Miles Davis – Bitches Brew Live (Columbia/Legacy)

By Mark Youll | 24th March, 2011 | album reviews |

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew Live

Miles Davis

Bitches Brew Live

Record label: Columbia/Legacy

Release date: February 7th 2011

Verdict: ***

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Tailing the stream of broad box sets and lavish re-issues the Columbia label recently rolled out to rejoice Davis’ far-flung fusion period, this dynamic and typically uncompromising live set (clawing from Davis’ appearances at the Newport and Isle Of Wight festivals-’69 and ’70 respectively), stays faithful to the label’s eye for detail, and more importantly, this weighty part of the Miles story.

Any live collection with its repertoire sucked purely from one of the most influential and talked about records in jazz (and rock) is sure to attain full marks, especially when, as with this release, it looms every bit as large as its parent studio masterpiece. In fact, much of the spliced orchestration and hard to swallow arrangements that, at times, punctured part of the original album’s momentum are reworked here with a loose spontaneity throughout, notably during the stretched out funk drill of ‘Bitches Brew’, the gutsy groove of ‘Spanish Key’ or the less amorphous reading of ‘Directions’, allowing Davis and his luminary cast of soloists free reign on this master work.

“...much of the spliced orchestration and hard to swallow arrangements that, at times, punctured part of the original album’s momentum are reworked here with a loose spontaneity throughout.”

Those already familiar, or even intimate, with the eerie yet hypnotic Isle of Wight set – ablaze with Holland’s buttery bass hooks, DeJohnette’s frenetic drumming and Airto’s quaking percussion, not to mention some winning contributions from Jarrett and Corea – will most likely look to the previously unreleased Newport show for fresh kicks. It’s here within the confines of a stripped down quartet set up (saxophonist Wayne Shorter was due to perform but got held up in traffic) that Davis truly steals and steers this show. During the flittering psyche-soul of ‘Miles Runs the Voodoo Down’ he holds a tighter grip on his group, navigating more intently and essaying a party of his slickest chops, reflective of his playing during his avant-bop quintet period of the mid-sixties. This drive sustains into the vivacious double-time disorder of ‘It’s About That Time’ before climaxing into a wash of rousing interplay led by DeJohnette’s almost tribal attack.

Bitches Brew Live documents Miles Davis’ fearless mission to rival the rock idiom, armed with some of Jazz’s finest musicians executing some of his most testing, political and compelling material to date, and drawn from an album so many would disclose as the least coherent record of his career. Just listen out for the applause, it can still be heard today.

Originally published on Jazzwise.com, January 24th, 2011.