Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew Live (Columbia Legacy, 2011)

The great trumpeter Miles Davis was at a transitional phase when the music on this album was recorded. As mentioned in the interesting liner notes, Davis’ had noticed that his attendance at club dates had been steadily declining as younger fans de-camped for the visceral thrills of R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. Davis had been slowly moving in a more progressive direction after the breakup of his second great quintet, gradually adding guitar and electric keyboards and evolving toward an entirely new sound that was rooted in jazz but amenable to the new sounds. The first three tracks on this album were recorded during the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival, the first such festival to include rock ‘n’ roll acts as part of the program. Davis was apparently enthralled and was quite interested to see which acts received the biggest response from the crowd. This set was recorded by the so called “lost quintet” minus saxophonist Wayne Shorter who was stuck in traffic and didn’t make it in time. Subsequently, Davis had the front line to himself and plays with a muscular virility that is thrilling to hear. He sounds lean and healthy employing great chops to fill in the extra space. Drummer Jack DeJohnette is particularly killing, while Chick Corea adds accents and fills on electric piano and Dave Holland’s acoustic bass is almost completely lost in the tumult. The second part of the disc is taken from the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival in front of a massive crowd estimated at 600,000. The band had evolved into a righteously funky unit with extra percussion, Holland switching to electric bass and Gary Bartz joining Davis on the front line. The band develops a wilder and much looser feel, playing the music as a continuous suite with Davis giving subtle nods for change in themes and tempos. The music is often drivingly intense and they are rewarded with rapturous applause from the huge crowd. Bitches Brew Live - amazon.com

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