Bitches Brew | Classic

Classic Albums Miles Davis

With this year being its 50th birthday, the monumental significance of Bitches Brew for both Music and Miles Davis is clearer than ever.

It is simultaneously the most ambitious, and most difficult release in the Miles Davis discography. Every release up to Bitches Brew is incorporated sonically into the album, whether that be the modal improvisations on Kind of Blue, or the spacier fusion foundations of In A Silent Way (see the opener "Pharoah's Dance"). It is the defining moment of the experimental efforts of Miles which marked a turning point in his musical pursuits, as he would go onto leave his club roots towards festival stages and continue down the wilder side of Jazz Fusion (see 1972's On the Corner).

The 94-minute double album is an expansive, morphing sonic beast. Miles fully commits to the electronic, rock and funk sounds (see 2nd disc opener "Spanish Key"), which launches the album into a creative league of its own. It demands an 'open mind' to Jazz music and a strong listener to begin to grasp just what is happening on this mind-expanding opus.

For new listeners, the record is also a baseline introduction to seminal musicians in both Miles Davis and Jazz canons. With Miles granting further creative freedom to the ensemble present, their ability shines brighter than ever. The immortal John McLaughlin (also given the title of the fourth track), remains a focus and shows him at his inception into Jazz legend. McLaughlin would go on to form Mahavishnu Orchestra the following year (The Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire are both essential listening). Wayne Shorter (Saxophone) and Joe Zawinul (Electric Piano) would also form another seminal fusion act, Weather Report, and would release their self-titled debut the following year. Finally, the album's producer, Teo Macero, by this time had already produced the legendary Time Out from the David Brubeck Quartet. This album's ties to Jazz legend are inextricable, making it a monumental collaboration between some of the genre's greatest artists.

Miles was initially accused of selling out at the time by Jazz conservatives, but instead, the album brought the opposite effect as it attracted a different demographic of rock listeners, but did so by an appreciation, not an appropriation of their sounds (which they initially stole from Miles, according to Miles). By doing so, Miles continued the legacy and relevancy of Jazz, pushing it back into the spotlight at the time, and renewing it for a new generation. It is not a simple album to discuss.

We could talk about this one for days. But instead, we simply implore you to listen to it as soon as possible. It remains innovative and boundary-pushing, even fifty years on.

(Ed note: a recommended approach to fully appreciate Bitches Brew is to start with the following MD albums (in order): Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain and In a Silent Way. Once you've got your head around those you're ready for Bitches Brew)

Available in the Store now, alongside the other seminal works of Miles Davis.

For anyone wanting to deep dive into the history behind this, we recommend the 2019 documentary 'Birth of the Cool' and the Miles Davis autobiography. 


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