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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show


Straight No Chaser is the place for jazz lovers (and those who will soon be jazz lovers) to enjoy podcasts with their favorite music and artists. Winner of the 2017 JazzTimes Readers' Poll for Best Podcast, your host Jeffrey Siegel will take you inside the world of jazz, from the new releases to the best festiva;s to remembrances of jazz legends.

Aug 19, 2019

In Podcast 665 in February, Ashley Kahn joined me to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the recording of Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way. Considered the start of Miles’ “Electric Period”, the album was a progenitor of fusion, jazz-rock and ambient music. Our conversation then shifted to the making of Bitches Brew, the highly divisive and innovative double album he would record 6 months later.  Having returned from performing with some of his new band members in Antibes, he recorded in Columbia Studios in New York form August 19-21, 1969. As a point of reference, the Woodstock Festival had ended just the day before.

Podcast 696 is that talk, as Ashley addresses the influences that lead Miles and his band – the core of which was Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Chick Corea and Jack DeJohnette, supplemented by the likes of Bernie Maupin on bass clarinet, Joe Zawinul and Larry Young on electric piano, John McLaughlin on guitar, Harvey Brooks on bass, and Lenny White, Don Alias, Billy Cobham, Juma Santos and Airto Moreira on drums and percussion, came to record what is no recognized as a masterpiece. The album would be released on March 30, 1970.

We also discuss whether, to paraphrase critic Stanley Crouch, Bitches Brew represents “the most brilliant sellout in the history of jazz.” Ashley believes otherwise, as do I. To me, Bitches Brew was the perfect storm of the times. Electric music had taken over the popular consciousness, R&B and Soul music had begun morphing into funk in the hands of Sly Stone (and his bassist Larry Graham) and James Brown, and there was increasing acceptance of the cross-pollination of musical styles. Think of the sounds the Jimi Hendrix was making at Woodstock and with his Band of Gypsies to see how experimentation had blossomed at the time. Add to that the development of increased studio technology and savvy, and it seemed almost inevitable that a musical visionary like Miles Davis would make his move toward electric music.

Bitches Brew also marked an early use of “the studio as instrument” as producer Teo Macero made tape loops, varying effects and intense edits to re-structure the recorded versions of the compositions. For example, the 20 minute track called “Pharaoh’s Dance” that took up the first side of the double album was constructed with 19 distinct edits by Macero.

Along with my talk with Ashley, Podcast 696 features excerpts from the Bitches Brew sessions, including “John McLaughlin” and an edited version of the title track, ”Bitches Brew" plus an edit of "Call It Anything" from the Davis Group's (Davis, Gary Bartz, Jarrett, Corea, Holland, DeJohnette and Airto) performance at the Isle of Wight Rock Festival a little over a year after Bitches Brews was recorded.