Feb 22, 2016

Miles Davis' Bitches Brew Reveals Something New With Each Listen

Nothing else Miles Davis ever did sounds quite like Bitches Brew, it's more avant-garde and abstract than is usually reviewed too.

There are funk and rock elements yes, but the music is its own thing in the Davis lexicon.

A lot of this has to do with Producer Teo Macero's cut and paste studio work.

At first listen Bitches Brew is very much in the vein of musique concrète, like The Beatles "Revolution #9", a similar cold and distant feeling is evoked.

Listen again to the title track and "Pharaoh's Dance" and tell me it doesn't have this vibe?

20 years ago, back in the mid 90's when I first heard the music, Brew seemed like an immovable monolith. Prior to my discovery of Davis, I was listening to mostly metal bands like Metallica and Megadeth.

These bands offered some very challenging and quite avant-garde progressive sounding music for the rock genre. Speed metal is a genre that one must acquire the taste for, after a while, the perception of speed slows down, and it doesn't seem as outrageous.

Metallica's ... and Justice For all comes to Mind as an album that had this cold and lonely mood, both in the production and in musical content. That is an album that sounds progressive 27 years later. Also Radiohead's OK Computer is very moody in this way.

I am struck how Bitches Brew remains alive to me all these years later, as if it changes somehow with each listen? Better than 20 years later I am amazed that I hear something new in it.

Feb 17, 2016

Miles Ahead From Miles Davis and Gil Evans

What a fantastic album Miles Ahead is, probably considered the lesser of the trio of Davis/Evans collaborations.

True Davis aficionados sort of consider all three close to being equal, with Porgy & Bess or Sketches of Spain just being above Miles Ahead.

Possibly those albums just perfected the style started on Miles Ahead? I have always thought of Miles Ahead as Kind of Blue with an orchestra... or at least the vibe is somewhat familiar.

Arranger Evans sure has a knack for painting a picture with the way he uses strange instrument pairings, and switches roles with what the traditional time keeping instruments do.

Feb 7, 2016

Miles Davis Kind of Blue: Still Lives Up to The Hype

If someone asks you what the greatest modern jazz record of all time is, just tell them Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. After all, it is the greatest selling modern jazz record of all time.

If someone asks you why it is the greatest?  Fill them in on the ahead of its time use of modes or “scales,” that championed a freedom for the soloist not seen before in jazz.

They should know about the stark plaintive sound of the Miles Davis trumpet, how he had a way of making brief but concise statements, never being pretentious.

Let them know about pianist Bill Evans, and his simmering heat under-the-surface style, pianist Wynton Kelly’s bubbly blues on “Freddie Freeloader,” and Paul Chambers’ bass playing... as in the pocket as a bassist can be.

You also have John Coltrane feeling his oats, soloing over top of these new modes, and Cannonball Adderley’s exuberant and upbeat alto sax style, he’s  the perfect counter-point to Coltrane’s more visceral playing.

Drummer Jimmy Cobb holds it all together with subtlety or fire, what ever the composition demands. His brushwork is especially noteworthy on the album.
Miles Davis Kind of Blue Columbia 6 Eye Mono Label

My favorite track is “All Blues,” a wonderful medium tempo jaunt down a crowded New York City street circa 1959. The entire record is a masterwork believe me.

 Kind of Blue’s genius is in the modern, yet contemporary easy going vibe. Anyone, of any background could find something within the album to savor. It's modern and years ahead of its time, yet contemporary more than 55 years after its creation.

It has been nearly 20 years since I first heard Kind of Blue, and I have listened to it via cassette, CD, download, and surround sound.  I believe the definitive way to listen to any Miles Davis album is on original Columbia 6 eye label vinyl...but the 1997 Sony CD remaster is very good I must say, and the expanded liner notes are worth having anyway.

I know many audiophiles who swear by cassette versions of this of the same 1997 remaster. I've never seen that cassette, one day I hope to hear it.

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