Video: Miles' Voodoo Rundown, 1969

A few months after Miles Davis taped that material that would become Bitches Brew, he went on a two-week European tour with his quintet. A short clip of their Copenhagen, Denmark performance appears above. That's Miles with the pink shirt, multi-colored vest and red trumpet; elsewhere, that's Wayne Shorter on soprano sax (not seen here), Chick Corea sporting the robe-like garment that remains his sartorial signature (also, sadly, obscured from camera), and youthful incarnations of Dave Holland (upright bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums).

They play "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down," and it's quite different than the album version. On Bitches Brew, this thing is ... well, it's just as unclassifiable. But it's definitely a different breed of unclassifiable, with that insistent bass line, and that shape-shifting lounge-funk (stoned-funk?) beat, and all those keyboard and guitar and percussive interjections.

We only have two-and-a-half minutes of the video here, but this live performance feels both freer and less willing to let go. Miles' live band hasn't fully become the impossible future funk-rock enterprise it would become; it's still tied to something like a ride cymbal-based swing beat. But there are only five people here, versus the 11 on the recording (plus Teo Macero in the studio), and man: they go out.

It's a transitional sound, somewhere between the inside-outside post-bop of mid-'60s Blue Note recordings/the second Great Miles Quintet (Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams) and the Weather Reports, Mwandishis, Lifetimes, Returns to Forever and yes, Miles Davis fusion bands to come. Then again, Miles Davis' entire career seems like one big transition in retrospect; it was just faster at certain times than others.

Back to the video: It's available on a DVD which comes with both standard and deluxe reissues of the album. (The bonus edition comes with another live audio set, plus a vinyl record and other goodies.) It's out on Tuesday Aug. 31, a few months after the 40th anniversary of the original Bitches Brew album release. You can purchase either version through the record company directly, if you're so inclined.

Forty years on, a fair amount of the noteworthy things going on in jazz/"jazz" are fusions: collisions with hip-hop, R&B, electronic music, Latin folk, Carnatic improvisation, indie rock or even other styles within jazz history itself. Likewise, Bitches Brew doesn't sound like jazz as we know it (still doesn't); it does feel like something a restless experimenter who came from the jazz world might devise, though. This DVD find, I think, supports that view.


Related At NPR Music: The Bitches Brew beer taste test.

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