Fess me up on Miles Davis

So 'Powz is flipping through some of the 91,000-odd songs in his music library, and Miles Davis is the flavour-of-the-week. From a musician’s point of view, WTF! Pharoah’s Dance/Bitches Brew…is that shit written down when they record/play? I have recorded in studios with my band, but we never wrote any of our material down - except for lyrics - we didn’t have to, there was a pattern/formula. It was a song, in the simplest of terms.

I put this shit on and I feel like I am living in a movie that is being watched on a 1971 Zenith 25" color TV with a dial for VHF and one for UHF(but you have to turn the VHF dial to “U” for UHF, and nothing ever comes in on “U”).

I was expecting “Take Five”.

Both Miles and Brubeck are considered to be in the cool jazz genre, but Miles did a lot of experimentation beyond just time signatures (a la Brubeck) that isn’t pleasing to a lot of ears, including mine. I don’t care for Bitches Brew myself. For the type of music you’re expecting, Birth of the Cool and Kinda Blue are going to be more in that line.

I understood that Miles in that era was using a multitrack studio and that this was a serious departure for jazz musicians (he started going multitrack with “In a Silent Way”). The freedom to record parts separately may have contributed to the more freeform nature of his music at that time.

The Different kind of Blue DVD might be of interest to you. It’s a bunch of interviews with the musicians Miles used during the Bitches Brew period. The highlight is his band’s performance at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970.

Pharoah’s Dance is actually a Joe Zawinul tune, so it probably came about differently than Miles’ tunes. My favorite on the Bitches Brew album is Spanish Key. One of the musicians described playing Call it Anything at Isle of Wight kind of like Miles riding herd on the band, letting them stretch out, but then stepping in with a figure or some other direction when things started getting out of hand. They didn’t use charts.

“Fess me up”? :confused: Is that a jazz term? What does it mean?

“Fess you up” indeed. Anyway, Miles used a lot of structure and improvising. Structure in terms of blocking out the chords of a song and improvising in terms of leaving the space open for soloists to do what they felt. With Kind of Blue, he famously pencilled down a few chords on a piece of paper and organized the combo within that - otherwise, they opened up and stretched out with their lead work.

And while Take Five is cool jazz as is Kind of Blue - Miles’ 70’s stuff is Fusion, not cool jazz.

**'Powz - check out A Tribute to Jack Johnson **for that era of Miles at its finest…

Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane (among others) are not for the average Jazz fan, just like Louis XIII is not for every drinker of Cognac.

They are to Jazz what Jazz is to “standard musical progression and structure”.

It’s o.k. if you don’t “get them”. It is truly an acquired taste.

That being said, you might want to grab his CD called “Doo-Bop”. It features Miles’ horn over hip hop beats.

It’s a little easier on the ears.

Also Bags Groove. The three of them are his most prominent '50s albums. Each one is trailblazing, although Bags Groove is most notable for breaking Sonny Rollins to fame and for bringing Miles and Monk together (rare).

Hear it from the man himself Miles Davis Interview 1984 Part I and dozens of other interview clips, not to mention oodles of clips of his music from all eras.

Bear in mind, as much a musical genius as Miles was, he was an equally fucked-up human being.

I’m not sure I completely agree. Davis’s Kind of Blue is pretty easy to get into (with its emphasis on melody and space) and, in my experience, universally loved by jazz fans and non-fans alike.

Bear in mind that those extended tracks on Bitches Brew were assembled in cut-and-paste fashion by Teo Macero, using editing techniques that were previously unheard of in jazz. Macero’s role as collaborator during Miles’s most innovative and experimental phase cannot be overstated.

I suspect that’s a tribute to Pharoah Sanders? He’s playing at the Portland Jazz Festival this year.