Current Issue Details

Buy Current Issue

Reviews > CDs

Published: 2011/02/08
by Ron Hart

Miles Davis
Bitches Brew Live

Columbia-Legacy

When promoter George Wein decided to flood the Newport Jazz Festival with premier rock and funk artists in 1969, he was fixing to shake up the stuffy, snobby nature of the celebrated Rhode Island event in order to appeal to a younger audience. What he didn’t expect, however, when he scheduled the likes of Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, Johnny Winter, James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone was a precursor to Woodstock, complete with lawless gate crashing and unruly crowd swelling that far exceeded the concert’s means, while at the same time completely freaking out the wine-sipping hi-fi types in the audience there to see Dave Brubeck and Buddy Rich with the sea breeze pimp-slapping them in the collective face.

Another thing Wein didn’t anticipate was that when he brought cool bop poobah Miles Davis aboard for the big show, he would be siding with the whippersnappers trashing the joint and eschew his classic second quintet of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, the ensemble responsible for such seminal mid-60s titles as E.S.P., Nefertiti, Miles In The Sky and, most notably, In A Silent Way (which was released a month after Newport) in favor of the forward-minded wrecking crew that would be entering the studio six weeks later to lay down his genre-defying 1970 psychedelic fusion masterpiece Bitches Brew, a recording inspired by some of the very acts he shared the stage with that weekend. Ultimately, however, with the exception of Shorter, who got caught in traffic that day and missed the thing, Miles’ core Bitches lineup of Chick Corea on electric piano, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette proved to be the perfect bridge for Wein’s risky jazz-rock utopia, cutting through the cultural tension with a short, fiery afternoon set that saw early versions of “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down” and the revamped rendition of Mr. Shorter’s “Sanctuary” float within the sonic purgatory of Davis’s modal past and frenetic future while taking “It’s About That Time” through new side roads of improvised madness that the studio version on Silent Way only hinted at.

Released in correlation with Columbia-Legacy’s massive reissue campaign celebrating the 40th anniversary of Brew, this live compendium features all three jams from the Newport gig, available officially for the first time anywhere. And fleshing things out here is the majority of Davis’ equally earth shaking set at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival in England, a performance long available on video and DVD but as equally overdue in the official audio format as Newport. While it might replace more superior live albums like Live-Evil and Dark Magus on the all-timer list in terms of its essentiality, Bitches Brew Live is nevertheless a crucial addition to the library of anyone with a serious jones for electric Miles while also serving as an indispensable historic document on one of the great generational turning points in the history of jazz music.

Comments

There are 6 comments associated with this post

Paul Muadib February 9, 2011, 09:14:32

this isn’t a cd review it’s a press release

Josh February 9, 2011, 13:10:24

Agreed. There should be some standards with respect to “reviews” that are published on the site.

felix February 9, 2011, 20:09:29

seriously…thats no good folks

lame February 9, 2011, 23:54:10

lame

JDSept February 15, 2011, 12:23:17

Seems to me to set a fine review. It sets the background of the days when this was performed and the changes that were on going. This music might be one the most important musical events in modern history on the same level as the music from The Beatles Pepper album. This is important stuff for its time, the review points this out and states it as being “earth shattering” which it was for its time. Miles upset the Newport crowd with his electricity as Dylan did with his.

Note: It may take a moment for your post to appear

(required) (required, not public)