Miles' free-form fusion albums

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by moley, Jan 22, 2003.

  1. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I've just been listening to Miles' double album Big Fun. And yesterday I was listening to Bitches Brew, and the day before it was In A Silent Way. Tomorrow I imagine it will be On The Corner.

    What do you guys think of this stuff? Obviously Bitches Brew is one of the most important Jazz albums ever made. But what do you guys really think of the music? I must say, it doesn't do *that* much for me, at the moment... I guess I just don't see the genius of it at the moment. When I listen to Bitches Brew, I don't think "man, these guys were incredible". I mean, they were, as players, but that recording doesn't say that to me. It says "Look, we can all solo at once". Great.

    Perhaps I'm too into form, from a compositional point of view, but half-hour free form jams like "Great Expectations" from Big Fun - just don't do it for me like So What does.

    Perhaps I'll grow to appreciate them. But it's Miles' playing on Kinda Blue, and Chick's playing on Spain, and Herbie's playing on Dolphin Dance and Chameleon and the like that make me think "Yeah, these guys were the ****".

    I do like Herbie's music in that sorta vein however. He did three albums with his Mwandishi sextet in the early 70s - "Mwandishi", "Crossings" & "Sextant" - which I dig. To an extent, anyway. I still prefer Herbie's Funk, and his acoustic Jazz.

    I guess I'm just missing something about it.

  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I like "In a Silent Way" - it's very listenable and my girfriend even likes it - although she's not really into Jazz - it's very relaxing!

    I have also played it to Jazz players/fans who thought they didn't like Miles electric period and they were suprsied at how they actually liked it - the relaxed feel and great trumpet sound.

    But the rest is hated by most people I know - did you watch "Happiness" - the new BBC comedy starring Paul Whitehouse etc.

    So he gets set up for a blind date with this attractive woman and she plays him a bit of "Bitches Brew" as erotic foreplay back at her flat and he hates it!! He can't take her seriously because of it!! :D
  3. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Wow, I wish I could find an attractive girl that would play me a Miles album as 'erotic foreplay' background music! :D :D
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    But the point is that he hates "Bitches Brew" so much he can't "get it on" !!

    On the BBC website they post the music used for each episode of this show - they must be proud of this - so this is the one I was talking about :

    Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
    Lagowski - Blue Anomaly
    DJ Shadow - Fixed Income
    Chromium feat. Adam Howard - Get Together
    DJ Shadow - Giving Up the Ghost
    Free - Little Bit of Love
    The Average White Band - Let's Go Round Again
    The Isley Brothers - Live It Up
    Mozart - Piano Concerto No 21 in C Major
    Mozart - Piano Sonata in A Major
    Tom Jones / Mousse T - Sex Bomb
    Mozart - Symphony No 40 in G Major 'Adante'
    Steve Miller Band - The Joker
    Sister Sledge - Thinking of You
    B. Conrad /S. Keaton - Ultramarine
  5. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Heh, it wouldn't stop me :D
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes - I think you have to listen to - Live at the Plugged Nickel - best Jazz live album of all time for many critics - but it also explains the gap between Miles acoustic studio albums and where he was going. Also Nefertiti and things like that, with his last great acoustic quintet.
  7. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I've got Miles Smiles. At that time, he was approaching the sort of thing heard on In A Silent Way & Bitches Brew - but still a long way off. I've not got Live At The Plugged Nickel though.

    I suppose this is what comes of listening to this stuff 30-35 years later, and somewhat out of context.
  8. bassbloke


    Feb 26, 2002
    All I can do is report my own experience.

    For many years I was a big acoustic Miles fan but had a prejudice against electric Miles. The only ones I knew were "In A Silent Way", "Jack Johnson" and "Big Fun". I thought the first two were ok, but nothing special, I couldn't understand their stellar critical reputation as being the electric Miles even acoustic Miles fans would love. "Big Fun" (bought 'cos I liked the cover, I think) I just didn't get at all. I purposefully avoided "Bitches Brew", convinced I would hate it.

    About three years ago I was in the record library and saw a copy of BB and thought, what the h*ll, lets try it. I put it in my car stereo and to my utter surprise, within a couple of days I LOVED that album. Now I'm a complete convert: "On The Corner", "Pangaea", "Agharta" I love 'em all. Even the 80's stuff like "Amandla" has some great moments.

    Great music that prejudice kept me from hearing for many years.

    (Having said that, I still don't like it as much as Kind of Blue, or the string of masterpieces he did with Wayne Shorter/Herbie Hancock/Tony Williams and Ron Carter - definitely my favourite Miles band.)
  9. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I still can't get beyond my beloved "Kind of Blue." I reckon that makes me a Neanderthal in jazz circles. But as Miles Davis once musically asked, "So what?":cool:
  10. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I bought Bitches Brew in '76 'cause I heard it was "the Fusion record"...I did not dig it or get it.
    In the '90s, I bought the Complete Bitches Brew on cd(great deal) began to make sense. Plus what Ed said about what these sessions "produced".
    In the past couple years, I have gone on an electric '70s Miles' kick; I already had Black Beauty, Live-Evil, On The Corner, & Jack Johnson...I added Agharta, Panagea, Big Fun, Get Up With It, & It's About That Time.

    As Ed said, it is very THICK.
    I can see if you're hung up on "form", then this will be "difficult". Maybe some of it falls into the "energy playing" vibe...I dunno. To me, it's still sounds "fresh" today.
    I know as I've gotten older I've become less interested in "form"(though that may be the result of laziness on my part).
    That said, I do still dig & enjoy Miles' great acoustic bands...they're timeless & will always be listened to.

    As far as the "Great, we can all 'solo' at once"...there ya go, that's a major component of Ornette's Harmolodics. Everyone(even the rhythm section) is a "front-line player".
    "Call It Anything"...I'm down with that! ;)

    BTW, I just picked up Don Cherry's Brown Rice album...very '70s BB Miles' sounding. ;)
  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Nothing wrong with that at all! I do wish you'd check out Coltrane's A Love Supreme, though.

    A very good book about Miles' "electric explorations" is Paul Tingen's Miles Beyond...highly recommended. ;)
  12. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Indeed. It just seems to be that this music doesn't encapsulate some of the elements of Jazz that I really do dig - i.e. the thing of accompanying a soloist. The bass, the piano, the drums are all accompanying the soloist, and they're all improvising, but not soloing. Important distinction. Each has their own role, but they're all improvising as one. Whereas you kinda lose that when everyone's a soloist. As far as the players go, it also doesn't display, to me, what's great about them. To me, In A Silent Way doesn't display all that's great about Herbie's playing - the same goes for Chick, and Zawinul. That's just my impression, I'm not standing by it.
  13. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I'll add that to the books-to-get list then :) However, Mark Levine's Jazz Theory Book (which have now decided they don't have available :() and all 3 Sher Real Books are above it :eek:
  14. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    That's a deep schism there.
    Many argue this on a hourly basis over at Jazz Corner...pretty heated at times, too.
    Personally, I like it all; as mentioned, I grew up with the more traditional stuff(bop, swing, hard Bop/Post Bop)...lately I have been leaning more towards the 'free-er' stuff(IMO, almost like Modern Classical...& that's yet another heated debate if you call this kinda stuff anything but "Jazz"!). to see the local hockey team get crushed.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well, the more Jazz players I've met, the more I've realised that it is a music that works best without egos and that the best players don't need to keep proving themselves as long as they feel they're part of good music.

    I was first attracted to fusion as a sort of bravura virtuoso thing and this sort of added to the rock excitment of grooves and energy. But I don't necessarily think now, that this is what Jazz as such is about at all and was an experiment of its time - but Jazz carries on and people are making interesting music all the time that is about putting egos aside.

    All the Jazz educators in the UK, that I've come across, are always trying to stress this point and particularly to bassists - as in, if you're looking for glory, then being a Jazz bassist is the last place to start! ;)
  16. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Coincidentally, my son did give me "A Love Supreme" for Christmas. As of this moment I haven't even opened it, but I will do so today, just for you.:cool:

    Oh, I am very much "hung up on form." I guess it is because music serves a different purpose for me than for fans of free jazz. To show you the extent, I have been listening to sound bites of Coltranes "Music for Lovers" or something to that affect at I think I'll buy it for a Valentines Day gift to myself as I really appreciate his sound on that album. In fact, it may even come close to "Kind of Blue" as a favorite.
  17. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    You know things are getting bad when... :D :D
  18. slam

    slam Guest

    Mar 22, 2000
    When I first bought Bitches Brew a few years ago I didnt really like it that much. When I got Live-Evil I thought that it was some of the strangest music I had ever heard. But I have grown to love this era of Miles' music. Miles was trying to stretch his boundaries IMO and I have never heard any other music quite like it. African jazz-funk space music.

    My favorites from this period are:

    Bitches Brew, in particular "Spanish Key" and "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down"

    Jack Johnson

    Live-Evil, I prefer the live part more than the evil part.

    Dark Magus, in which Miles invites an extra guitar player and sax player to sit in at a live recording session at Carneige Hall.

    Agartha and Pangaea, live albums recorded on the same day, the early and the late show.
  19. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    You're right, but that wasn't exactly what I meant. I wasn't talking about it from an ego point of view, from a look-how-good-I-am point of view. When I was talking about it not displaying Herbie's best playing, I was thinking of the way he voices chords that alter the sound of the chord and complement the soloist, the way he swings, and the space he leaves. But when everyone's soloing, and there are no set chord progressions, it just doesn't come over, to me. I suppose that's one other reason the free form Jazz doesn't do it for me so much - harmony. I'm into harmony, and one thing I love about Herbie's playing is his chord voicings. But when there's no chord progression as such, the chords are more about sound, colour and texture, not so much harmonic structure.
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    It doesn't have to be like that - I mentioned before about at Jazz Summerschool, the tutors do some regular free playing as Duos/Trios. So the idea is that all their names (about 20 - 30 Jazz pros) are put in a hat and two or three are picked out at random by one of the audience of students. Then they just play with no pre-conceived ideas or time/chord sequence.

    But it has been one of the most popular things each year - people who only like Bebop or staight ahead Jazz were raving about how good it was. So - there was some really beautiful music created and it did have all sorts of harmonic interest - it just wasn't "chained" to a repeating, simple structure. It developed naturaly as a result of the interaction between the players and didn't necessarily sound "dissonant" in any way!