by A. Scott Galloway
A filled-to-capacity room of luminaries and devotees packed the intimate
The event coincided with the re-release of a special CD boxed set edition of Bitches Brew from Legacy/Columbia Records with bonus tracks, a new liner note essay by Greg Tate, and a bonus DVD of a never before issued concert featuring Davis in the era with a quartet (rare) that consisted of Chick Corea on Fender Rhodes electric piano, Dave Holland on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. The evening began with a too-brief peek at just a portion of a performance from this concert.
The host for the evening was jazz and blues radio personality Bubba Jackson of KKJZ-FM. His self-effacing wit, musical knowledge, ease-putting warmth and ability to keep things moving made this one of the best hosted events of its kind at the
Setting the pace,
Rollins, who has a specialty program on influential college outlet KCRW, offered general historical tidbits of the era before sharing that Bitches Brew was the first album he ever listened to with the lights off, saying the sensory shut off amplified Miles’ playing against the locomotive rhythms for an unforgettable experience. Meanwhile LePique, who has a jazz program on KPFK, admitted that she didn’t care for Miles’ early electric period until she had a chance encounter with bassist Jaco Pastorius of Weather Report, after which she used that band’s music to lead her back to “the source of it all.” Conversely, Chicago-raised Sol dubbed
Family members Erin and Vince shared the personal side of Miles, relaying great stories of his well-known loves for cooking and boxing, how he changed clothes – as in complete outfits - several times a day, and how he was a lot funnier and less menacing than people would expect, though they also admitted he didn’t reveal this softer side to just anybody. And he was always serious about his music. Vince Wilburn witnessed, “When you played with Miles, you had to be prepared for anything. He had me lookin’ up under my cymbals to follow his cues.” Erin Davis was the brunt of some funny testosterone-building father/son experiences. “He used to make me do runs on the beach and hit the heavy bag with him during boxing training. Even in his 60s he was still quick. (Keyboardist) Joe Zawinul, who was very good friends with Miles, swore they never talked about music – just boxing.”
Cheadle, who arrived fashionably late and was called to the stage, surprised the room when he shared, “I’ve been playing saxophone since I was 10 years old. Miles’ Porgy & Bess is the first album I ever heard of his. In concert, Miles wanted the music to be raw, which is why I feel such a kinship to him. That same rawness is what actors live for.” Politely addressing an audience member’s insistence that the darker side of
Also called from the audience was “the first Mrs. Miles Davis,” Francis Davis, who spoke about her influence being what led Miles to flamenco music and his classic recording Sketches of Spain. It all started when she insisted he accompany her to a performance by Roberto Iglesias while she was in
For anyone specifically interested in the recording of the hour, Bennie Maupin’s words were like gold. “I was 27 when I got the call,” he began. “I had always wanted to play with him so it was an honor...but a brutha was a lil’ terrified! I thought I was going to be playing tenor, but he had already heard me playing bass clarinet with McCoy Tyner one night a Slug’s. He would drive up on the side in his Ferrari and block the street for like ten minutes just to peek inside and check out what was happenin.” Recalling the sessions for Bitches Brew, he said, “People like to think that all of that ‘out’ music was recorded late at night but the sessions were from to – then Miles would leave to go to the gym. Miles was very healthy then. Miles was also always the first musician in the studio every morning, along with (producer) Teo Macero and the engineer. I saw him as a real leader. There were no people around that didn’t have any business being there. The only guest visitor we had was (classical musician) Andre’ Previn.”
Getting deeper into the construction of the music, Maupin continued, “On one session we had some staff paper with a few notes on it, but he never said play this or that, which was a little unnerving. He’d start with the rhythm (drummers Lenny White, Jack DeJohnette and percussionist Don Alias) to set the texture and feel. Then he’d look at me and say, ‘play somethin’. He wanted to hear the ‘free’ stuff I played with Marion Brown and Archie Shepp. It was through all of this that I began to learn the power of non-verbal communication.” Maupin remembers it as “an amazing experience” and a highlight of his career. “What I remember is I don’t remember much,” he quipped, “except that I was in that studio standing between two giants – Miles and Wayne (Shorter). His insight and foresight was fascinating… While we were making that record, I didn’t talk – to my neighbors or anybody. I barely even ate! After the sessions, (guitarist) John McLaughlin and I would go to a vegetarian restaurant then to a music store to read scores, and then I’d go home and just ‘be’ in silence…thinking about Miles and the profound effect he was having on us all. Never once did he express any dissatisfaction with anything that anyone played…but he tested everybody’s level of courage.”
The spirit of Miles Davis would surely have loved the fact that Don Cheadle summed up his genius most succinctly for the evening not with a statement but with a question. “Who reaches a pinnacle then decides to change everything?”
(Pictured Above Left to Right) are:
Vince Wilburn, Jr., nephew of Miles Davis; Don Cheadle; Cheryl Davis daughter of Miles Davis and Erin Davis, son of Miles Davis at The Grammy Museum tribute to the 40th Anniversary of Miles Davis’s seminal fusion masterpiece – Bitches Brew.
Photo Credit: Earl Gibson
(Pictured Below Left to Right)
Legendary jazz great Bennie Maupin who performed on Bitches Brew; Don Cheadle; Henry Rollins and KCRW’s DJ Jeremy Sole at the Grammy Museum for the 40thAnniversary tribute to Bitches Brew. Cheadle is leaning on the mammoth-sized The Genius of Miles Davis 21-pound trumpet case trove of 8 box sets (totaling 43 CDs and GRAMMY Awards) plus extras – available for pre-order at MilesDavis.com and shipping in September.
Photo Credit: Earl Gibson