Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Miles Davis
Bitches Brew


Released 1970 on Columbia
Reviewed by 23, 22/12/2002ce


Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (CD format)

Disc One
Pharoah's Dance - 20.05
Bitches Brew - 26.58

Disc Two
Spanish Key - 17.32
John McLaughlin - 4.22
Miles Runs The Voodoo Down - 14.01
Sanctuary - 10.56
Feio (Bonus Track) - 11.49

To me, 23, Miles Davis' golden period was from 1969-74. The man was on fire for goodness sakes and was making music other people could only dream about. I was never a fan of be-bop or jazz balladry, so this is the stuff to bother about. I have chosen Bitches Brew which started the ball rolling (no it didn't, In a Silent Way did), but I could equally have chosen On the Corner, In a Silent Way, A Tribute to Jack Johnson or one of the live albums of the time - Live Evil being the most prominent. I could have chosen any of these, and no one could grumble that they weren't worth including in this review section. There is also a CD that has come out in the last few years called Panthalassa. This draws on the said period and consists of remixes and medleys from the time. Well worth getting also. While I am on the subject of the albums of the period, the liner notes of On the Corner are well worth reading as jazz purists stumble over one another to slate it and tell us how it defiles jazz as we know it. Quite amusing really. It is amazing how pompous and reactionary people can be to something new that comes along. And another thing, I still haven't forgiven Miles for calling one of his songs 'yesternow' (from Jack Johnston). I think it was suggested by his hairdresser!

I have chosen Bitches Brew, which is probably the work most associated with him (and maybe Kind of Blue). It is not always the case that the most well known work is the richest work, but in this case I think it is, and I think it rightfully remains his best seller. Accompanied by the likes of Wayne Shorter (soprano saxophone), Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea (electric piano), John McLaughlin (guitar), Jack DeJohnette (drums) and Dave Holland (bass), just to mention the personnel that most have heard of, Bitches Brew really set the standard for electro jazz/rock and funk fusion. Other names associated with Miles during the period were Herbie Hancock and Michael Henderson. He was playing with a veritable supergroup of jazz/rock allstars, and they would all go off and do their own projects as well (most notably for me, Herbie Hancock and Headhunters, Thrust and Sextant). As it says in the sleeve notes, "He may not have been the first to fuse jazz and rock, but no one did more significantly, creatively, or enduringly than did Davis". For those that need to know, according to Bob Belden, in the liner notes or whatever they are called, the 2 groups that wielded jazz/rock influence in 1969 were The Cannonball Adderley Quintet and Tony Williams Lifetime. I'll say no more as I'm not such a jazzo that I can pretend to have heard their music.

It is hard to pick any one track out from the album as it works as a whole. Well it does. Although there is some structure and use of loops in production, the trouble is (it is not really a trouble) that due to its' free and open nature, it is hard to remember any particular parts. Everytime you hear it, it is a new experience, as it opens up and exists in a space all of its own. There is a real sense of creating a wonderful mind space for the listener, so perfectly expressed that one wonders if it was actually recorded and not your mind thinking out loud. It is seamless. I am running out of superlatives really. Some music cuts itself off and runs into cul de sacs but this is such a focussed piece constantly in the present and always leaving the future open. It gives the mind a work out and makes it feel limitless, inspired and free. Uplifting and as fucking groovy and funky as anything you care to mention.

I'm getting a a bit carried away here, but believe me, it is the business. Certainly in my top 10 albums of all time (at the moment, having recently heard it). One of the all time music legends, and Bitches Brew was the finest of his many fine hours.


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