian Cope about this period of Miles’ output that saw me really investigate the “horrible” racket Miles was making then. Wanting new music to listen to on my new toy, I bought Dark Magus first, Pangaea and Agharta in the space of three consecutive days. Once I started, I fell into a musical rabbit hole that I didn’t get out of for about a year or two later. I was not a very popular guy with the neighbors back then, I don’t think.

Not that I am saying anything here that hasn’t been expressed already in quarters like The Wire magazine, but if you ask me, the material that Miles Davis produced between 1970 and 1975 (when ill health and drug dependency forced him to retire for several years) is the absolute apex of his vast recorded output. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kind of Blue, In a Silent Way, Sketches of Spain, and many other earlier Miles Davis albums, but the ones I play loudest, most often and that I pay the most attention to, are the coke-out live albums, Dark Magus, Agharta, Pangaea. These albums are… fucking unique and that’s putting it mildly. There is nothing else to compare them to, even remotely, in the history of modern music (Maybe Can meets Fela Kuti?)

With up to three electric guitarists (Reggie Lucas, Pete Cosey and Dominique Gaumont), Miles on organ and electrified trumpet (run through a wah-wah pedal) and a rhythm section consisting of the insane, propulsive drumming of Al Foster, Mtume on percussion and the most amazing Michael Henderson on bass holding the whole thing together, holy shit, these performances are AGGRESSIVE. Julian Cope wrote about notion of continental plates shifting to get across the power of the Pangaea set (recorded live in Osaka, Japan in 1975 on the evening of the day that Aghartha was recorded) and I’d say that’s about right. Every instrument which isn’t soloing is placed in service of THE GROOVE—even the guitars can be seen as adding a percussive element to the overall wall of noise-funk effect.

At the proper volume, it can plow you down like a Mack truck. Interestingly, from the midst of this dank, swirling sonic maelstrom, every time one of the musicians steps forward for a solo, it reminds me of the odd noises and “squiggly” sounds that seem to come out of nowhere in certain Stockhausen or Xenakis compositions, cutting through the soupy din (At one point on Dark Magus, a primitive drum machine is pulled out and used like a machine gun!).

This 1973 performance from the Montreux Jazz Festival is a pretty scorching example of what Miles and his band (Davis’ sidemen here are Dave Liebman, Reggie Lucas, Pete Cosey, Michael Henderson, Al Foster, Mtume) was doing live at the time. It MUST be turned up loud for the proper effect:

Via Exile on Moan Street/Mark Stewart

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Miles Davis and John Lennon shooting hoops, 1971

Photo found at Awesome People Hanging Out Together

Crazy! Here’s some Super 8 footage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono at a party in 1971 playing basketball with Miles Davis.

The woman in the red dress is Miles’ second wife, Betty Mabry, aka Betty Davis, supreme foxy goddess, raunchy force of nature and the original “nasty girl.” Miles comes in at around the 5 minute mark.

Via Jah Furry’s Twitter feed

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Video: Animated sheet music for Miles Davis’ ‘So What’

Animated sheet music for So What” by Miles Davis from YouTuber Dan Cohen.

If I had seen something like this around when I was younger, it would have made piano lessons and learning to read music oh so much easier…

Bonus: Animated sheet music for John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”

(via HYST )

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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