Bitches Brew

Not Rated

Miles' music continues to grow in its beauty, subtlety and sheer magnificence. Bitches' Brew is a further extension of the basic idea he investigated in his two previous albums, Filles De Kilimanjaro and In A Silent Way. In a larger sense, however, the record is yet another step in the unceasing process of evolution Miles has undergone since the Forties. The man never stops to rest on his accomplishments. Driven forward by a creative elan unequaled in the history of American music, he incorporates each successive triumph into the next leap forward.

The wonderful thing about Miles' progress is that he encourages others to grow with him. Within the context of his sound there is more than enough room for both his musicians and his listeners to pursue their own special visions. Looking back on the history of Miles' ensemble, we find the likes of John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, and Wayne Shorter. He always seems to select the best young jazzmen in the country and then gives them the freedom to develop their own unique modes of playing. Miles is known to be a stern disciplinarian, but never a tyrant. When a man has performed with the group long enough to gain a firm footing, he leaves as a recognized giant on his instrument.

The present Miles Davis organization is certainly no exception to this tradition. There is more pure talent here than in any group of any kind currently performing. Chick Corea's piano is so full of technical and conceptual innovations that one is caught between a feeling of wonderment and the gnawing question, "I wonder how he does all those things?" It was about a year ago that a Downbeat reviewer went totally ga-ga trying to understand Chick's playing (he gave it "no stars" and complained about how far out it was), so rather than risk the record reviewer's funny farm I'll just ask you to listen to it.

Dave Holland's bass and Jack DeJonette's drums lay down the amorphous rhythmic patterns for Miles' electrified sound. To put it briefly, these chaps have discovered a new way to cook, a way that seems just as natural and just as swinging as anything jazz has ever known. The soloists on the album — Wayne Shorter on soprano sax, Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet and John McLaughlin on electric guitar — are fully accustomed to this new groove and take one solid solo after another.

The freedom which Miles makes available to his musicians is also there for the listener. If you haven't discovered it yet, all I can say is that Bitches' Brew is a marvelous place to start. This music is so rich in its form and substance that it permits and even encourages soaring flights of imagination by anyone who listens. If you want, you can experience it directly as a vast tapestry of sounds which envelop your whole being. You'll discover why fully one third of the audience at Miles' recent Fillmore West appearances left the hall in stunned silence, too deeply moved to want to stay for the other groups on the bill. As a personal matter, I also enjoy Miles' music as a soft background context for when I want to read or think deeply. In its current form, Miles' music bubbles and boils like some gigantic cauldron. As the musical ideas rise to the surface, the listener also finds his thoughts rising from the depths with a new clarity and precision. Miles is an invaluable companion for those long journeys you take into your imagination.

But don't let my cerebral bent influence your listening. Whatever your temperament, Bitches' Brew will reward in direct proportion to the depth of your own involvement.

From The Archives Issue 4: January 20, 1968