Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010

The Miles Davis Legacy

By David Luhrssen
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‚Ä®The DVD is the significant new addition to the latest repackaging of a Miles Davis class, Bitches Brew: Legacy Edition. The disc is composed of a previously unreleased concert at Copenhagenís Tivoli Konsertsal from November 1969. Nearly six months before the April 1960 release of Bitches Brew, considered one of the seminal albums of that creative and confused epoch, it reveals that Davis and band were well under way to developing the sound that would change the face of jazz for at least a decade.‚Ä®‚Ä®

Captured on multiple cameras in close-ups and long shots, the band performs on a bare wooden stage with minimal microphones and amplification. The rhythm section rose and fell from calm to frenzied as slivers of melody came and went. It was a concert audience listening politely and hopefully intently. Although dressed in flamboyant shirt and vest, Davis allowed no hint of the theatrical, no touch of show business. This music would not be entertaining, at least not as entertainment is usually defined.



And yet it opened a floodgate of second raters and third stringers holding forth loudly with a form of music that mutated into the soundtrack for Michelob and other nightlife libations. Fusion became the easy if usually misconstrued label for what Davis did on Bitches Brew and it threatened to sweep away traditional jazz.



The original Bitches Brew album and the alternative takes that comprise the Legendary setís other two discs beg a question: Why was it to influential? Davisí music was his imaginative response to a popular music scene that had left jazz behind in favor of rock, soul and funk. Aside from playing with amplification, Bitches Brew suggests the staccato beat and texture of rock; sometimes itís funky, albeit the urge to dance is purely abstract. Unmistakably, it was jazz in its slippery chording and the history heard in Davisí trumpet, sounding in short cool segments.

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