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Miles Davis - Bitches Brew CD (album) cover


Miles Davis


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.25 | 763 ratings

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5 stars Jazz giant Miles Davis had ambitions of Bitches Brew while making In A Silent Way, which saw him dip his toes in the muddy waters of jazz-rock mega-jams to see how people would react, not that he cared much about their reactions anyway. Consequently, this colourful mammoth of an album was born, and its legacy is much deserved. There are two drum kits being played simultaneously and often a wealth of other percussion, plus several basses and the jangly guitar of John McLaughlin. Then two or more electric pianos take ownership of part of the stereo spectrum each, topped off by spontaneous flurries of brass and woodwind, and when he feels like it, Miles' own trumpet. This seems like it would be a thick, messy sound. At times, it grows like this, but the music is organic and the musicians competent enough to know when to let each other's timbres breathe, and when to go full out. The result is over an hour of pulsating mood music that feels "alive" in the way it evolves and devolves without pre-structural ideas in place.

'Pharaoh's Dance' is a great piece of music and an introduction to this style of fusion. It has a riff from Joe Zawinul that crops up from time to time, but is generally held down with nothing more than a bass pedal point, with various solos and anti-solos going on throughout the 20 minute duration. 'Bitches Brew' is even better, with a intro section that really plays with dynamics, and heavily echoed trumpet, and then moulds into a jam built on a bass ostinato. The intro section returns a couple of times, giving this track more structure. You can tell it's all of the moment though, and that's what makes it so exciting, particularly the nuances of the bass clarinet and the tasteful percussion here.

'Spanish Key' opens side three with more urgency, heading straight for uptempo solos and a grooving beat. The great thing about this piece is the frequent changes in tonality that always make you feel like you've 'gone up another gear'. It's a high energy thrill ride that is perfectly complimented by the more thoughtful 'John McLaughlin', which obviously highlights him. 'Miles Runs The Voodoo Down' is more aptly titled, because he really goes for it on the trumpet, something that would be rare at this point in his career when he favoured not actually playing anything himself. Then, 'Sanctuary' is a nice, more relaxing way to end the album. It's smooth and yet dark, with everyone on the top of their game, clearly listening to each other.

In short, this is a beautiful project. It's not really an album and the tracks aren't really compositions. Instead, this is an example of what happens when brilliant musicians gather under strong leadership and "do their thing". It's cool, colourful, thick, wide, and full of space to get lost in. Hours of fun, and a benchmark for all fusion since.

thehallway | 5/5 |


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