The great Nile Rodgers has started uploading clips from his old TV show New Visions to his new YouTube account. This short clip gives a fascinating insight into the artwork made by Miles Davis, of which there is an example above, called “The Kiss”.
Here Miles talks candidly about the shapes and colours in his work and what they mean to him, in his wonderfully gravelly voice. It all seems very sexual. The only downside is that this video is agonisingly short - Nile, if you have the full length version of this episode then you HAVE to put it online for the whole world to see!
Another clip from New Visions, this time featuring guitarists John Lee Hooker, Carlos Santana, Robert Fripp and more:
The last batch of unsold Miles Davis paintings will be exhibited at the Gallery 27 space in London starting this week. I’ve seen some of his art “in person” in the past and some of it is just spectacular, exactly what you’d hope paintings by Miles Davis would be like. Not a disappointment in the least. If I was in London, I’d definitely make time to see this. Via MOJO:
Miles Davis - jazz legend, trumpet guru and dab hand with a pencil - spent the last decade of his life creating swathes of drawings and paintings that for the most part have been kept away from the public gaze. Until now…
A new exhibition at Gallery 27 in London’s Mayfair will open on December 7 and is set to unveil his last remaining 100 original drawings and oil paintings.
“As with his music, his artwork changed continually,” says exhbitor Andy Clarke, “from rapid, motion-filled drawings of dancers and robots to his later more Tribal work in oils on canvas. In the early 80’s his muse was Giulia Trojer, from whom part of this collection derives. In the last few years of his life, alongside his last partner, Jo Gelbard, he turned to painting citing Picasso a great influence alongside his African heritage.”
Miles Davis London Exhibition: Original Paintings and Drawings by the Jazz Legend runs from Tuesday, December 7 to Saturday, December 11 at Gallery 27, 27 Cork Street, London W1S 3NG.
Over at The Quietus blog, they’ve got a fun feature where they ask musical luminaries like Nick Cave, John Lydon, Iggy Pop, Mike Patton 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, (“He Loved Him Madly”) improvised in the studio after Miles heard Ellington had died and 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, Pangaea and Aghartha 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, Milestones, 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, Aghartha, 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 drum machine is pulled out and used like a machine gun).
This 1973 clip is a pretty scorching example of what Miles and his band was doing live at the time. It MUST be turned up loud for the proper effect:
Jazz legend Miles Davis gave very few television interviews. Notoriously prickly to begin with, Davis also had a colorful way of expressing himself as readers of his autobiography can attest to—a sentence consisting of a single word (“Bitches!”) gets the point across—a quality that perhaps didn’t lend itself so well to the medium of television.
However, Miles Davis was interviewed by Bill Boggs on his television show Time Out in 1986:
“I have been told by people over the years that this was an historic interview. ‘Do you ever remember Miles Davis being on a talk show?’ Apparently not too many people do cause they keep telling me this is unique. How’d it happen? Well the entire long form story is part of my play ‘Talk Show Confidential,’ but the Cliff Notes version is: I ran into Miles when I was in a restaurant in Los Angeles. Actually, he came to my table and said hello. ‘That Midday was like my Today show,’ he told me in that raspy voice. It turned out he’d been watching me for years and said, ‘I always wanted you to interview me.’ So the way this whole thing happened was he asked me what I was doing and I told him I had a show in Philadelphia called ‘Timeout’ and he basically said let’s arrange to do it. And about a month or so later, there he was. I was not pleased that the producers of the show chose to add other guests. It should have been just Miles and me for the entire hour. But they were afraid he wouldn’t carry the ratings-small thinking, in my opinion, since his appearance on the show made headlines and was discussed before and after on local radio. Anyway, the charming Maurice Hines, an old friend joins in as do some young trumpet players-which sort of worked..See for yourself..Miles Davis circa 1986 in Philadelphia.” -Bill Boggs
Miles runs the brew-doo down! In honor of the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis’s jazzrock fusion masterpiece, Bitches Brew, Dogfish Head brewers have released a new commemorative beer. Not only is “Bitches Brew” a bitchin’ name for a brew, of course, that iconic Mati Klarwein cover painting makes the coolest label I think I’ve ever seen.
Miles Davis’ seminal Bitches Brew album was a game changer – a bold fusion of rock, funk and jazz. To honor the 40th anniversary release, Dogfish Head has created a bold, dark beer that’s a fusion of three threads imperial stout and one thread honer beer with gesho root. Like the album, this beer will age with the best of ‘em.
Speaking of Bitches Brew, I’ve been listening to this album a lot lately—I’ve always loved it—because I got the most amazing quadraphonic bootleg version of it. Apparently sourced from a reel to reel quad master, it sounds utterly incredible, as if you were in the room with Miles, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Jack De Johnette, Chick Corea, Dave Holland and the others, when these tracks were being laid down. Plus the sonics are uncrushed by modern remastering. Truly an audiophile’s delight. I can’t believe Sony is putting out a $125 box set of the, ahem, “definitive” Bitches Brew box set for the second third time and they didn’t bother to offer the multichannel version!
Miles Davis’ birthday was yesterday but I still love him today, so I’m posting this absolutely staggeringly great series of clips comprising his 1970 performance at the Isle of Wight festival. After viewing this for the first time when it was released a few years ago it got under my skin to such an extent that I had dreams about it for the next few nights. There’s some sort of holy communion with the spirit of pure music going on here that I can’t begin to profess to understand, but the musicians here are obviously touched by the proceedings in a way that transcends mere “rocking out”. See if you don’t agree.
The first of these delightful video clips of Brazilian jazz genius Hermeto Pascoal has been circulating wildly amongst music fans for a while now, and for good reason. It’s one of the most lovely and entertaining bits of musical performance you’re ever likely to see. The other clips are equally fun: Hermeto playing his beard (!) and various dental tools. What’s not to love about this guy? Not to mention his role on Miles Davis’ wicked Live-Evil LP. A true creative master !
Betty Davis is one of the lost greats of 70s funk, but if there is any justice in the world her music will one day be as revered as it deserves to be. This woman was outrageous, sexy and she had mad musical chops! Originally a successful fashion model when she met trumpeter Miles Davis, Betty Mabry, as she was then known, traveled in circles that included Jimi Hendrix, The Chamber Brothers and Sly and the Family Stone. In 1968 she married Davis, but the marriage lasted just one year, breaking up, it was rumored, because she was having an affair with Hendrix (which she has always denied). In his autobiography, Davis credits Betty for opening his ears to the new possibilities inherent in the music of Sly and Jimi, and she inspired his music from Filles De Kilimanjaro (Mademoiselle Mabry is a tribute to Betty, obviously) to Bitches Brew (the title again alleged to reference Mlle. Mabry, albeit by then in a less flattering light).
After her divorce from Miles, Betty recorded two albums in the early 70s with crack backing musicians like Larry Graham, Merl Saunders (Grateful Dead, Bonnie Raitt), Neal Schon (Santana/Journey) and members of Graham Central Station, Tower of Power, even the young Pointer Sisters singing back-up. Davis was the original “nasty gal” creating the blueprint for suggestive “outrageousness” well-trod by today’s female chart toppers. One of her songs, the sexually forthright If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up was so controversial that the NAACP condemned her.
Then she recorded another great record of hard funk in 1975 called Nasty Gal, but sadly, she never really caught on. There’s no good reason for it, but luckily her reputation has risen again in recent years due to reprints of her albums by Seattle-based label, A Light in the Attic Records, who recently released her recorded in 1976 but shelved ever since album, Is It Love or Desire.
(When I met my future wife, she had a Betty Davis CD in her car stereo. As a man who puts “good taste in music” approximately third on the list of what makes a woman attractive, I can assure you I was impressed).
In the past year, I’ve been starting to delve into the quirky jazz sub-genre of Afrofuturism. One of the first posts I made on this blog when we launched was about organist Larry Young’s insane 1973 jazzspacerock monolith Lawrence of Newark. I’ve also told you of my love for Parliament-Funkadelic. The whole idea of outer space “Black Power” style sci-fi theorizings—especially if there are costumes and polemic involved—is something I give a big thumbs up to. After searching out more of Young’s music (look out for the bootleg of him jamming with Jimi Hendrix and the Love, Cry, Want album, recorded live at the Washington Mall during a concert that Nixon had the plug pulled on) and listening to his work obsessively in the car for months, I began to make tentative (and not for the first time) inroads to the unbelievably vast—over 1000 songs—catalog of the great Sun Ra.
It’s not easy to find an entry point into Sun Ra’s sprawling oeuvre. Every Sun Ra fan has a strong opinion and no one agrees on where to start. I’ve digested Jazz in Silhouette, Space is the Place, Secrets of the Sun, The Singles, The Nubians of Plutonia and the Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra—the ones you are “supposed” to start off with—but I find that the Transparency label’s Lost Reel Collection of rare Sun Ra recordings contain some of the most astonishing material I’ve heard thus far. I’m one of those people who likes the really “difficult” Miles Davis material (circa 1970 to 1975) so the futher out, usually, the better as far as I am concerned to jazz. According to a rock snob friend of mine who would know, the cache of tapes Transparency has access to are like no other material found in the official released Sun Ra canon. If you read the reviews, Sun Ra fanatics are going nuts over these discs, but always with the caveat that they’re for advanced Sun Ra listeners only. I’m not so sure that’s true because I’m really only now getting deeper into his music and these albums simply blew me away.
The first one I listened to was the fourth disc in the series, Dance of the Living Image. The tape it was mastered from was found in a box marked “Mexico City, 1/26/74” but instead it’s probably a rehearsal tape from San Francisco. The tape gets turned on and off abruptly, off when the things start to fall apart, then on again when inspiration flows and the musicians start to gel again. Hypnotic, syncopated, lumbering—almost dark—when the members of the group lock in, they seem to go through a psychic mind meld, especially during the final 17-minute long jam on disc one.
The Creator of the Universe, volume one in the series, I listened to next. The first CD (many of the Lost Reel Collections are two disc sets) is a live recording at a San Francisco warehouse with a long impassioned black power speech, with a blaring call and response from the horn section. It’s totally wild and eccentric. Sun Ra improvises brilliantly on a Moog synthesizer. Some of it sounds like PiL’s Metal Box or Krautrock. The second disc is a recording of a lecture given by Sun Ra at UC Berkeley in 1971. It’s out of the ballpark amazing. In one part of the speech, Sun Ra explains how the different races have different vibrations and different innate born talents and things they can each do better than the other races and why we should all respect one another, because of our differences as much as our commonality. It’s sweet, cosmic, funny, deep and everything you would hope a lecture by Sun Ra would be.