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Miles Davis - Bitches Brew CD (album) cover

BITCHES BREW

Miles Davis

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.25 | 641 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Bitches Brew' - Miles Davis (8/10)

Held as one of the most celebrated works of one of the most celebrated artists of our time, Miles Davis' 'Bitches Brew' is a work of art that will never be forgotten for as long as jazz is around. Regardless of individual opinion, the album's status as a classic is now established as a fact. Looking past the masterful ensemble performances standard of Davis' recordings, 'Bitches Brew' holds a very influential place in the world of jazz. Although the previous work 'In A Silent Way' helped outline the fundaments of the then-revolutionary 'fusion' style, it was here where Miles Davis nailed down the elements and proved that 'Silent' was not just a one-off experiment. We have here, a sprawling double album, a work heavy on improvisation and subtle performance. The loose nature of 'Bitches Brew' may keep some listeners from connecting with it on an emotional level, but the sheer skill and chemistry of Davis' company is more than enough to plant the album as one of jazz' most enduring recordings.

Particularly on the first half of this journey, the music of 'Bitches Brew' is divided between urbane improvisations, and more collected passages. The most evidently composed sections of 'Bitches Brew' are actually the most challenging. They rarely evoke 'themes', but rather pursue a sense of subtle atmosphere. 'Pharaoh's Dance' and 'Bitches Brew' both feature sections where the band softens up, and a moody atmosphere takes over. Although jazz is usually not a style of music that I find atmospheric in an emotional sense, Davis incorporates very eerie, even creepy moments into the jams. Not only does it help break up the longwinded nature of the music, but it also adds a jarring element to the music that may not have been so evident otherwise. This atmospheric tension would be elaborated upon in later works of his, such as 'Aura'. Here however, they are a relatively minor aspect of the music, but they're fiendishly effective.

Perhaps more than any other form of modern music, the potential for success in jazz music lies in the playing skill of the musicians themselves, even overriding composition. Miles Davis' sense of direction definitely leans towards an apocalyptic and ever-jarring feel, but his greatest accomplishment here is being able to draw together talent meshes. Some of the era's greatest jazz icons are here to perform, including future Mahavishnu Orchestra guitarist John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Many of these instruments have been 'electrified', in the sense that the sound is no longer purely organic, but amped up and often modified. The electric piano is the most notable fusion element here, almost perpetually backing up the soloists with challenging chord progressions and tight flourishes. The aptly titled 'John McLaughin' may be the most fusion-heavy track on the album, focusing on the eponymous guitarist's inventive guitar explorations. As the album's shortest piece, it is also the best put together, and a bit of a refreshment from the indulgent jams that usually dominate 'Bitches Brew'. Indeed, the length is the most challenging aspect of the album, and like so many albums that seek to break the double-length barrier, I will say that the same message could have been conveyed with less time. Of course, Miles Davis and company aren't rushing to get anywhere here. Instead, they are taking a few themes, and going wherever the music takes them. Some listeners may find themselves wanting a more dynamic composition, but the performance lends more than enough subtlety to engage a listener fully. 'Bitches Brew' may lack the timeless hooks of his top tier work, but his performance talent is as clear as ever.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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