I‘m still not sure what Stanley Crouch is so afraid of.  Is it because this is neither rock nor jazz, and certainly not a single sub-genre that we’d call funk, soul or blues, but yet somehow it’s any-and-all of those at same time?  Is it the simple improvised motives that make for highly complex composition, with each man playing his own heart out, to his own beat,  instep with the rhythm of a cohesive unit.   Is it the appropriation and re-appropriation of black and white culture, back and forth, until we’re given something uniquely colorblind?

You can’t box this shit in.

Admittedly, half (and perhaps the best) of these recordings were released during the CD and streaming error.  But then again, would we shun a newly discovered Picasso, just because that artist decided to store it away beneath his cellar steps during his lifetime?  Each recording reveals its own historical and sonic significance, to be appreciated in the context of today, as much as they should in the context of 40+ years back.

Many of these recording closely follow the release of Bitches Brew, with Miles immediately launching into Directions (not on Bitches Brew, nor even written by Miles himself).   The 2004 DVD A Different Kind Of Blue refreshed a lot of eyes , with its inclusion of the full 38 minute Isle of Wight Performance, captured again on the Bitches Brew Live CD in 2011 (Along with a few gems from a later Newport gig, but more on those elsewhere).  Start here.  This is just plain mean.  Dave Holland driving his Fender Precision to distortion, gives the listener something to groove to, to hum, to keep us on the ground while the rest of the group takes us in batshit crazy directions.  Make no mistake – these simple bass lines sound easy only because they come so effortlessly to Holland.   Soprano Saxophonist Gary Bartz comes out of relative obscurity.  And while perhaps not of the same melodic caliber as Wayne Shorter before him,  Bartz leaves us with a more fervent impression that really shines through on Directions and Spanish Key.   These are rock sensibilities, being played with a jazz virtuosic technique. Just try to contemplate having another duo (on the same instrument, nonetheless) as strong as Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett in any other context – almost unfathomable.   Here, both are hyper-focused on stretching the modal harmonies, leveraging every rhythmic technique known to either, to paint new and unique soundscapes.  This is all relatively new to both of them, and you can hear a bit of struggle and hesitancy in both their playing, but with that come across a daring courageousness and audacity as well. And of course, Miles is on top of his game here.  Having re-imagined himself numerous times (and revolutionizing the state of music each time along the way), at 43 years old Miles shows no signs of restraint.

Bitches Brew, Sanctuary and Spanish Key are compelling versions of their studio counterparts, and It’s About That Time begins to barely resemble the languid track from In a Silent Way.  These tunes are as integral to the Miles canon as are So What, All Blues or Four.  You listen-to, ingest, ponder Bitches Brew (the studio album).  Bitches Brew Live leaves you just thinking ‘Holy Fuck’.

Next: Agharta and Pangaea

 

Rating: 95/100

 

Key Tracks:

Directions
It’s About That Time
Spanish Key