MILES DAVIS The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (1998)

The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (1998)
#6 of 8

At the time, Miles Davis was under pressure from Columbia Records to broaden his appeal to the youth market. His sales, by jazz standards, were excellent, but Miles had a lavish lifestyle and his continual requests for financial advances forced new Columbia head, Clive Davis, to push Miles to open himself to newer, younger, record buying rockers. It was Clive who persuaded Miles to play the Fillmore (who initially refused, threatening to leave the label), but since Miles was already moving in that direction, and was developing a keen interest in the likes of Hendrix and Sly Stone, it was really only a matter of time. Still, no one was quite prepared for how far Miles would take the challenge. Enter Bitches Brew. A thousand essays have been written about it, so there’s not much that I’m about to add here, suffice to say that – in its day – it blew minds that had already been blown for years. These days, it might sound tame to newcomers, but in 1970, the jazz world had never heard anything like this raw fusion of jazz and rock. The original double album had only six selections (including the 27 minute title track), but what many didn’t know (I didn’t until a decade later) was that Bitches Brew was a cut and paste affair, artificially constructed from hours of recordings, by Miles and producer Teo Macero. The original didn’t leave my turntable for months, and my saint of a mother became increasingly concerned about my mental health. Hell… Davis’ fans didn’t even grasp it, so there was no way mom was going to catch the drift. This 4 disc box features the original release (the first six tracks on discs 1 & 2) and alternate sessions from the same period. There’s even an arresting 21 minute cover/outtake of David Crosby’s “Guinnevere.” A bunch of this material is previously unreleased, though some of it showed up on the subsequent releases, Big Fun and Circle In The Round. The legends list of players includes Jack DeJohnette, Joe Zawinul, Airto, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Don Alias, Bennie Maupin, Lenny White, Larry Young and others. Due to constraints, we had to go with one of the shorter tracks for the player, below. You can still find the very cool, steel spine/cloth-covered box at Amazon (just beware of the really cheap used ones that might not actually be this box). Many thanks to Kwai Chang for the re-up.

1
Pharaoh’s Dance (20:07)
Bitches Brew (27:01)
Spanish Key (17:34)
John McLaughlin (4:23)
2
Miles Runs The Voodoo Down (14:04)
Sanctuary (10:59)
Great Expectations (13:48)
Orange Lady (13:52)
Yaphet (9:42)
Corrado (13:12)
3
Trevere (5:59)
The Big Green Serpent (3:39)
The Little Blue Frog (Alt) (12:15)
The Little Blue Frog (Mst) (9:12)
Lonely Fire (21:11)
Guinnevere (21:07)
4
Feio (11:53)
Double Image (8:28)
Recollections (18:58)
Take It Or Leave It (2:16)
Double Image (5:53)

41 Comments

  • 1
    Willard
    March 26, 2012 - 09:08 | Permalink

    Search HERE

  • 2
    Anonymous
    March 26, 2012 - 10:24 | Permalink

    Cool.

  • 3
    G
    March 26, 2012 - 10:50 | Permalink

    Captain – you’ve done it again. For the past week or so you’ve given the readers a crash course in Miles – but, one might assume, a good percentage of the visitors to the Boat/Wormhole must be familar with the music if ‘The Prince Of Darkness’.
    Laughed, I guess might be the term, when I saw your comments as I was one of the many who also assumed that this set was done at once and not a ‘cut and past’ product. But I didn’t learn that until….let’s say around 10 or 15 years ago.
    I turned on that album and ended up listening to – pick one side and then the next and then the next and then the next and should I listen to this or that and perhaps try this side again and maybe I’ll give this side a try – and, obviously, was taken in by the music.
    When I learned it was a cut and paste – figured out that’s why we never (and this was after I learned of the ways of trading music) had the chance to hear “Pharoah’s Dance” live – when I snagged “Deep Brew” was able to listen (and listen and listen some more) to that keyboard intro. Many Thanks
    G

  • 4
    Adam Crocker
    March 26, 2012 - 11:03 | Permalink

    “These days, it might sound tame to newcomers, but in 1970, the jazz world had never heard anything like this raw fusion of jazz and rock.”

    Heh, possibly. Though to someone who was turned into a music fanatic by the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” and Richard Hell & the Voidoids’ “Blank Generation” and whose listening has since taken in Captain Beefheart, John Cage, Indonesian Gamelan, and Sun Ra, Bitches’ Brew still has a rarefied weirdness to my ears. It’s got a weird, subterranean sound that contrasts greatly from the fusion that followed in the form of Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, etc. The steady, thick groove; the way the instruments jump in to punctuate and texture the groove; the echo on Miles’ trumpet reminding me of dub. The minimalist approach of the band reminding me of Kosmiche greats CAN or the entire record seemingly anticipating turntablism in hip-hop twenty years ahead of schedule. “Tame?” Arguably the rest of jazz fusion failed to really catch on (possible exception being some of Medeski, Martin, & Wood’s albums) while the sound in this record was picked up by hip-hop, post-punk, electronica…

    At least that’s what it sounds like to my ears. Then again it’s also John Lydon/Johnny Rotten’s favourites Miles album too.

    • 5
      March 26, 2012 - 11:08 | Permalink

      And if only we could have had Miles on PIL’s “Album/Compact Disc/Cassette” recording.And it almost happened. Wouldn’t that have been something?

      • 6
        Adam Crocker
        March 26, 2012 - 11:14 | Permalink

        Indeed though according to Lydon Miles’ trumpet line was exactly what he had been singing and hence banged up against the vocal.

        Interestingly enough, he seems to agree with my CAN comparison:

        Bitches Brew is my favourite. The drums on that are stunning and they fit in with the drumming by Jaki on Can’s Tago Mago.”

  • 7
    Willard
    March 26, 2012 - 11:36 | Permalink

    I appreciate the talk about the music itself. Time as it is… It was all I could do to address the general basics of the box itself.

    • 8
      Adam Crocker
      March 26, 2012 - 13:08 | Permalink

      Thanks for the kind words, though I haven’t gotten around to listening to the box itself yet which contains the base matter for the final album Macero spliced together. This should prove interesting.

      • 9
        3410
        March 26, 2012 - 20:42 | Permalink

        Actually, that’s unfortunately not at all what you get. The first disc-and-a-half is a remix of the Bitches Brew tracks (August 19-21, ’69), while the latter two-and-a-half discs is other sessions from between about Nov. ’69 and early ’70.

        I actually quite like most of the “other” stuff (generally, similar but more mellow and with added sitar and tabla), but the title of this set is a total con. It’s especially strange given that there are *actual* Bitches Brew outtakes available, none of which appear on this box. :P

        Anyhow, musn’t grumble. On a purely musical level, it’s great!

        • 10
          3410
          March 26, 2012 - 22:05 | Permalink

          Hi, Willard.
          Have a look at this page (especially the “Sistine chapel” section):

          http://www.miles-beyond.com/bitchesbrew.htm

          “[Mark] Wilder: “Another reason for re-mixing the original Bitches Brew material was that the two tracks had not aged well. So we could either work with inferior tape copies from other countries, or go back to the original eight tracks and re-mix them, and so save ourselves a generation. The decision was made to re-mix from the original multitracks, just like with the Miles & Gil and Quintet boxed sets…”

          Hard to believe, I know, but there you go.

          As for the “actual” outtakes, there’s a bootleg called “Deep Brew”. As far as I can tell, it consists of the entire sessions (or large chunks of) with all of the “chosen” takes snipped out. It’s completely unmastered (ie 80 tracks / 119 minutes; some good takes amidst an ocean of false starts and dead air) .

          That said, for my own enjoyment, I edited that material down, Teo Macero-style (I flatter myself) into a 13 track / 80 minutes virtual album, which I’ll be very happy to drop in the box tonight.

          Cheers. Thanks for still posting, Willard. Blowing some minds with all this Miles, I’m sure.

          • 11
            Willard
            March 26, 2012 - 22:55 | Permalink

            Very cool… thanks for the strait poop. I’ll remove my misinformation.

            Also… I’ve got Deep Brew Vols 1 & 2 in my files. I’ll get it all up tomorrow.

          • 12
            Adam Crocker
            March 27, 2012 - 17:26 | Permalink

            Read the link and for all of Macero’s complaints it sounds like Belden and Wilder did work very hard, and in good faith, to recreate the sound of the original album. Thanks for posting that.

  • 13
    Brian
    March 26, 2012 - 15:26 | Permalink

    Thanks W! This was the 1st of the boxes that I heard. I loved following along to the time “map” they give for 1 of the tunes in the booklet. Wish there was a printout of all of them! Good caveat emptor point about the nice chunky, sturdy fabric covered limited edition bound book that originally came out as opposed to the thin longer cheaper book that was later issued (that comes up much cheaper out there in internet searches).

    I always hear BB as percolating, bubbling if I were to give it a few words. I think Zawinul complained about this box being released but I guess his is an insider’s view. As a listener I loved every minute & appreciated hearing the full takes. There’s some beautiful parts where Miles really cuts through on the tracks not released on the orig 2 lp set. And of course you can still hear that orig version of BB on this box as well. That was a good move they did on some of these boxes, putting the orig version on there for comparing.

    I like the elec piano funk groove on those Harvey Brook’s credited “Blue Frog” pieces (not the best title but it really was ahead of its time as far as foreshadowing 70s funk).

    • 14
      Willard
      March 26, 2012 - 15:42 | Permalink

      Thanks Brian. Why was Zawinul upset, any idea?

      • 15
        Brian
        March 26, 2012 - 16:13 | Permalink

        He thought it best to leave the release “as is” from what I can remember.

        • 16
          Willard
          March 26, 2012 - 17:18 | Permalink

          Don’t get that. Unless he’s just one of those who believes the artist’s original choice of material is the gospel that shouldn’t be messed with.

          • 17
            Adam Crocker
            March 26, 2012 - 22:52 | Permalink

            I do understand Zawinul’s view to some degree. I recall Ted Maceo was similarly critical of the practice of releasing the outtakes because the musicians chose to leave those out of the official release, having picked the choice cuts. As someone who is an illustrator by hobby I can understand the feeling of embarrassment of having a book publisher or a gallery post up the sketches and failed (in my view) experiments that led to the final product. (Even though I can readily understand a fascination with this from those who are looking at the artists’ work from the outside.) Knowing what you’ve attempted and how you fell short of the goals you had in your head can really make seeing the ‘outtakes’ of your own work seem irksome.

            Furthermore, I’ve experienced pretty mixed results from listening to outtakes and bonus tracks that record companies use to pad out an album reissue. I pretty much stop The Band in the CD player after “King Harvest” finishes. The alternate takes and mixes add no new listening experiences. ‘The Vanilla Tapes’ included with the Legacy Edition of London Calling are an amusing curio for obsessives at best, but I’ve barely listened to them more than three times (and I’m a huge Clash nut). On the other hand the bonus cuts included in the Legacy Edition of Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend and Rhino’s re-issue of Marquee Moon were well worth my time. Though it still means that the rewards of bonus material have been choppy in my experience.

            Oddly enough, jazz (or at least jazz post Charlie Parker) has provided some of the most rewarding experiences in terms of bonus cuts. The skills of the musicians, their subtly, and the emphasis on improvisation means that my ears can usually pick up something different about the way they approach a piece. (Which is also what made the bonus cuts on Marquee Moon so rewarding.) Plus I’m still unable to ever quite develop the same level of familiarity with instrumental jazz that I do with the popular song form. So I can totally get lost in the solos, textures, and rhythms. This is particularly so with the hypnotic groove of electric Miles.

            • 18
              Willard
              March 26, 2012 - 23:37 | Permalink

              You’re right… but a lot of us are still smoking that record company crack. Thanks to the web, it doesn’t cost as much these days.

  • 19
    Otiselevator
    March 26, 2012 - 18:31 | Permalink

    Fantastic Willard I can’t wait to hear this!

  • 20
    March 26, 2012 - 21:16 | Permalink

    I’ve been listening to nothing but Miles since ON THE CORNER, and so far it and IN A SILENT WAY are my favorite. I can’t wait to hear the “other” stuff here. Thanks.

  • 21
    JA
    March 26, 2012 - 22:17 | Permalink

    Thanks Willard.

    I remember getting Bitches Brew from a record club when I was in high school. I grew up in a small Midwestern town and the “heaviest” music I’d heard was “Live Dead” and some early Zappa. When I put this on for the first time I didn’t know whether to bow down and worship or hide under the bed.

    I also recall taking my copy to school and playing it in the band room before practice. The band director and one or two other people got it. The music seemed to make everyone else nervous and a couple of people actually got mad at me for playing it.

    • 22
      Willard
      March 26, 2012 - 22:56 | Permalink

      Funny.

    • 23
      Willard
      March 26, 2012 - 23:39 | Permalink

      Same with me. I was listening to a lot of weird stuff, but not as much that was this heavy.

  • 24
    buzzbabyjesus
    March 26, 2012 - 22:46 | Permalink

    How could I forget to mention JACK JOHNSON?

  • 27
    3410
    March 27, 2012 - 04:31 | Permalink

    Oh, by the way,

    If anyone needs Miles session info, this page has everything from ’45 – ’91:

    http://www.jazzdisco.org/miles-davis/discography/

  • 28
    Rochacrimson
    March 27, 2012 - 05:47 | Permalink

    Just amazing!!!!!!!!!!
    Many thanks Willard!

  • 29
    G
    March 27, 2012 - 11:08 | Permalink

    Hello again – thre’s an interesting story, recounted in/on/at Miles Beyond – and it’s been around – how Zawinul rode back from one of the Bitches Brew sessions, with Miles, and mentioned that he “didn’t like what we just recorded.” Months later he is walking into CBS Records Offices and heard “some enormous fantastic music” and asked what it was and was told – “Well, Mr. Zawinul, that’s you playing with Miles on Bitches Brew”
    Read W also has Deep Brew – I think there’s more ‘unreleased’ material on those discs than on the “complete” Bitches Brew – - granted at least 1/3, if not more, are splices and the like from Pharoah’s Dance.
    It’s a shame that both Miles and Macero have both passed – would have liked reading their takes on the discussions over the past few years on Macero’s involvement in, for example, Bitches Brew – I knew that he (Macero) went on record saying that the reason that this ‘unreleased” material had been unreleased was because “it was no good”
    Not taking a stance – passing along information and, above all, thanking W!
    G

    • 30
      Willard
      March 27, 2012 - 11:20 | Permalink

      We just posted Deep Brew as you were commenting. And… you’re not wrong. A lot of the Deep Brew snippets aren’t of the ‘put on and listen and groove’ variety. But, there are some longer segments that, with a little editing, will provide some listening pleasure. Thanks for the Zawinul story… that’s a good one.

  • 31
    Todd
    March 27, 2012 - 19:02 | Permalink

    Admittedly it will be Easter break before I will be able to REALLY get into all the MIles, but thanks!!!!

    And just out of curiosity, What’s #4 (and will we see it soon?)

    You are amazing!

  • 32
    ate2zee
    March 28, 2012 - 14:01 | Permalink

    Many thanks. I had the original, but your interesting comments force me to check this out.

  • 33
    Kwai Chang
    July 16, 2012 - 15:20 | Permalink

    Thanks, Willard
    I just wanted to help Grateful.
    I hope he isn’t doing this one…
    stir the pot…bitches brew:
    Bitches Brew Box Re-up:

    • 34
      Willard
      July 17, 2012 - 17:16 | Permalink

      MANY thanks Kwai.

      • 35
        Kwai Chang
        July 17, 2012 - 19:15 | Permalink

        A great moment in my life was when Willard posted the last flurry of Miles. It is a great chunk of music that I almost missed. That would’ve been ugly. Thanks, for allowing the re-up. That way, we get better Milage!
        So What? You Bet!
        …and kinda blue too.
        Thanks, everyone!

        • 36
          Willard
          July 17, 2012 - 19:22 | Permalink

          Thanks again. Sorry it took awhile. The spam machine here holds posts with links and I’m sometimes behind in checking them. I appreciate the help, as always.

  • 37
    gotti3
    July 19, 2012 - 00:37 | Permalink

    thanks for the tunes had this and the hd took a crap. Keep up the good work.
    thanks again

  • 38
    Andrew
    December 14, 2012 - 14:25 | Permalink

    So I came by your blog yesterday to try out a little electric period Miles Davis to see if I might be more into it this time than I was a few years ago. I am, I definitely am. Thanks for helping me broaden my horizons once again. Have a great day.

    And this is not a complaint in any way, just wanted to let you know that the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions Disc 2 link is down.

    • 39
      Willard
      December 14, 2012 - 14:31 | Permalink

      Thanks. It’s not a complaint… I need to know these things.

      New links up, thanks again.

      • 40
        Andrew
        December 14, 2012 - 22:51 | Permalink

        Holy crap! Thanks for the super quick re-up. I’ve been annoying my girlfriend with my “Miles is a genius, blah, blah, blah’” all day thanks to all your terrific posts. I can’t really speak for her, but you’ve made my day.

        • 41
          Willard
          December 14, 2012 - 23:07 | Permalink

          Girls never get Miles. Try pumping some drugs into her, that might help. Or, start her off with some wine and Kind Of Blue, here.

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