With the release tomorrow of the 4 disc set "Miles At The Fillmore: Miles Davis In 1970 - The Bootleg Series Volume 3" (http://www.milesdavis.com/us/news/miles-fillmore-miles-davis-1970-bootleg-series-vol-3-4cd-box-set-be-released-march-25) it seems like as good a time as any to start about Electric Miles - that wonderful period in Miles Davis' long career between 1968 and 1975 when jazz was either elevated to new heights or destroyed forever, depending on one's point of view.
First some minor housekeeping.
If you are unaware of it the website Miles Beyond (http://www.miles-beyond.com/) is a great source for information about this pivotal period in the history of jazz in spite of the fact that the primary purpose of the site seems to about getting you to buy the book "Miles Beyond". The site is worthwhile for the links alone.
Even though Miles continued to use electric instruments until his death in 1991 I am focusing on his first electric period from late 1968 until his 5 year hiatus beginning in 1975.
The start of Miles Davis' electric period is often taken to have started with the release of "Filles de Kilimanjaro" in late 1968 and which featured the use of both electric bass and electric piano. This was followed by "In A Silent Way" in 1969. Although "In A Silent Way" added John McLaughlin's electric guitar to the mix, the slow, quiet nature of the music only hinted at the full scale electric that was to follow later in the year with the release of the groundbreaking "Bitches Brew". "Bitches Bitch" was a full on electric assault on the foundations of jazz and to this day, 45 years later, remains the single most influential electric jazz recording ever made.
After "Bitches" the proverbial flood gates were opened and Miles just continued to turn up the heat. The commercial success of "Bitches Brew" extented beyond the usual jazz fans and into the vast market of rock and popular music fans and Miles skillfully rode the wave of new found popularity by adding more and more elements of rock music and culture into his music and persona. He adopted the wardrobe of rock musician and played in many rock concert halls alongside some of the biggest names in rock music. And his music just kept getting more and more outrageous.
While "Btiches Brew" went a long way in alienating many of Miles' long time fans there was still enough of a jazz feel to the music to keep a few of those fans hanging on by a thread so Miles completely cut that thin thread with 1971's "Live-Evil". The music on "Live-Evil" is firmly grounded in the sound and rhythms of rock music with a solid and steady bass line, scorching electric guitar and splashy electric piano (by none other than Keith Jarrett). "Evil" was soon followed by "A Tribute to Jack Johnson" a record that made absolutely no pretense at being a "jazz record" and fully embraced the sound of rock music.
Now there was on stopping the juggernaut of fusion, as this blending of jazz with rock music was called. Soon other electric jazz/fusion groups began to surface, many of them filled with alumni from Miles Davis' groups. Chick Corea's Return To Forever, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul's Weather Report and John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra were jst three of the better known of these groups along with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters and many others.
As time moved on so did Miles who expanded his musical palette by adding elements of funk into his music and more and more guitars. By the mid 1970s Miles' music consisted of a deep and dark funk drum and bass groove over which the other musicians and instruments laid down their solos. By the time 1972's "On the Corner" was recorded and released the funk was thick one could almost cut it with knife. Now that Miles at the formula down he just continued to expand and deepen the funk backbone of the music. In 1974 Miles took his show to NYC's Carnegie Hall, which was recorded and released initially only in Japan as "Dark Magus", and featured a three guitar front line filled with dark and funky wailing and Miles' electrified trumpet with plenty of wah-wah.
By the time 1975's dueling releases of "Agharta" and "Pangaea" ("Agharta" recorded at the afternoon show in Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan on February 1, 1975 and "Pangaea" at the evening show) Miles' needed a break from all the touring and began what would a end up being a 5 year long "retirement" and the end of first his "electric" period. But what an ending it is, with both recordings reaching new heights of electric funk chaos - for lack of a better way to describe this mind bending music.
I've only scratched the surface with the above history and over the years many more Miles Davis recordings from this pivotal period have been released and many other musicians and groups have recorded music in a similar style, often in tribute to Miles, such as the work of "Yo Miles!" and Nicholas Payton. Hopefully as this thread goes along much of this great music will be discussed.
Just in case you haven't figured it out by now my personal favorites among the many recordings from this period are, in no particular order:
On The Corner
However I love them all!
My copy of Miles at The Fillmore arrived today and boy does it live up to and even surpass all the advance hype. This music was recorded at right after the birth of fusion, as it would end up being called, but the playing has a trippy, psychedelic and very experimental feel to it. At the time of this recording there was no set or standard fusion sound, so they were inventing it as they went along and it's thrilling to get to hear this music complete and unedited. Recommended (the beyer smile is because I just out the music on my Beyer T1s and it sounds pretty damn good, if a little hissy at times - but it is a 44 year old live analog recording which accounts for the hiss.)
Edited by ralphp@optonline - 3/28/14 at 3:20pm