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Miles Davis - The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions CD (album) cover


Miles Davis


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.79 | 20 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I don't think anyone can credibly argue that "Bitches Brew" isn't a groundbreaking album. But like any true masterpiece it can also be a very difficult and often divisive experience, even today. The music existed outside its time in 1970, and nothing like it has been heard since.

I can't even review the album itself, as it defeats any attempt at a systematic rating...imagine trying to judge a sunrise, or a tsunami, using only the ProgArchives star system. But I can at least approach it indirectly, through this flawed 1998 box set, which doesn't quite live up to its grand (but misleading) title. These aren't the unedited tapes used by producer Teo Macero to assemble the "Brew" album, but a compilation of studio sessions from the weeks and months afterward, when Davis was searching (in a hit-or-miss manner) for new musical worlds to conquer.

The original 1970 album was never an end in itself. It was more like a road map for Davis toward a possible bridge between the purity of his Jazz roots and the raw power of his avant-funk Götterdämmerung later in the decade. In the turbulent aftermath of "Bitches Brew" the trumpet player was more an explorer than a pioneer, and his intermittent studio forays grew more radical as they became less focused. The music on these four discs (actually two-and-one-half: the rest of the set is the "Brew" album itself, re-mastered but intact) illustrates that uncertainty with several long, formless, but compelling journeys into a musical terra-incognita far beyond even the frontiers of "Bitches Brew".

And here's where my rhetoric fails me. The paragraph that would have followed (before I wisely deleted it) was top-heavy with metaphysical weirdness: a futile attempt to describe music unbound by any stylistic tethers, to Jazz, Rock, Classical, Indo-Raga, or Ambient Shoegaze. Not every note is perfect, or needs to be. But it's the chaos behind the order that gives the music its vitality, and the order in the chaos that keeps it real.

The problem here, at least for confirmed fans, is that a lot of it has already been heard, on the albums "Big Fun", "Live-Evil", and the belated compilation "Circle in the Round". There's a logical sense to collecting the music in the order it was recorded. But logic isn't always a blessing where the creative impulse is concerned, and the unpolished building blocks can't match the imposing majesty of the final construction.

For Miles Davis, continuing to play traditional Jazz was "like going to bed with a real old person who even smells real old" (his quote). If true, this new musical direction would have been like bedding a temperamental odalisque on a divan of roses: a memorable experience to be sure, but is she the same alluring siren when exposed the next morning without any make-up?

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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