IASPM UK and Ireland Biennial Conference: Popular Music: Creativity, Practice and Praxis

Teo’s Brew – The Re-composition of Bitches Brew in the Studio

Susanne Anders, University of Salzburg

Table of Contents

  1. Brief introduction to the album Bitches Brew
  2. Pharaoh’s Dance example
  3. Bitches Brew – structured through edits
  4. Some remarks on the live versions of Bitches Brew

But firstly I want to give some remarks on the title of my paper. Jack DeJohnette stated in a feature in German Jazz Magazine JAZZthing & blue rhythm that after the sessions for the album Bitches Brew – which took place at Columbia Studio B in New York City from the 19th until the 21st of August 1969 – Teo Macero (who was the producer) took the tapes and cut out the parts he did not like. He then mixed the songs and sent them to Miles to listen to them. DeJohnette continues – and I quote: Miles was not patient enough for this kind of work […] (Jack DeJohnette, cited after: Reimer, Arne, ‘American Jazz Heroes, Staffel 2, Teil 6. Jack DeJohnette’, JAZZthing & blue rhythm, May 2015, p. 56, translation: mine.) Those statements led me to the conclusion that Teo Macero decided where and what kinds of edits were made. Thus the title “Teo’s Brew”. — As I was told recently that Miles wrote a letter to Teo Macero indicating the changes he wanted to have made to the material, the statement by DeJohnette was obviously misleading. This corresponds to Harvey Brooks remembering that Miles knew what he wanted to do – he had a plan before he went into the studio. I heard him argue with Teo over where an edit should be when they were assembling the album. (Harvey Brooks, cited after: Belden, Bob. ‘Miles Davis: The Bitches Brew Sessions’, in Booklet of: Davis, Miles. The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (1998), 4 CDs ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, COL 516251 2, 2004), p. 82.)


As I said in my abstract Miles Davis’s double LP Bitches Brew – which was published on the 30th of March 1970 – does not only take a special position in Miles’s own discography but is said to be a starting point for the so-called “Jazz Rock” or “Fusion Jazz”. Like the previous Album In a Silent Way (published one year earlier) it combines Jazz with Rock elements.

But compared to In a Silent Way there were some changes regarding the musicians on Bitches Brew: Although most of the musicians stayed the same – namely Wayne Shorter on saxophone, Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul on piano, John McLaughlin on guitar, and Dave Holland on bass – Herbie Hancock was replaced by Larry Young on piano and Jack DeJohnette entered instead of Tony Williams on the drums. Additionally a number of musicians was added to the group: Harvey Brooks – who also played bass on Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone – played the electric bass, with Don Alias and Lenny White two additional drummers came in, Jumma Santos joined for percussion, and Bennie Maupin played the bass clarinet which added – to quote DeJohnette again – the mysterious sounds (Jack DeJohnette, cited after: Reimer, Arne, ‘American Jazz Heroes, Staffel 2, Teil 6. Jack DeJohnette’, JAZZthing & blue rhythm, May 2015, p. 56, translation: mine.).

The recording sessions for this album are said to have been three days of improvisation in the studio. Or as Harvey Brooks has pointed out – and I quote: Miles was recording like the way we would write songs. You know, you just jam until you find something and that becomes part of the song. He would have us play and we would finish a section and he would say ‘Go on, Go on!’ and we would keep playing. (Harvey Brooks, cited after: Belden, Bob. ‘Miles Davis: The Bitches Brew Sessions’, in Booklet of: Davis, Miles. The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (1998), 4 CDs ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, COL 516251 2, 2004), p. 82.) However, the edits in the studio – especially in the case of Pharaoh’s Dance and Bitches Brew – are obvious.


As one example I want to pick out a part of Pharaoh’s Dance. It starts at 8’29’’ and ends at 8’40’’.

_Pharaoh's Dance_ 8'27''155 – 9'00''887
spectrogram 1: Pharaoh’s Dance (8'27'’155–9'00'’887).

This phrase begins with a piano chord which is followed by a short solo motive by Miles which also includes the characteristic half tone glissando Miles used since the 1965 album E.S.P.. Then you can hear a short piano motive which Bob Belden calls “2-beat phrase” in his remarks discussing the recording and post-production of the album in the booklet of The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (which were published in 1998). In the middle of this motive you can hear someone talking in the background. Unfortunately one cannot understand what is said, maybe it is an instruction or something similar. The small yellow markers above the waveform show where the voice can be heard. The whole phrase can be heard again some seconds later – right after those loops which Bob Belden calls “echo trumpet”. As you can see, this second phrase is an exact repetition of the first one – including the voice. At the end there are added four loops of the “2-beat phrase” – also including the voice. Since in the loops the voice is barely hearable I assume that Teo Macero tried to eliminate it.


Now for the title song of the album, Bitches Brew. Belden offers a brief description of the “original” and of the final structure in his before mentioned liner notes. Since I have no access to the original tapes I have to believe him when he writes that – and I quote: The rubato section (part 2) was assembled to a length of 6:00 from two takes. Then, for reasons unknown, the back half […] begins the performance. (Belden, Bob. ‘Miles Davis: The Bitches Brew Sessions’, in Booklet of: Davis, Miles. The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (1998), 4 CDs ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, COL 516251 2, 2004), p. 82.) I put all edits Belden mentions in his notes into this spectrogram of the whole song:

_Bitches Brew_
spectrogram 2: Bitches Brew.

The song starts and ends with the “back half” of the “original part 2”. In the middle of the piece the first half of this second part can be heard (14’36). The “original part 1” follows the starting “back half” (2’50) and the first half (17’20). Additionally it can be heard at about 13’28. At about 10’31 starts a two-bar phrase played by Miles I want to show closer:

two-bar phrase
spectrogram 3: “two-bar phrase”.

As you can see this phrase is looped three times – and I quote Belden again: to create the sensation of melody, a phrase that is organized by editing. (Belden, Bob. ‘Miles Davis: The Bitches Brew Sessions’, in Booklet of: Davis, Miles. The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (1998), 4 CDs ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, COL 516251 2, 2004), p. 82.)


Four of the six songs of the album were performed live as well — namely Bitches Brew itself, Spanish Key, Miles Runs the Voodoo Down, and Sanctuary. All of those – except Bitches Brew – could be heard in performances which took place before the album sessions took place in August 1969.

Since of the two songs I talked about only Bitches Brew was performed live I want to give some short remarks on those performances of the piece I was able to listen to – which are the bold ones on this list:

  • 04–11–1969, Tivoli, Copenhagen
  • 05–11–1969, Folkets Hus, Stockholm
  • 07–11–1969, Berliner Jazztage
  • 07–03–1970, Fillmore East
  • 10–04–1970, Fillmore West
  • 17–06–1970, Fillmore East
  • 18–06–1970, Fillmore East
  • 19–06–1970, Fillmore East
  • 20–06–1970, Fillmore East
  • 18–08–1970, Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
  • 29–08–1970, Isle of Wright
  • 15–10–1970, Fillmore West
  • 22–10–1971, Newport Jazz Festival in Europe, Neue Stadthalle, Dietikon, Switzerland

Since at latest the 5th of November 1969 the live performances of Bitches Brew start with the same bass notes as the recorded and edited piece – which is, if I may say this again, the “back half” of the second part of the song on the master take. The concerts in autumn 1969 were played by the Second Miles Davis Quintet – which consisted of Wayne Shorter on Saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. Whereas the performance at Fillmore West on the 15th of October 1970 starts with the “groovier” part 1. Miles now plays live performances with electric instead of double bass and additional percussionists. The presumably latest live performance of this song on the 22nd of October 1971 starts with some Wah-Wah effects from Miles – he used to amplify his trumpet since around December 1970. At about 2’00 the bass of the first part enters.

Franz Kerschbaumer writes in his book Miles Davis: Stilkritische Untersuchungen zur musikalischen Entwicklung seines Personalstils – which was released in 1978 as part 5 of the Studies in Jazz Research – that the style Miles uses during his concerts in 1969 is very much the same as from 1965 onwards. This means the musicians played as a “classical“ quintet and Free Jazz elements – which were quite common with other Jazz musicians of that time such as Ornette Coleman – did not occur at the concerts until 1970. This corresponds to my “feeling” that the later live recordings of the song Bitches Brew are somewhat “funkier” than the earlier ones. And with the fact that for the concerts in the late 70s at least one additional percussionist was hired, Dave Holland on double bass was replaced by Michael Henderson on electric bass, and very often Keith Jarrett – who played the organ then – joined in too.

Jack DeJohnette – who played live shows with Miles from summer 1969 until 1970 – said in the interview mentioned before that – and I quote: With Miles the music changed in every concert we played. He never gave instructions but lead the group through his playing. (Jack DeJohnette, cited after: Reimer, Arne, ‘American Jazz Heroes, Staffel 2, Teil 6. Jack DeJohnette’, JAZZthing & blue rhythm, May 2015, p. 55, translation: mine.)

I have to investigate further how the live performances which took place before the recording sessions in August 1969 differ from the album versions and the later live performances. Sanctuary even was recorded in the studio before: at the 15th of February 1968 a first version of the song was played by the Second Miles Davis Quintet. On this recording George Benson joined the quintet for the guitar part. This early version can be found on the compilation Circle in the Round which was released in November 1979 and surely needs a closer look at.


References

  • Davis, Miles. In a Silent Way (1969), CD ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, 86556, 2002).
  • Davis, Miles. Bitches Brew (1970), 2 CDs ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, C2K 065774 2, 1999).
  • Davis, Miles. The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (1998), 4 CDs ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, COL 516251 2, 2004).
  • Davis, Miles. Bitches Brew. 40th Anniversary, 2 LPs + 3 CDs + DVD ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, 88697 70274 2, 2010).
  • Davis, Miles. Bitches Brew Live, CD ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, 88697 81485 2, 2011).
  • Davis, Miles. Miles Davis Quintet – Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2, 3 CDs + DVD ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, 88725 41853 2, 2013).
  • Davis, Miles. Miles at the Fillmore – Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3, 4 CDs ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, 8 87654 33812, 2014).
  • Davis, Miles. Live at the Fillmore West 15–10–70, CD (Hi Hat, HHCD001, 2015).
  • Davis, Miles. Miles Davis at Newport 1955–1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4, 4 CDs ([New York]: Columbia/Legacy, 8 88750 8 1952, 2015).
  • Kerschbaumer, Franz, Miles Davis: Stilkritische Untersuchungen zur musikalischen Entwicklung seines Personalstils (Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1978).
  • Reimer, Arne, ‘American Jazz Heroes, Staffel 2, Teil 6. Jack DeJohnette’, JAZZthing & blue rhythm, May 2015, pp. 54–56.