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Bitches Brew

Miles Davis


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Tanglewood (Lenox, MA) Aug 18, 1970

It's a testament to the open ears of Tanglewood's programmers and Miles' popularity that this gig ever happened.

Tanglewood is best known for its summer classical music festival.

This footage comes from an amazing audio and video archive service called Wolfgang's Vault which is made up of recordings made of Bill Graham productions. (I think Graham's "real" first name was Wolfgang thus the same of the service.)

The Birth of Bitches Brew - Courtesy of wikipedia

Recording sessions took place at Columbia's 30th Street Studio over the course of three days in August 1969. Davis called the musicians to the recording studio on very short notice.

A few pieces on Bitches Brew were rehearsed before the recording sessions, but at other times the musicians had little or no idea what they were to record. Once in the recording studio, the players were typically given only a few instructions: a tempo count, a few chords or a hint of melody, and suggestions as to mood or tone. Davis liked to work this way; he thought it forced musicians to pay close attention to one another, to their own performances, or to Davis's cues, which could change at any moment.

On the quieter moments of "Bitches Brew", for example, Davis's voice is audible, giving instructions to the musicians: snapping his fingers to indicate tempo, or, in his distinctive whisper, saying, "Keep it tight" or telling individuals when to solo.
Davis composed most of the music on the album.

The two important exceptions were the complex "Pharaoh's Dance" (composed by Joe Zawinul) and the ballad "Sanctuary" (composed by Wayne Shorter). The latter had been recorded as a fairly straightforward ballad early in 1968, but was given a radically different interpretation on Bitches Brew. It begins with Davis and Chick Corea improvising on the standard "I Fall in Love too Easily" before Davis plays the "Sanctuary" theme.

Then, not unlike Davis's recording of Shorter's "Nefertiti" two years earlier, the horns repeat the melody over and over while the rhythm section builds up the intensity. The issued "Sanctuary" is actually two consecutive takes of the piece.


Mati Klarwein created this artwork for Bitches Brew's gatefold cover.
Despite his reputation as a "cool", melodic improviser, much of Davis's playing on this album is aggressive and explosive, often playing fast runs and venturing into the upper register of the trumpet. His closing solo on "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" is particularly noteworthy in this regard. Davis did not perform on the short piece "John McLaughlin".
[edit]Post-production

There was significant editing done to the recorded music. Short sections were spliced together to create longer pieces, and various effects were applied to the recordings. Enrico Merlin reports:
Bitches Brew also pioneered the application of the studio as a musical instrument, featuring stacks of edits and studio effects that were an integral part of the music. Miles and his producer, Teo Macero, used the recording studio in radical new ways, especially in the title track and the opening track, "Pharaoh's Dance". There were many special effects, like tape loops, tape delays, reverb chambers and echo effects. Through intensive tape editing, Macero concocted many totally new musical structures that were later imitated by the band in live concerts. Macero, who has a classical education and was most likely inspired by the 1930s and 1940s musique concrète experiments, used tape editing as a form of arranging and composition.
"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]
[edit]Innovations

Though Bitches Brew was in many ways revolutionary, perhaps its most important innovation was rhythmic. The rhythm section for this recording consists of two bassists (one playing bass guitar, the other double bass), two to three drummers, two to three electric piano players, and a percussionist, all playing at the same time.[5] As Paul Tanner, Maurice Gerow, and David Megill explain, "like rock groups, Davis gives the rhythm section a central role in the ensemble's activities. His use of such a large rhythm section offers the soloists wide but active expanses for their solos."[5]
Tanner, Gerow and Megill further explain that
"the harmonies used in this recording move very slowly and function modally rather than in a more tonal fashion typical of mainstream jazz.... The static harmonies and rhythm section's collective embellishment create a very open arena for improvisation. The musical result flows from basic rock patterns to hard bop textures, and at times, even passages that are more characteristic of free jazz."[5]
The solo voices heard most prominently on this album are the trumpet and the soprano saxophone, respectively of Miles and Wayne Shorter. Notable also is Bennie Maupin's ghostly bass clarinet, which was perhaps the first use of the instrument in jazz not heavily indebted to pioneer Eric Dolphy.
The technology of recording, analog tape, disc mastering and inherent recording time constraints (i.e., bandwidth) had, by the late sixties, expanded beyond previous limitations and sonic range for the stereo, vinyl album: Bitches Brew reflects this. In it are found long-form performances which encompass entire improvised suites with rubato sections, tempo changes or the long, slow crescendo more common to a symphonic orchestral piece or Indian raga form than the three-minute rock song. Starting in 1969, Davis' concerts included some of the material that would become Bitches Brew.[6]



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