One finds synergy in the strangest of places. On August 19-20, 1969, as the Beatles concluded the last full band sessions for their peerless finale Abbey Road, a rock era ended and a new phase in jazz began. Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, John McLaughlin, Jack DeJohnette, Bernie Maupin, and company followed the enigmatic genius Miles Davis into Columbia Studio B to begin work on what would evolve into Bitches Brew, a recording that stands alone to this day.
If anyone could stare the devil down it would be Miles, and Bitches Brew (both in its original 2LP/CD form and this newly expanded 4-CD edition) is proof positive of who won the match. Frightening in scope and beauty, Davis not only incorporated the young jazz lions of the music’s next phase fusion he set out to meld the rock/funk of Hendrix and Sly with then cutting-edge studio effects of reverb, over dubbing and tape editing to create a music of hauntingly original vision.
For some, four disks may dilute the original burnt offering (featured here as Disk 1 and tracks 1 & 2 on Disk 2), but taken in part, disk by disk, a majesty of discovery of just how elastic the music and the boundaries previously placed upon it truly are comes into the light. Our minds stretch too, gratefully, refreshingly, to encompass each harmonic nuance and voice as the music slinks to a boil, spilling over to nestle like a serpent in the warm, roiling subconscious.
And that’s the scarey thing. You will return to some part of this magnificent art even as that little voice inside your head goads you to something safer. It’s that feeling of unknown danger, perceived or real.
It is needing to see how close to the edge you can get. . .just like Miles.