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September 4, 2010 • Music Diary, Reviews

CD Retrospective: 40 Years Later, Miles Davis Bitches Brew STILL Polarizes Jazz Fans

In every medium, every genre, there are transitions from one period to the next, silent to ‘talkies’ to color films, baroque to classical to romantic in classical music, and so on. But seldom is there a singular musical even that forms such a clear demarcation in a genre as Miles Davis 1970 Bitches Brew does for Jazz music. As stated on the Miles-Beyond blog, everything in Jazz comes down to ‘before’ or ‘after’ Bitches Brew.

It is interesting to look back and realize that in spite of being one of the clear stars of jazz from the 1940’s until his death in 1992, by the late 60’s Miles and his quintet were playing to small audiences in clubs – sometimes as few as 30 people. Popular music had moved to rock forms, and jazz was having a harder time finding a solid audience.

And the jazz audience that DID exist was looking either to the Free Jazz styles of Ornette Coleman or former Davis sideman John Coltrane, or alternately to more mainstream and pop-centric releases by folks like Wes Montgomery (who redid a number of Beatles tunes), Stan Getz (big hit with The Girl from Ipanema), Louis Armstrong (Hello Dolly, What A Wonderful World), and so on.

Miles Davis wasn’t doing either: for hipsters his music was too mainstream (they weren’t listening, his late 60’s stuff is now considered at the pinnacle of the era and entire analytical theses have been written around the song Circle from Miles Smiles), and mainstream fans had no idea what he was up to.

So what WAS Davis doing? After finalizing what is now called his ‘second great quintet’ in 1965, Davis began releasing a series of recordings that made heavy explorations of the use of space and fragmented, extended harmonies. This was even reflected in titles that were called ‘Directions in Music’.

His band was full of monsters – Wayne Shorter was a master reedsman and composer; Herbie Hancock was already working heavily in open model forms in his early solo work but was just as easily at home dropping in a single ten-finger chord and letting it hand for several bars; Ron Carter brought a very modern sensibility and a tone that cut through the din in a way normally reserved for the electric bass; and Tony Williams seemed to think that playing a single rhythm at a time was boring.

Over the period from 1965 – 1969 he produced some of the great music in recorded history … only nobody really heard it until much later on when it was heralded upon rediscovery. By the time I because a big Miles fan and had collected all of his recordings he was in the midst of the self-imposed exile from 1975 – 1980, and a thorough analysis of his 60’s work had been done. It was very clear that he was not only playing with extended harmonies and use of space and silence simultaneously, he was also simultaneously using solid backbeats and polyrhythms.

Looking back you can see the progression from Miles Smiles to Nefertiti to Filles de Kilimanjaro to In A Silent Way; the way he is pushing his musicians to think outside of either popular mode of jazz thought – as I mentioned Miles Smiles is full of very advanced harmonic work, yet one of the classics is the modal Footprints featuring an infectious bass pedal groove that has been reworked into a funk groove countless times. On Nefertiti the title track uses the horns to pin down the harmonic structure and has the rhythm section provide all of the dynamic motion. Filles de Kilimanjaro features funky rhythms, whereas In A Silent Way simply lilted dreamily along with barely any harmonic structure but loads of studio editing tricks used to construct the final product.

It is hard to believe this now in the light of the recent 50th anniversary of the best selling jazz album of all time, Miles’ Kind of Blue – but for a long time Bitches Brew was the top selling Jazz record and Miles’ best seller and first ‘Gold’ record.

It is also STILL the single most controversial recording in jazz music, far surpassing the previous standard-bearer, Ornette’s Shape of Jazz to Come. Critics were dismayed and confused and lamented the lack of dominant trumpet, older fans thought he had sold out and was destroying jazz, purists thought the studio heavy production was an abomination to a music that was founded on being at its core an organic process, and so on.

To this day people will look at 1970 and Bitches Brew as the final nail in the coffin of the jazz they loved. I have no idea what they listen to now, but there is still loads of great jazz coming out and I believe that instead of killing jazz, Miles breathed new life into the genre, and opened vistas for jazz and rock and flamenco and classical and other artists to collaborate. Sometimes the results are pretentious garbage – that was true for some of the so-called fusion music in the 70’s that was really just ego-maniacal showboating – and that stuff got way too much attention from so-called purists and folks looking to deride the new ‘fusion’ music.

When I look across the landscape of jazz music of the last year, from Vijay Iyer to Pat Metheny to Christian Scott to Nik Barscht and on and on … none of it would be possible without Bitches Brew. Again, that sounds so dramatic, but the reality is that young musicians were more and more exposed to pop and rock music and while many were huge jazz fans, they didn’t find their identity in the hard bop or free jazz movements. They loved Jimi Hendrix as well as Wes Montgomery, the songs of the Beatles as well as Duke Ellington, and so on. For these people, Bitches Brew and its followers showed a path that allowed them to express themselves fully in the context of all the music styles they loved combined.

There were two things that really bothered jazz purists: as mentioned, the rock sensibilities displayed had them calling Miles a ‘sell-out’. But the other I alluded to was the use of the recording studio as a tool that was integral to the overall project. For most, jazz recording meant gathering in a studio, playing songs, grabbing the best take, and releasing it.

Bitches Brew certainly consisted of the traditional style of musicians playing together and grabbing takes, but after the fact there was a tremendous amount of cut & paste studio work to shape the compositions into their final form:

“”Pharaoh’s Dance” contains 19 edits – its famous stop-start opening is entirely constructed in the studio, using repeat loops of certain sections. Later on in the track there are several micro-edits: for example, a one-second-long fragment that first appears at 8:39 is repeated five times between 8:54 and 8:59. The title track contains 15 edits, again with several short tape loops of, in this case, five seconds (at 3:01, 3:07 and 3:12). Therefore, Bitches Brew not only became a controversial classic of musical innovation, it also became renowned for its pioneering use of studio technology.[4]”

The amazing thing to me as I initially listened to this recording was the depth of the structure and composition juxtaposed with a nearly end-to-end sense of freedom and improvisation. Miles said he was very influenced by Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Sly Stone as the 60’s came to a close … but when he talked about his compositional approach with Bitches Brew, he talked about his immersion into the work and theories of Karlheinz Stockhausen. And listening to the structure of the songs reveals an amazingly intellectual process running a parallel path to the amazing improvisations. These are not just great performances, but entire works that reward study and repeated listenings.

Here is a quote from Miles:

“I studied…. Stockhausen’s concepts of music. I got further and further into the idea of music as a process. I had always written in a circular way and through Stockhausen I could see that I didn’t want to ever play again from eight bars to eight bars, because I never end songs, they just keep going on.”

Retrospective Background

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of this milestone recording, I wanted to look back at the music. But not at the 2 record set that I have been enjoying for nearly 35 years, nor the 2 CD set I got as soon as it was released about 25 years ago, nor even the the 1997 4-CD Box Set called ‘The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions’. Instead I am listening to the brand new Legacy Collection from Sony Digital, a 2CD set with music remastered from the original 8 track studio tapes, bonus out-takes, and a DVD of a previously unreleased performance from Copenhagen in November 1969.

Here are some details from Sony on the ‘Legacy’ and ‘Deluxe’ versions released on August 31st:

Sony’s new Deluxe & Legacy Editions contain the original 95 minutes of music in their 8-track studio versions, a DVD of a previously unavailable live performance by the Miles Davis Quintet (Davis, Corea, Holland, Shorter and DeJohnette) in Copenhagen, November 1969, plus six bonus tracks including the extremely rare Columbia jukebox 45 edit of ‘Miles Runs The Voodoo Down’/’Spanish Theme’. The Deluxe Collectors’ Edition also includes a 5,000 word booklet by Greg Tate, a 180g vinyl pressing, memorabilia enelope and a third CD featuring a previously unreleased concert from Davis’s septet line-up recorded in Tanglewood, USA in August 1970.

As an aside, the “previously unreleased concert from Davis’s septet line-up recorded in Tanglewood, USA in August 1970” is also available to stream live (and buy for $10) from Wolfgang’s Vault!

But before I get to that recording, it is worth mentioning the many ways I’ve enjoyed the music through the years:

Original LP Recording: when I pulled these out again I was amazed at the pristine condition. By the time I bought this double album I was already in the habit of immediately recording everything to tape. The problem? I used Maxell XLII 90 minute tapes … and each record is about 47 minutes long! I don’t have the tape I listened to for so many years, but I know both sides ended abruptly, particularly jarring in the case of the title track.

Original CD Recording: in the early days of the CD, it was very popular to simply dump existing recordings to CD and release them. A bit later folks started the practice of truly ‘digitally remastering’ recordings. Fortunately Columbia held off re-releasing many of Miles recordings until they remastered them. Not that the sound quality was really particularly better – it felt like things were simply cleaned up and pressed to CD. And really, that was fine with me – there was WAY too much tinkering going on with re-releases back in those days!

The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions: That collection has been the source of my listening ever since it was released, as it was thoroughly cleaned up and remastered and the versions of even the six original songs are the best sounding versions available.

Note: a 1999 release added the song Feio to the ‘standard’ CD collection. While it is a nice song, personally it would not have been my choice for an add-on to the CD from all the cool stuff that came from the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions. My choice? The cover of David Crosby’s Guinnevere – but at a sprawling 21 minutes it is twice the length and likely not able to fit.

2010 Legacy Edition: as I mentioned these were just released on August 31st, and the collection includes everything noted above (2-CD’s with original music, two out-takes, and 2 A/B ‘singles’ used in jukeboxes) as well as a DVD featuring the Copenhagen performance. The DVD was stunning in audio and video quality for something that had sat in a vault for so long, and the music from the CD’s sounds wonderful.

I would have been 100% thrilled if CD #1 hadn’t identified itself as ‘The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions’, which would seem to indicate that there was absolutely no work done since 1997 in addressing the issues producer Teo Macero had with the restoration done at that time. After doing some A/B listening compared to the original CD and the ‘Complete Bitches Brew Sessions’, I am convinced that it is a mis-read from CDDB and that Sony HAS lived up to the promise of delivering “the original album in its 8-track studio mixes unavailable on CD for many years.” Of course, I got confirmation of this when I actually read the “Producers’ Notes” about how they had taken a different approach than the ‘The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions’ and focused on the original session music.

Here is a capture from the DVD, and you can actually read Miles Davis etched into the lacquer of his special trumpet:

Retrospective Review

For the last week I have immersed myself in listening once again to this classic recording, starting off with the original CD’s and continuing with the freshly released Legacy Collection … and here are my thoughts. Well, before getting to the individual songs I have to mention just how much cleaner everything sounds with the new release. I still have the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions on my iPod and while CD1 identifies as the same recording the new one definitely sounds better to my ears … perhaps it is the ripping process? Anyway, on to the individual songs.

Disc: 1
1. Pharaoh’s Dance – the album starts off with a pulsing beat and quickly moves into an extended harmonic statement on the mid-range of the keyboard, with bass and bass clarinet adding to the effect. The core structure certainly has ‘rock like’ elements, but no reasonable person would confuse this with a 1969/1970 rock song.

Before the first minute has passed the entire structure of the recording has come into play – two drummers, two keyboards, two bassists, one in each channel; guitar and bass clarinet adding harmonic and percussive color as often as contributing core melodic structure; saxophone and trumpet at the top, but similar to Nefertiti they sometimes hold down the fort while the real action is underneath them.

I mentioned the studio cuts, and this song has plenty, but there are a few that are more noticeable, particularly with the ultra-clean new versions. About 8 minutes in there is a transition in the music from one section to another where the splice switches the up and down beat, but since most of the band had cut out before the change and didn’t come back immediately the listener would generally not notice. A minute later in the piece when it gets very quiet in the midst of a really cool Miles echoplex piece you can hear talking in the studio, something that sounds like “hey jim”. This is repeated 20 seconds later, and just after that I would swear that I could hear it way in the background as a repeating part of the echo.

The other way that Pharaoh’s Dance shows the flow for the rest of the recording in how it constantly evolves. I’ve mentioned quiet sections in the 8 – 9 minute region, but by 12 minutes in the entire double-ensemble was completely grooving and the sound is thunderous by the time John McLaughlin takes the lead. And in a way that echoes back to Dixieland jazz, there is constant group improvisation and interplay going on – this isn’t selfish showboating. When the song ends at 20 minutes it simply fades out, as though we were merely glimpsing part of an ongoing session.

2. Bitches Brew – I consider this to be one of the all-time classic pieces of music in the history of music. It starts with a pulsing ostinato bass figure surrounded by loads of tape hiss, followed by crashing hits from the keyboards, drums and bass. Then Miles comes in with a percussive attack that is swallowed up in a tape echo to the point it sounds like he is having a call and response with himself. There is rhythm but no rhythm, structure but freedom, melody but an absence of a normal melodic flow.

After a few minutes of introduction, we have the main bass flow with bass clarinet providing the melodic fragments that define the harmonic structure. Pairing up those two instruments and adding the keyboards yields a dense harmonic space against which Miles immediately begins making a melodic statement and soon enough the entire band is free flowing against the framework that started oh-so-quietly.

The song structure reminds me most of Richard Wagner’s Overture to Rienzi. You have a solo line coming in to a full orchestral crescendo, followed by a related section and then into the main ‘meat’ of the composition. Apparently the composition was originally a five section suite, but only three ended up making it into the recording session.

I had mentioned that Miles ideas constantly reassigned roles and responsibilities in terms of melody, harmony and rhythm over the course of a song, and Bitches Brew has another great example. Right after the 10 minute mark the group sets into a tight groove and Miles walks all over them with a staccato rhythmic structure that completely turns things around – Corea and Zawinal start dropping offset rhythms in contrast to Miles and by the end of it the structure remains in place with a tremendously dense feeling.

Bitches Brew is 27 minutes long, and yet it never drags, is not indulgent, there are no show-boating solos. There is a beginning, middle and end. The key sections are restated appropriately, and by the end it is very haunting. The level of musicianship, concept and group listening is tremendously high throughout. Thelonious Monk worked towards having his music be at once composed and improvised, and in Bitches Brew I feel Miles attained that goal better than perhaps any other piece of music.

3. Spanish Key – Whereas the drum pattern from Pharaoh’s Dance quietly pulsates and leads slowly into the song, Spanish Key gets heated from the start: the drumming is tight and solid with prominent snare work, a pulsing bass line quickly follows, the choppy guitar and the piano and bass clarinet establish the harmonic framework before Miles jumps in with a melody and then turns things upside down again – all within the first minute or so. From there the next few minutes are a complete onslaught from Miles.

Later on Wayne Shorter comes out of a slow down where the group is loosening things up and getting very quiet and introspective again and starts a tight staccato rhythmic figure that inspires the band to join in and reform a new rhythmic structure under him. His alluring figures are so compelling that you don’t notice that you have quickly switched from following his pulse to the groundswell from the rhythm section behind him.

A few minutes later Miles uses a similar figure with a very Spanish flavor to bring the group back into a more solid and subdued beat almost in response to Shorter’s earlier crescendo. Interestingly, Spanish key actually ‘ends’ more than any other piece on the recording … though I suppose ‘stop’ is more appropriate than ‘end’.

4. John McLaughlin – I have always had mixed feelings about this song. It is a solid turn-around shuffle beat with a catchy hook and some great playing by all, with John McLaughlin as the featured soloist throughout. It is a great 4.5 minute song that completely fits with everything else … and yet I have always regarded it as ‘filler’ because neither Miles nor Shorter are featured.

But in recent years I have reflected on its place in music history, and it makes much more sense to have chosen THAT song to feature as a short interlude. Thinking back to 1969, jazz guitar was dying – George Benson had played on a rare and only later released Miles 1968 recording Miles in the Sky and had little to say. Wes Montgomery had recently died and had spent years playing pop music covers, Jim Hall was nowhere to be seen and neither he nor Pat Martino had released their influential solo recordings yet. There was no real voice in jazz guitar – but rock guitar was flourishing. I could reel off names like Hendrix and Beck and Clapton and Townsend and Alvin Lee and so on. Miles saw the tremendous potential for the guitar in a jazz-rock fusion setting, and John McLaughlin had amazing technique and a great angular style all his own. This showcase was not anything me-too trying to be a rocker, it was jazz guitar transformed into a new era.

Disc: 2
1. Miles Runs The Voodoo Down – the second CD opens with a slow and almost lazy shuffle funk beat with an easy bass line and bent string guitar groove before Miles chimes in with some semi-tone bends of his own as he works the melody in no great hurry. Once again we have melody as improvisation and structure as process as we advance through an ever changing background while Miles keeps things the same yet simultaneously changes them up.

The other thing I noticed in general but particularly listening to this song – the dynamic range and use of sonic space of the original recordings is amazing – and the contrast with my 20+ year old CD’s is stunning. I had gotten so used to the original CD’s, which lack bottom end, have the drums too quiet, and the keyboards too often mush together in the middle. With this song, the pulsating rhythm is crystal clear and driving, the two basses distinct in what they are providing in terms of rhythmic and harmonic underpinning, and the amazing intertwining of the two electric pianos and guitar throughout … it is a musical education every time I listen. Yet Miles Runs The Voodoo Down, perhaps more than any other song, is raw, funky, and full of swagger – it is funky, rocking and swinging all at once!

2. Sanctuary – this is probably the ‘straightest’ cut on the entire recording. And as such it was the one song that older fans and purists would say they liked. The scathing reviews would always except Sanctuary, whereas the positive reviews would include it as well. That is because it is just a wonderful song. It is the least innovative song on the recording, but arguably the most beautiful thing Miles had recorded in a couple of years.

Sanctuary is a a Wayne Shorter ballad that the group had recorded earlier and was much later released as part of the Circle in the Round collection. But although the basic song is the same, Miles changes it up completely for Bitches Brew – in a very similar way to Nefertiti (also a Shorter tune), Miles works, reworks, deconstructs, reconstructs and generally moves all over and around the core melody. Because it is a Shorter tune, it has a strong and gorgeous melody and a harmonic structure that is deceptively simple and very memorable.

Also as with Nefertiti, the rhythm section is where the main action is in Sanctuary – they are moving around the time and harmony and varying the pulse and dynamics, in an even more advanced way that the earlier band had done. An interesting factoid I learned was that Sanctuary as released was actually pieced together from two different takes. Regardless, it is a gorgeous close to the recording that shows Miles purposefully looking back, but in a different way that showed he was really closing the door on that past.

The rest of Disc 2 is ‘extras’, which I will address rather briefly as they are not particularly novel or remarkable.
3. Spanish Key (alternate take)
4. John McLaughlin (alternate take)

There are two schools of thought on alternate takes. On the one hand you get inside the studio, but on the other hand perhaps there was a reason this wasn’t used. For both alternate takes I had both of those thoughts running through my head simultaneously. Surprisingly, the so-called ‘Complete Bitches Brew Sessions’ lacked any alternate takes for the main songs, so as a great fan of Miles and this recording it was nice for me to listen to these … yet as I listened I knew that when the next time came to trim back my ever expanding iTunes library these two takes would be amongst the first to go.

5. Miles Runs The Voodoo Down (single)
6. Spanish Key (single)

It is hard to think that this music would be released on a ‘single’. I mean … what is the commercial appeal? But it was produced for jukeboxes (anyone remember using those anymore … I mean the ones with actual record in them?) and also for radio play. These two songs are more or less just 2.5 minute cuts from the main songs, and therefore aside from seeing how it might have sounded in whatever local place might have these in the jukebox, they are of little interest.

7. Great Expectations (single)
8. Little Blue Frog (single)

These two songs were released as part of the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, and are two of the better recordings added to that set. It is interesting that they were released as singles in the wake of the success of Bitches Brew since they didn’t get a commercial release in full form until nearly 30 years later! The edits – these are again 2.5 minute cots of songs that were at least 10 minutes long – are particularly effective and give a nice synopsis of each song in a cohesive fashion. I would actually choose these over the extended versions if space were at a premium.

DVD Quick Review
After the recordings of Bitches Brew were made, Miles embarked on a tour with a transitional group sometimes called the ‘Lost Quintet’, featuring Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Chick Corea and Jack DeJohnette. The music reflects both the musings of the Bitches Brew sessions and also still containing many elements from his late 60’s efforts.

The group starts with Directions, which was just becoming his standard opening song and would developer greatly over the next year or so. Then they transition into more ‘jazzy’ versions of Miles Runs The Voodoo Down and Bitches Brew before looking back to the more traditional concert elements he’d been playing for a few years. They start with the frantic uptempo Agitation, then a gorgeous duet with Corea on I Fall In Love Too Easily, a more traditional read of Sanctuary, and then a more modern look at It s About That Time. The conclude with The Theme, something that (in very different form) had been part of Miles standard repertoire since the mid-50’s.

The DVD has great audio and video quality and clarity, but the colors seem super-saturated and not very natural. There are strobing effects from the light reflections, and occasional digital artifacts from the transfer. But the audio is impeccable and you get a view of Miles and his band and how they relate, interact and put on a show in this pivotal transitional period. This is a great addition and completely relevant to the music on the CD’s.

Well, that is all the music and video included on the Legacy Edition, but I wanted to do one more thing with this review!

The Artists of Bitches Brew: What Have They Done Since

Miles Davis had a knack for surrounding himself with some of the best young musicians, demanding and allowing them to grow and having many go on to become huge leaders in their own right. This is certainly true here, as Miles band consists of several folks who have become a who’s who of the modern jazz scene.

Miles Davis (trumpet): Miles continued his ‘directions in music’ until 1975, when health and drugs took their toll and he went into exile until 1980, returning with even more rock and pop music he called ‘social music’. He had ups and downs throughout the 80’s until his health failed and he died in 1991. In the last year or so he would often have Chuck Findlay as his backup when his health made him sit out a tune or two.

Wayne Shorter (soprano saxophone): By the time Bitches Brew was released Wayne Shorter had already moved on, and along with Joe Zawinul formed Weather Report. In the early years the music was an extension of what they learned with Miles, but later bass phenom Jaco Pastorius joined and the group produced some amazing but much more structured recordings. Shorter remains active playing a variety of jazz styles with any number of groups.

Bennie Maupin (bass clarinet): Maupin is an ‘out there’ stylist who joined Herbie Hancock’s group after recording with Miles and was part of Hancock’s super-funky Headhunters unit in the early-mid 70’s. He has worked with a variety of others, and in the last few years has had some success as a leader.

Joe Zawinul (electric piano): As mentioned, Zawinul and Shorter formed Weather after leaving Miles, a group that lasted until 1985 in various forms. After that he worked in various formats from piano jazz to fusion to large form symphony, all with some measure of success. He died in 2007 from skin cancer.

Chick Corea (electric piano): Corea already had two excellent piano trio releases (Now He Sings, Now He Sobs and Tones for Joans Bones) before joining Miles in late 1968, but Miles took him in a whole new direction! After leaving Miles along with Dave Holland, the two formed the group Circle with Anthony Braxton and produced some amazing avant garde work for a couple of years. Corea was determined to make fusion music that had Latin jazz elements, and Return to Forever. The group had several forms, but the arena-rock styled, mega talented mid-70’s group with Lenny White, Al DiMeola and Stanley Clarke was most successful – and made the rounds with a tour and recording in the last couple of years. Corea is doing everything with everyone – electric band, acoustic band, solo piano, various duets, and on and on. He has produced a stunning body of work.

John McLaughlin (guitar): he was playing more or less simultaneously in Miles band and in the Tony Williams Lifetime, another pioneering fusion unit, in 1969. He stayed with Miles for a few years before forming the Mahavishnu Orchestra. He focused on his religious and inspirational music for a while before reforming Mahavishnu in the mid-80’s. He has had loads of solo endeavors through the years of varying success, and recently toured and recorded with Chick Corea and the ‘Five Peace Band’. I reviewed his latest solo record here.

Dave Holland (acoustic bass): Holland was new to the electric bass when he joined Miles, but was a fast learner. He returned to the acoustic bass after leaving with Corea to form Circle, and later in the 70’s had a great trio with Dejohnette called Gateway. He did loads of work with others, but in the 2000’s emerged as one of the greatest bandleaders in all of jazz. I wrote about his latest release here.

Harvey Brooks (electric bass): Brooks was a busy session bassist, having already worked with Bob Dylan, The Doors and others before joining Davis in the studio. Davis was looking for a solid and experienced electric bassist, and Brooks was perfect. He has remained busy doing studio work ever since.

Lenny White (drums): Hard to believe, but Bitches Brew was White’s first recording session. He went on to join Chick Corea’s Return to Forever, which he stayed with until it disbanded and moved on to other projects. He recently returned in the renewed Return to Forever and has been busy working with Stanley Clarke.

Jack DeJohnette (drums): After leaving Miles in 1972, DeJohnette has been busy with a variety of progressive jazz and fusion projects, such as Gateway, Directions, New Directions, and particularly his Special Edition band in several formats. He had great success with a group he called Parallel Realities with Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny in the 90’s, and remains busy if uneven with projects ranging from the award winning Peace Time to the dreadful Music in the Key of Om.

Don Alias (percussion): one of the great jazz percussionists, he was just as adept behind a full drum kit as proved on Miles Runs the Voodoo Down. He worked with Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius and many others before dying suddenly in 2006.

Jim Riley (shaker percussion): His real name is Juma Santos, and he is a master percussionist who has been on tons of recordings, but had personal issues that landed him in jail twice and left him homess once before his eventual death in 2007.

Well, that is everything. But what better way to go out than with some music from the period? Here is a YouTube clip from the famous Isle of Wight music festival in late August 1970, just over 40 years ago! In this recording you have Davis at center, a very young Dave Holland on bass (looking like he could have been playing with The Who instead), Dejohnette on drums, Aierto Moriera on percussion, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett on electric piano, and Gary Bartz on soprano saxophone. I can only imagine what the 600,000 folks assembled to see Hendrix, Baez and The Who thought of what Miles and the band were laying down!

Review: Miles Davis – Bitches Brew Legacy Edition

Where to Buy: Amazon.com

Price: $18.99

What I Like:
+ One of the all time greatest recordings in any musical genre.
+ Great sound quality with ‘360 sound’ and remastering
+ Excellent audio and visual quality on bonus DVD
+ Great booklet and overall packaging

What Needs Improvement:
– Questionable value of alternate takes and singles.

Source: Personal Copy

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