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Episode 41

Bitches Brew

Miles Davis

Let’s be clear: Bitches Brew is a challenging record, even to some of the best musicians in the world — but all of them say it’s worth the investment.

It’s the kind of trip that, even if we could draw a map, it wouldn’t take you there. Let go of the need for meaning and enjoy the ride with us. We can promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised where you end up.

Transcript

Note: our transcripts are mostly AI-generated for now. 

Cliff: You’re listening to TuneDig, a conversation between two lifelong friends about the power of music, one album at a time. I’m Cliff Seal.

Kyle: And I’m Kyle Stapleton. Each episode we talk about a single album in depth, unpacking it through conversation to understand what makes it worth appreciating and learning a little bit about life along the way.

Cliff: If you’re listening for the first time because we’re covering an artist or a record you love, we promise you’ll learn something new or gain a new perspective by the end of the episode.

Kyle: And if you’ve stuck with us for multiple episodes, you know by now that you’re bound to expand your horizons. As we share a clear entry points for artists you may never have tried to get into before. Today, we’re talking about Bitches Brew by Miles Davis and the gang.

Cliff: Usually I approach some of our podcast episodes, especially about kind of monumental albums with something akin to fear, and I think that that is because me and you and probably like a handful of other people were connected to through this podcast, probably are aware of the fact that they take music really, really seriously. Sure. Maybe a lot more seriously than anyone you’re friends with or are around.

Kyle: I thought you were going to say a lot more seriously than we should. I was going to slap your hand virtually.

Cliff: No, there’s no Shutz here. I mean, especially in an episode about Bitches Brew. I mean, there there’s absolutely no context framework. Right, wrong. Anything. But as opposed to being worried that we’re not going to cover some aspect of this that ended up being really critical to someone understanding how the album was recorded or written or whatever. I kind of have to overstate a little piece about it. Anything that we say about this record while loving this record is the right thing to say about it. I think that this is maybe we use like words like dense a lot to try to describe artistry on top of great songwriting, on top of musicianship. But this is maybe the safest bet in active listening. I think in terms of we have something like scientific evidence that this is actually a musicians record and that this is endlessly interesting to people who not only study music for a living, but who were there and wrote this music.

Kyle: It’s not the Big Bang, it’s not the origin of all music, but it’s kind of a big bang type event where we will continuing to be studying it till the end of time because it’s always shifting in form with new context. It’s a good Rosetta Stone for unlocking more or less every insight, every conversation you would want to have about music other than the pop music machine. But there’s even a little of that in there. It’s quantum. It’s almost impossible not to kick out on once you start, but you become a little bit of an Egyptologist with bitches. We’re like, OK, I can draw a pyramid now. I can draw a 3D pyramid now we can draw all the breaks in the 3D pyramid. Now I can capture the texture of the stone that they use for it. Now I can draw a diagram of the insides and where all the tombs go down to the catacombs and you just like with every listen, another layer is like, oh, I hear what they were like. You just want to dig in a little deeper each time you catch a new thing. So yes, it is dense. Yes, it is challenging. But once you can get over some kind of a hump with it, it’s it feels ridiculous. It’s like I’m describing how to get into mescal or something like it’s an acquired taste, bro. It is sort of. But it’s the inverse of that in that it becomes more joyful the more it reveals itself to you. And it is, as you can guess, by the way, we’re already struggling a little bit to find the words to get you to, like, tap in and hit the joint for the first time to speak. It is an extraordinarily psychedelic your mind. Your brain composition will not work the same if you study this album deeply and repeat it over and over for a period of time.

Cliff: Yes. Speaking of being afraid, I’m really afraid to talk about mind blowing, epic, momentous albums. But actually, every time you talk to somebody about working with Miles Davis, you get a story about like, yeah, I don’t know, I thought about music one way. And then I was playing with Miles Davis and then this thing happened and then I was messed up in the head for a minute. It’s a wild thing because Miles Davis himself was such a wild character. But here we really see a true moment of someone like, well, there was no one like Miles Davis write a truly singular person who is not only a jazz master with decades of records. This is like his thirty eighth album. Yeah. At that point.

Kyle: Right. And he was more or less always recording for his whole career.

Cliff: And he’s been making this shift over the past decade prior to this into being more and more of a bandleader and finding ways to stretch the jazz format. And here truly is, though, a moment where someone said, I’m going to decide to make music history on purpose because I’d like to, because I can. One of the things that I found funniest was when Miles Davis talked about deciding to make a record like Bitches Brew and structuring the recording in the way that he did. And what he was doing was talking about if you have a chance to catch the birth of the cool on Netflix, the documentary about Miles Davis, it’s actually a pretty chill, chill watch. But it’s great because you get actual Miles Davis voice. You get him talking and he starts talking about the times leading up to these records. And he was saying that, you know, 1969 was the year that jazz seemed to be withering on the vine. We played to a lot of half empty clubs and that told me something. And I started realizing that most rock musicians who are blowing up. At that time, selling out arenas, doing crazy stuff, I started realizing that most rock musicians didn’t know anything about music and I figured if they could sell all those records without knowing what they were really doing, I could to only better. I mean, that’s like the objective truth from someone who knew that that was correct about themselves. And then they set out to write a great basically improvizational rock record, accidentally created jazz fusion and did it with some of the best jazz musicians to ever walk the planet. And we get Bitches Brew

Kyle: And even calling it jazz or rock or putting it in some kind of semantic place does you a bit of a disservice. And Miles will be the first person to tell you at that point in the in the mid to late 60s, he said that jazz had reached terminal velocity. He said it was a white person’s word. And this is another opportunity for me to once again recommend an entry in the 33 and a third series, which has never let me down. But the beginning of the book puts Miles extraordinary blackness in context. He was an enormous figure that could drive any car he wanted. And he did he sleep with anyone and he wanted to. And he did. And he got invited to a dinner at the White House and somebody said something that kind of cut across him at his table, basically, like, how did you get a seat at this table? He was like, bitch, I reinvented music five or six times. What do you do to get here other than just being white? And that’s an actual Miles Davis quote. And so there was there was a bombast to him that he knew how extraordinary he was. It’s the same reason that, like, you see Michael Jordan challenging people one on one hotels and resorts. Now, still, if you can do it, why not do it? So the idea that he was going in with intention was really striking to me.

Kyle: And the challenge was not to make a great piece of music that was passé. He’d done he’d done that constantly, more or less for two decades. The challenge for him to all of us was to reconceive culture and the boundaries of culture and a free expression entirely. And what we got as a result was something that was not meant to have a form or even resolve. But it also doesn’t warn people that it’s going to do that. It doesn’t apologize for itself. It doesn’t talk down to people. And it assumes that people have a capacity for something that’s more powerful than what they know. And the only thing that interferes with that is it’s like capitalism and commerce and the 1959 Blue Note approach to jazz. So taking it in the context of twenty twenty, it’s deeply anti algorithmic thinking. Right? So if you’re in a place where you keep getting served the same shit on your daily mix and any new band that you discover is 10 degrees to the right from all the other bands that you’re kind of in the vein of already, Bitches Brew is a good place. It’s a litmus to make you less insular and to make your world less safe. So that’s sort of the recommended, if you may like, label that I’d love to drop before we get into actually talking about the music.

Cliff: Yeah, and I find. Then in order to really get inside the music here and to really hear it, well, first of all, forgive me in advance, like you’re going to have to listen to it, which is very long, several times you got to get it kind of deep in there in a way that you don’t necessarily need to do with a lot of other music that kind of hits immediately or surprises you in a different way, because I think that you’re looking for here is a little bit of how maybe we would approach like a Led Zeppelin record or something where you kind of pick out something in particular to start hearing the details. But specifically, Bitches Brew is so dense and so free of form. At the same time, they it’s kind of impossible to get or wrap your head around not only the whole record, but even one song or a movement inside of a song the first time you hear it, because it truly it’s hard to express. It truly almost antagonizes the way that you expect music to flow. That’s right.

Kyle: I liken it to Atlanta as a driving city right where we grew up, in a city where you drive around to get just about anywhere and you follow a lot of the same routes. So getting from point to point to point in a five, 10 mile radius, you got to get the route down. So you’re not thinking about the actual directions of the music and then you start noticing the foliage and oh, I didn’t know that house over there on the left was blue. And oh, look, I, I never noticed that sticker on that one stop sign, but I really love that. And when I get out and take a picture of it to notice that level of macro lens detail, you’ve got to wash the bass layer of stuff out of your brain. So you do have to internalize it. And for the first, just as a guy that doesn’t play music for the first, I’m going to say 15, 20 listens. It’s just going to sound like what one long barrage gets so hard to jump in and out of moments for a really long time. But there’s something like maybe it’s your feet stuck in sand or there’s some feeling that makes you not want to get out of it. So you’re there like meditation. You’re there for 10 or 15 minutes and you’re like, is this working? Do I like this? Am I becoming a better person? And then for the next 20 minutes, you’re like, I fucking hate this. This is the worst thing I’ve ever. Like, why am I trying to concentrate on this? This is an affront to my sensibilities. And then eventually your body just like drops out of itself and its consciousness and then you’re like, oh, my God, OK, they’re like you. You can smell the air a little better. So just let it go in and out of consciousness for a while. Just pick two or three days in your life where you’re like, this is all I’m going to listen to and then just stick with it.

Cliff: And that’s why I came out of the gate with this being the safest bet and active listening. Literally, if there’s a record in music history, that’s a safe bet for taking a few days to focus on, to try to learn details and let it get inside your bones a little bit. This one will work. And it’s not just energizing to listen to for some inexplicable reason. It’s like literally energizing to talk about, which I know is like super meta, but like listening to other musicians talk about Bitches Brew stoked me out. It’s really hard to describe where this energy is coming from or why. So I’m going to try something. I don’t know how far out this is going to feel, but I’m going to do it anyway. I think that there are like a few specific speaking of being meditative techniques that you can use listening to Bitches Brew, especially the first few times through to help you focus on the details that we’re talking about. Like how can you intentionally start looking at the foliage a little bit sooner? Right. Right. So one thing that I think is fair is like really up until this point, even though Miles Davis was really making some changes, starting with in a silent way, and we were starting to develop this new form of improvization. This is really a true kind of fork in the road, thinking about Miles Davis as an artist is like literally an unhelpful concept for approaching this record. OK, because when you think of him, you’re inherently going to think of songs like, so what? Right. You know, it’s not

Kyle: Like being in a Starbucks.

Cliff: Yeah. But like 20 years plus of Miles Davis up until this point was a thing where if you just give it at least a minute or a minute half, you’d find a hook that you can understand because it matched a jazz format. So you have to literally stop looking for it here because you’ll spend a bunch of time chasing an idea in the music. When we talk about it not going the direction you want, like it’s not just surprising, it’s like confusing if you don’t know what to expect. When does

Kyle: It start? Yeah, when they start warming up.

Cliff: I mean, Faro’s dance could feel like an interlude before the album starts. Yes. Like, you know. Twenty five minutes long itself. It’s an entire side. Yeah.

Kyle: And so you look up and you’re like, I’m at 17 minutes right now

Cliff: The fuck right. Because you’re waiting on it to kick in. So there’s neither the kind of riff that you’d expect from Miles Davis or the theme that he’d introduce that became, you know, catchy and hookey that hum to yourself. But you also can’t apply. You know, you mentioned kind of erasing the jazz label for a minute, like even trying to apply something like Coltrane here is going to lead you down a confusing path because we talked about a love supreme, which is, again, like we said at that time, like possibly my favorite record. It’s nearly holy to me. Right. But the whole concept we talked about is that they use the simple mantra that. And so now you can hum that pretty much throughout the entire album and you can find yourself in.

Kyle: It’s my Taylor Swift.

Cliff: It’s just a dead end. And then we stop doing the podcast. Do you do that

Kyle: When you close your laptop? We blew it.

Cliff: But so it’s not Miles Davis. It’s also not even just advanced jazz like Coltrane. You can’t listen for a mantra. You’ll get confused. And so this is why it’s actually important to bring up the reviewers from the time we talk about it a lot, because it’s always a fun experiment. But like this was a record that jazz purists hated out of the gate because it was jazz. Right. Right. So, again, it’s just it’s important to kind of deconstruct it because a lot of times when we’re looking at an artist who decides to bend the genre in a direction, well, fine. It’s it’s rock trying to introduce elements of jazz. I can still think of them as a rock band and understand it. Miles Davis and all of these people made a record that will only start to really reveal itself. If you intentionally say, I still know everything about music, but I don’t know anything about this record. And that’s the way that they recorded it. That’s the way it was written and it’s the way it was designed to be understood. And frankly, it’s just like a gift of art, not because it makes a point, but because it continues to reveal things to people who should at this point, like fully understand

Kyle: It, even had to reveal itself to the people who played on it. Right. I mean, and then we’ll talk about Tom Mesereau in a bit and kind of the Post-production process and how revelatory that was. But a couple of the guys that played on it did not like it when they walked out of the sessions. And there was a story I don’t remember if it was Chick Corea or who it was, where they, like, heard part of it playing on the radio, which is hysterical to think about. And he was like, dude, what is this? This really cooks. And the person was like, this is you and Miles Davis and John McLaughlin on Bitches Brew. What are you talking about? And he was like, Oh, God, OK, I like this now. And then another member of the band first heard the record, but sitting in their car in San Francisco, it’s just like, yeah, we talked with D’Angelo about them summoning, conjuring the music from jamming. This is somewhat like that. And that’s a through line one of a couple of three lines here, another brilliant season finale type records that I found really interesting that they just went in a direction and they just followed their end. And it worked because they were literally some of the best players of their respective instruments in the world. But even when they walked out of the physical room, they weren’t sure what form it was going to take and it didn’t reveal itself until later, which is incredible to me.

Cliff: And to that end, I think the one nuance that is really helpful to keep in mind as we talk about how this record was made, because it’s possibly as important as the music itself to understanding the concept of Bitches Brew and the piece of art that it is, because it’s bigger than a piece of music for sure. But the biggest thing I think there are plenty of John McLaughlin quotes I could pull out who played guitar on this record.

Kyle: Is he right? Where does he rank in your favorite guitar players? That’s a question I’ve never asked you in almost 20 years of friendship. But I’m curious.

Cliff: I didn’t prepare for this question.

Kyle: We don’t talk about him much and we can cut this part of you. But I’m I’m really interested in it because I think he’s one of those that like 10 or 15 years. And the friendship I told you about how much I like Thin Lizzy and then just had never realized that it was just kind of like deeply buried unconscious thing. This feels like that for me, where we were talking about him as we were preparing the episode. It was like, of course, John McGlocklin would be one of your favorite guitarists. But talk to me a little bit, just kind of off the top about your relationship with him as a guitar player.

Cliff: So I don’t get it actually right. No, no. Actually, I’ve actually loved this question in this context. This is really the only context. I think I can answer that question. Well, OK, so John McLaughlin, the song title on this record for what it’s worth, and then also the guitarist who played on it to give context for non guitar nerds like Jeff Beck and Patent Deani, both in 2010 said he was the best guitarist alive. OK, so two of the best guitarists alive say he’s the best guitarist alive. And they said that like recently. OK, so keep that nugget. Second, John McLaughlin, when talking about this record, at least considers it possible that this is the best guitar playing he has ever done in his entire life and that that was a recent interview, you know, within the last decade or so. And so then on top of that, which we need to talk about a little bit more, but I can answer your question better this way. When John started playing with Miles Davis, he was really surprised by how Miles could just, like, extract stuff out of musicians that they didn’t know they had the capacity to do. But he said that the first time we recorded with him was in January nineteen sixty nine. And Miles said to him, play the guitar like you don’t know how to play. And then John said, you know, what is that? What does that even mean.

Kyle: Like what the fuck does that mean? Kobe Bryant.

Cliff: So he recognizes immediately though that that’s the whole point. Right. He said he wanted his musicians to be free and to be totally who they were. OK, so to zoom back all the way into your question about understanding him as a guitarist. Right. Honestly, I don’t get it, but I love listening to him play because of how many other guitarists I love say there’s so much in what he does. There’s so much in every note that he plays and everything that he writes. And so for all those things to come together, I love paying attention to how he plays guitar on this record. But I would never formulate anything that he plays on the guitar, especially on this record, because I don’t know where it comes from. Just sort of a meta theme

Kyle: That’s about the best microcosm for pure inspiration but I could possibly think of. For me, it’s always been the singers and melodies. And then you go see them live and they do a different thing entirely where you’re like, that’s not even off the beaten path. That’s not even a run. That’s like an entirely different thing. Where did you where did that come from? And then it just works. And then you only want to watch YouTube when you want to listen to the song so that you can hear the kind of alternate take of the thing, just that multiplicities live. And somebody had a really interesting right. And you’re projecting yourself into it when you listen to it and you really love it. And then when you don’t hear yourself but you want to, then you try to find some place between the two things. I love the way that you said that. The other thing.

Cliff: Yeah, you got it.

Kyle: The other thing that I want to zoom back in on for a second is Miles telling John, play the guitar like you don’t know how to play. So that also came up on Voodoo. One of the first things that D’Angelo said the quest was play like you’re drunk, right? And Quest is known for really solid like AC DC level meter. Just he can keep a beat. And he wanted to ante quantize. He wanted to do like Dila. He wanted to break rhythm and like rediscover groove in a new way. The same thing happened here. And I was so fascinated by that concept that I found a journal article from Frontiers in Psychology and sent it to you in the title of This thing is instructed Illiteracy Reveals Expertise Effects and unconscious processing. I don’t even remember when I Googled to get there, but it’s just fascinating that it’s a thing I want to take the person who is the best at this craft and remove their brain from the equation. Stop. Don’t do that. Don’t try to surf. Just surf. Just pop up and unlock some level beyond technical, hardcoded, conscious. Still, that’s the that should be the base layer is the technical expertize like pure creativity comes when that becomes a nonfactor and you just somebody who’s the best to do something without having to think about it. It’s a fascinating aspect of creativity. And I know like anybody who plays music, that’s obvious, that’s just woodshedding. You want to get so good that you don’t have to think about being good. You can just go on feel. But I thought it was an. Saying that there’s real psychological evidence across more than just music to back that up, this is a pinnacle of all examples to be found anywhere in art, period.

Cliff: So let’s go even harder on this. This is why I get so out of my mind to talk about this record for sure. OK, so you sent me that study and one of the things that it brought up for me thinking about we’re going to circle all the way back to John McLaughlin. One of the things that that fascinated me probably 10 years ago at this point that I read was I read about a study that came out in the mid 90s where they did this kind of pilot testing. So they had this kind of cockpit. And the testing was about someone with pilot experience, kind of figure out what’s going wrong with this airplane based on the dash that was in front of them. Right in the information that they had. And so they’re bringing in experts and they’re measuring how effective they are at figuring this stuff out. They do this day in and day out. Now, they took this second group and they weren’t just nonexperts pilots. They were non pilots. There were people who did not fly airplanes that had no experience with it. And they said, OK, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to put you in this exact same situation the other pilots are in.

Cliff: You’re going to have to figure out what’s going on with it. But here’s what we’re going to let you know. It’s one of these seven things, and you just need to guess one of these. And what they found was that really, really quickly, people who had never flown a plane got way better at figuring out what was going on in the cockpit of a plane than people who had been doing it for decades based purely on the concept of being able to guess and then get immediate feedback about whether it was right or not. So that’s a wild way that our brain works. Now, circle all the way back and let’s think about asking someone who’s brilliant, the smartest person in the world about a thing and asking them, pretend like you don’t know that. So now the smartest person in the world at a particular thing decides what it means to know something or not. I know that this sounds like really stony and kind of out there, but once I started thinking about know all these people talked about what it was like being on this record, and they told us really specific things about how it felt and where the music came from.

Cliff: And we can actually trust and listen to firsthand accounts. So when I was trying to think about what does it mean to not know something that you definitely know well, another quote kind of like circled back to me that I take it down from John. He was talking about the difference between rock and jazz, and he said rock musicians will never be able to provoke me musically in the way that I like to be. This is still the domain of the accomplished jazz musician. So that really unlocked an aspect of this record for me because I wanted to understand, OK, if you’re putting the smartest people in the room and trying to pretend like you don’t know what you’re about to write, what’s your goal? What is the actual ambition? And I think like provocation is actually the best way to think about what this music is attempting to talk about while it’s in the act of being written. Like when you only think about I am looking to provoke you, not surprise you or change you or teach you something, but just constant provocation for what’s basically how long is this record?

Kyle: It’s ungodly ninety four minutes. And then if you add Feio, which was on the rerelease, then it’s an hour or forty five. I mean it’s a, it’s a, it’s a literal meaning.

Cliff: It’s nearly two hours of the best musicians in the world all standing in a room together in a very short amount of time deciding how can I provoke everyone else that I’m playing with, which is a huge group of people. How can I provoke everyone else? And then how can I think it’s like eight

Kyle: People, right?

Cliff: Yeah, it’s it’s wild. But I think thinking about it as these are a bunch of individual people interacting in this special moment who are all really good at something, but their entire goal is to provoke one another, to do things inside of this little time capsule of a moment that really taught me something about this record. And I could really start to hear things differently in a way that got me this stoked out about talking about Bitches Brew after I’ve been listening to it for months.

Kyle: So worth stopping down and pointing out who was in that group, the core band, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Dave Holland on bass, Chick Corea on electric piano, and Jack DNA on drums. So that’s the core group. But then there’s also Joe Zawinul on Keys who would go on to be in Weather Report with Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin also of Mahavishnu Orchestra, who bats its own rabbit hole, Larry Young Lenny White, [1] alias Humor Santo’s and Bennie Maupin on the bass clarinet, which is kind of an interesting addition in this mix that proves out in a lot of different ways. So that is two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, twelve. I was way off to base this one playing bass guitar and. Playing double bass, two to three drummers, two to three electric piano players and a percussionist, all playing at the same Amphion time, that’s borderline a symphony and they’re playing in the opposite way of how a classical music outfit plays. Yeah, it’s untenable on paper. It’s a planetary gravitational field. The physics of it should not work. And yet it holds like you can’t write any equations around it, much like an inner planetary force. Nothing about it makes sense when you first look at it. But the more you study it, you’re like, oh, this is just we just have to write a new chapter of the physics book. Now, there’s just a new equation for this thing.

Cliff: It’s like discovering quantum entanglement almost.

Kyle: Yes. Yes. We because we couldn’t even make it to 50 episodes without getting into the quantum.

Cliff: Well, that’s what excited me so much about thinking about provocation, because when we talk about Miles Davis at this point needs to be thought of probably even more as a band leader than as a trumpet trumpeter trumpets trumpet flutist,

Kyle: One who makes Plautus

Cliff: He’s good enough to convince the best musicians in the world to all get together individually. But then what he’s also doing is trusting the network that gets built as you expand this group of people because you just listed off a bunch of people. But every single one of those individuals impacts everyone else in how they play, because you’re recording a purely improvizational piece of music

Kyle: And there’s like multiples on the same instrument as well. Like, everything about that is dangerous. And then you add on the layer of only coming in with loose sketches, not even really a roadmap like in traditional jazz. And then just saying go. And they recorded and you mentioned a short period of time, it was, what, three days, right? You said to 10 a.m. to one p.m. over three days, just like some some

Cliff: Like a few hours over lunch. Yeah. It’s so great to listen to the people who just came in and did that because, like, the experience is so uncanny. It was just like, yeah, these three days, one week I just went into the studio and we just made Bitches Brew together. And then we went home and no one heard what it was going to sound like because Miles Davis took just gave it to someone else to go actually produce and edit and mix the record and trusted them like a whole additional instrumentalists in the ensemble. And so no one has any idea what’s happening. Like you mentioned earlier, no one knows what this is until they just start hearing it somewhere else down the road.

Kyle: Imagine what a staggeringly heavy feeling that must have been to go all the way into a black hole like that and to just play and play and play and play and play for three days. And the best way to get that experience for yourself is to go on to a streaming service of your choice and listen to the complete bitches brew sessions to hear more or less all the content, less strong than the final output, obviously. But if you’re trying to get a sense of what it was like in the room, it’s it’s probably a little better. But how are you you’re not the same after that. Like, it alters your body composition. I have to imagine which is cool. I don’t know that I could name on two hands the number of records that I think would knock you off your access. The first time I saw The Shining on a big screen, just like. Hmm. Was like it was never quite the same on a subliminal level that this to me is kind of like that.

Cliff: The thing that helped me understand, I think more and more is really I felt like maybe people were mythologizing Miles Davis’s inspiration for lack of a better term, like the way that he could really get stuff out of people. And again, that was another kind of thing I had to deconstruct to hear it in the music and to understand it better, because some of the quotes of people talking about working with Miles made me feel something like just reading how they talked about it, made me feel away. And that feeling really does translate into the music. So one talked about that, Miles, quote, Miles was very much an overseer against musical indulgence. He wanted blood and guts and heart all the time. It’s the the less stupid version of giving one hundred and ten percent like your stupid baseball coach wants you to do it for no reason. But Miles Davis is like, I want you to do it for the best record that’s ever been made and you know where you are right now and you know who I am and you know who all these people are. And so just like really understanding how he was able to draw that out, another quote said he he knew how to shift people’s perceptions and get music out of them that they weren’t even aware of, which is like a wild thing to say.

Kyle: Why is nobody written a leadership book about that? I know it’s because Miles is terrifying to corporate squares, but there is something about being able to shift people’s perceptions and find the right combination of things to pull something out of someone already great that they didn’t even know was in there. That’s a superpower. Take away Miles, the player completely. That alone is that’s a mind blowing skill.

Cliff: And I want to play some audio from Herbie Hancock, but we just got to, like, tell the story of Herbie Hancock, who is himself top 20, at least best famous jazz musicians. Oh, my God. Now you’ve got me joking in my head about like Miles Davis, Hustle Horn and like him posting on LinkedIn to inspire other brothers.

Kyle: What if Gary V did heroin and was also actually type? Oh, boy. Miles Davis is the the anti Gary V. I feel honestly terrible to have made that comparison and I’m going to bleach my eyes.

Cliff: But now all I can do is see Miles Davis in front of his Lamborghini’s. So he’s like posing standing right there for the Lamborghini with like that. So, you know, Miles Davis probably has that famous quote or it doesn’t probably have he has the quote that you’re probably really familiar with about like it’s not the note itself that’s wrong. It’s no, you play after the note that makes it right or wrong. That’s brilliant. And also a really cool way to look at music theory. That’s a fine quote itself. But like Herbie Hancock himself talked about hitting a terrible chord under Miles improvised solo one time.

Speaker3: So right in the middle of Miles a solo, I played the wrong chord. It just sounded completely wrong. It sounded like a big mistake. And Miles paused for. A second, and then he played some notes. That made my cord right. He made it correct, which. Astounded me, I was I couldn’t believe what I heard Miles was able to make something that was wrong into something that was right with the choice of notes that he made and the feeling that he had. And so I couldn’t play for about a minute. I couldn’t even touch the piano. What I realize now is that Miles didn’t hear it as a mistake. He heard it as something that happened, just an event. And so that was part of the reality of what was happening at that moment, and he dealt with it. Since he didn’t hear it as a mistake, he felt it was his responsibility to find something that fit and he was able to do that, that that taught me a very big lesson about not only music, but about life.

Cliff: He stopped Herbie Hancock from playing life to think about what Miles Davis had just taught him based on the singular note that he played after record.

Kyle: He punched his brain in the jejune.

Cliff: And I feel like it’s really,

Kyle: Again, not some teenager, not some session player off the street, Herbie Hancock, who made Head Hunter and scores and scores and scores of other incredible albums.

Cliff: That’s really hard to express what it would take to get a professional musician to stop doing their job, to consider what had just occurred to them, thoughts that they didn’t know to have before. But I really you got to feel like you got to bring energy in quotes and stories so that people understand that this wasn’t just mythology for Miles Davis, that he was like, good at getting extra stuff out of people. It was true to an extent that the best musicians in the world talk about working with him as if it is some like otherworldly out of body experience, pulling things out of them that they want that they’re excited about and that they go back and listen to.

Kyle: And so for me, the next question you ask is why? To what end? What’s the endgame of getting in this room? What statement are you trying to make? What’s the ultimate goal of the expression? And I think the reason that we still talk about Miles Davis as an artist on the level that we do is because there wasn’t an expressible goal. It was to reach for a place that did not exist, not hire, not lateral, not what we don’t know what we don’t know. But I want to find that question. I don’t even necessarily want to answer it. I just want to find the question. And that’s such a provocative way of thinking. That’s so counter to the linearity of human beings. Knowing Miles Davis is to start knowing your own brain when you find one of those questions that you’re like, oh, I that’s perpendicular to every thought that I’ve ever had. Could I start to maybe ask a question like that? And then by trying to find a question that you don’t know to ask consciously, you’ve already missed the point. So to get into more kind of Zen isms about Miles Davis, you just it’s that’s just fundamentally operating on a different plane. And to have that be your whole modus operandi is that’s why he is an all time icon and probably the greatest American musician who ever lived.

Cliff: Yeah, it’s a wild thing to try to describe in words without sounding like a total Hoak, you know. Right.

Kyle: Like it. Yeah. Sorry if this whole episode winds up just being like it’s blunt, extended cut.

Cliff: It’s a little bit like learning to meditate when before you’re quite sure if meditation is going to be a work it sort of as you like to your point to to imagine a thing that you don’t know how to imagine yet, but you know how to start trying. It’s like a journey where you know exactly where you are actually going and the direction you’re going to go in. But it’s like before we had encyclopedias and pictures of everything around the world, if you can imagine, just like going to the other part of the globe and just like seeing a thing that you didn’t know to consider before.

Kyle: Yeah. Have you have you thought about it now that we’re in the twenty 20s and so much of life is automated away, like, have you thought about just trying to get to a place without your GPS. Just here’s a place on the other side of town. Just get there, follow the sun. People used to do that until very, very recently. I don’t even know where to go with that thought. But that’s just to return to the main point. The mantra of this episode, I think, is just hopefully this shatters your brain into little fragments, a little bit like if there’s a great goal, if there is an endpoint of us trying to implore you to really spend meaningful time with this record rather than just being like, yeah, listen to a one time dugit, enjoy the vibe or whatever, it’s not for me. I want you to come out of the experience of this record. A changed person. I am a changed person for having immersed myself in this record, hopefully in good ways, but mostly in ways. And that’s all that matters.

Cliff: Gets your point to about not knowing what’s going to happen next. When Herbie was talking about what he learned from that simple mind blowing experience, he was saying that in the music all of a sudden now there was no right and no wrong. There was just reacting to what’s happening in the present moment. And so we’ve talked about that like sense of provocation and that this really was the mindset of these individual musicians in relation to one another, in relation to themselves and then this whole group’s mindset. Right. To your point, like, what’s the end? Well, we’re not sure yet. But we know that if we just create this moment and react to one another in it, that will create the thing that we wanted to have created to begin with, which was just you’re right, you know, to our jokes about seemed kind of really hokey and made entirely of granola trying to talk about this. It really did help me as we start. And I’d love to hear from you in a minute to just about like any just weird moments that stuck out to you that were unique as part of your experience. But we’ve already talked about like jazz not being a great term. And so to me, like that was helpful to remind me on this record specifically and then often in life. Right. Just letting go of the labels. You don’t need a better label and you don’t need to forget what you know. And that’s why I thought it was important to talk about, like John McLaughlin talking about still accomplished jazz musicians doing it. Right. We’re not just like. Babies, now, I can only imagine baby Muppet babies.

Kyle: It might sound like a mess, but let’s see, you try to make this record, you know, like let’s say you pick up a trumpet, get 12 of your friends together, pick up a bunch of instruments and see how you do. It’s going to sound like touch.

Cliff: It’s like letting go of the labels, letting go of trying to figure out what’s going to happen next, because that’s how we all listen to music. The more we listen to music, the more we expect something to happen. So letting go the labels and expectations that the second thing was, I call it like truly seeing one another. Right. But in the sense of mindfulness where you can just connect with another person and just say, like, we don’t really need to know anything more about this relationship because those are labels, we’re just going to be here together. And it’s not now just me and you. It’s also me and you and our connection together that are here. And so we’ve let go of labels. We’re seeing one another in a true way. And then to the point that we were just really trying to get across and words, which is hard, like I called it, seeing ourselves evolve because to your point, right. Like they knew that they were going to make music history. They did it on purpose, but they don’t know what that would look like. They couldn’t have described it in advance. And like that’s a level of we talk about musicianship and artistry and passion and punk energy and all the different things that contribute to musicianship. And we talk about records by bands like Sun who write meditative music that might help you see yourself. But like Bitches Brew is the best to people in the world deciding in advance. I’ll see what comes out of myself in a moment. And whatever it is, I trust it entirely. And like I give myself to this thing, it’s incredible, not just because of the music that they created through that intention, but the fact that you can connect with it in that same way while you listen to it 50 years later. It’s maybe something that we can’t say about any other record that exists.

Kyle: That’s the thing when we talk about listening a bunch of times. So you understand the grooves which are deceptively complex, all of them. And there’s 12 people. So it’s very hard to hear everything that’s happening at once. So you just need a baseline so that it doesn’t bombard all of your senses because it is just numerically and logistically a lot a lot of sensory inputs. Right. Thankfully, it’s recorded pristinely clearly. It was recorded at Columbia Studio B in New York City. Sounds great. So, Mark, of superior engineering and mixing. But what you start to hear when you pick out two or three elements at a time of the 12 is how closely they’re listening to each other. And truly, when music is at its best, it’s people locked in, out, like they can get beyond an individual consciousness toward a single consciousness where multiple people are expressing the same thing in tight lock step so that it’s this stream of consciousness. And contrast this by listening to free like pure free jazz, the best Mingus, whatever. It’s loose and everything is kind of attacking everything else. These are grooves. These dudes are locked into grooves, but it’s also not jamming like the dead, where it tends to be super linear and ebb and flow. This is just a barrage of notes and things coming in and out almost at an extra perceptual level. And so we get the sense of something sublime, something spiritual, because it’s multiple people locked into a maelstrom of sorts. And I think somebody even said that was a goal of the thing was to create a maelstrom of music.

Cliff: The goal was to create a maelstrom of music, everything swirling around miles going in different directions at once. And he was at the center directing everything like a mad scientist

Kyle: Literally in the center right there, recorded in the round in a

Cliff: Circle. Yeah, they recorded like an orchestra. And it was Miles and Wayne Shorter, saxophonist, obviously just sitting in the middle. Everyone else was in a semicircle around them. No guests at the session, no photos allowed. Apparently there was one there’s one guest that nobody talked about, Max Roach alive recording, no overdubs, 10 a.m. to one p.m. three days. But then which it’s again, this record gives the guests. Right. You can’t even stop thinking about the record at that moment because Tom Mesereau gets handed this whole thing and it’s pretty much given free reign to decide what out of these sessions is going to get compiled, edited, changed, mixed up together to form this single piece of art. He is literally sitting at the end of the funnel, able to decide kind of the fate of everything else that everyone just put all of their energy into. Right. Like we just spent so long getting trying to get into the headspace and the emotion of all the folks in this room. And then they they literally hand over. The sessions and it gets intensely edited, but it’s awesome,

Kyle: Tom Mesereau, I didn’t know anything about he was a year older than Miles. He went to Juilliard and graduated in nineteen fifty three. He was saxophonist’s he apparently as a composer, was interested in atonality and a concept called Third Stream. He was a colleague of Charles Mingus at the Jazz Composers Workshop. So he we talked with with can about the kind of school of thought around Stockhausen and how that was kind of a cult of personality around ideas in music. Concrete have a similar thing here with Mingus and Mesero. He Release what was described in the third and third as an extremely eccentric record called exploration’s. But basically his skills were not just in playing and composing, but also an audio and electronic technology. He worked in the engineering department at Juilliard and he became close to a composer called Edgard Varese. So he was kind of in two work streams at the same time, write the music itself and then how to create form beyond it, which is a very kind of postmodern idea that it could be an instrument in and of itself, which was anathema to jazz. Any amount of jazz scholarship at any point is going to do some Teodora Adornato thing where it loses its luster.

Kyle: It becomes less pure gold the further away you get from a pure live performance. Even a recorded live performance is a bit of an abomination. So there there is that whole standard of jazz. And I didn’t see anybody saying this outright. But I think that’s a lot of what had contributed to the erosion of interest in jazz over 20 years was the fixation that it had to be this one thing which ran so counter to the idea that you have the most provocative, interesting, accomplished musicians in the world working in and out of this form. So this is, Miles, abandoning all of that entirely and going to a place where there was a tension. But nobody everyone had yet to be dazzled at this point. And I always use the example of what would it sound like in 1967 to lay the record the needle down on are you experienced? Because that still sounds like Johnny B. Goode. And back to the future now if your kids are going to love it, but that these noises were coming out of people in 1969 is like breathtaking. And we were going to the moon. And I don’t know what happened to America, man. Let’s not go there.

Cliff: You know, this is happening during that same period of time that you mentioned can. Yes. It also made me think a king, tubby and everything else happening in the 70s with connecting all the literal machines together and sending analog audio signals in and out of stuff to try to mess around with it. And so it’s like everything we’ve just spent all this time talking about so far with all the way into all those recording sessions. And then plus on top of that is this nascent, constantly evolving concept of, to your point, this like new thing of music, this new final form of it. It’s even harder, I think, or maybe it was even harder to separate for jazz, because one thing about jazz was that, you know, and it’s really common structure of the rhythm carries the changes and people come on top and play their solo and the group comes back in changes to another part and then the cycle continues is that everything about jazz could be written down except for the improvizational part, like jazz was so directly tied, like classical music to its ability to be understood in this like written regular musical notation format. And things like Bitches Brew are saying like, actually, we don’t need anything like that to begin with.

Cliff: We don’t need it to figure out what we’re going to do. We don’t need it to remember what we’re going to do. We don’t need it to describe what we did. We don’t need it to sell it to you later in a songbook so that you can come back and play it, although I’m sure that exists at this point. But it feels relevant to today in the sense that it feels like we’re going to have to start learning some new ways to learn things and learn new ways to understand things because so much has changed. That’s what this record feels like to me on top of all the mastery that went into the jazz up until this point. Yeah, just a wild like a wild, like literal gift to people who like music after it’s gone through all of that, which we’ve barely touched on, thankfully, as opposed to a lot of other records we talk about. There’s a lot you can learn about Bitches Brew from interviews, from books. You mentioned the thirty three and a third book. Right. The Consequence of Sound has a podcast that goes deep on certain albums that’s been dedicated to season business.

Kyle: That’s the opus. Yeah. Yeah. That was said. It’s four episodes. I don’t listen to hardly any podcast said the guy with a podcast. But that, that. I listen to all of it pretty much straight through in a day, really, really informative and interesting and again, a lot around specific aspects of the context of why this record is special

Cliff: And it’ll psych you up. Right. You can hear him getting psyched up, talking about it for four episodes. He interviews the musicians and they get sick talking about it again. And it’s just this this great overall energy. And the thing that keeps coming back to me and that kept hitting me, the more I either listened or read about the record was just how unresolved this entire piece of music is in the music community. Not a single person who talked about it said anything close to like, yeah, it was a thing and now it’s done. Everyone talked about their existing relationship, this ongoing relationship to the music that they made and the output that was created and that they have this kind of experience of it, that they remember it and they think about what they were thinking about when they decided what to play. And that’s just it’s such a deep gift. And so at the risk of sounding speaking of lots of lots of granola here, because I like this episode so sincerely and sincerity is so scary, I’d love to just mention a few points in this music that stood out to me, and I’d love to hear some from you. And they don’t need to have a reason. Great. No narrative, no tying it together because there’s no sense making to be done here. One of the things that stood out to me, I think, because Faro’s dance is a weird trip of an intro, I think, into this whole thing to begin with.

Kyle: So for some framework before we get into it, the original thing was to LPs write in. And a lot of people are quick to point out LP one and LP two are extremely different experiences. And I was thinking about that in the context of how you and I are always positioning ourselves as fire and water. We couldn’t be more different people on so many levels. And I was wondering if you would agree with the sentiment that you’re more of an LP one person and I’m probably more of an LP to person. Oh yeah.

Cliff: One song for Side four. Oh yeah.

Kyle: And it’s like the most challenging stuff is front loaded on the record. Twenty six minutes, almost half an hour. But the title track is so it’s a little bit daunting because you start by hang gliding into the Grand Canyon. If you can get through that then LP two is a little bit groovier and a little bit of a palate cleanser, but still building on some of that same stuff. So take it away, Mr. LP one.

Cliff: No, I mean, actually, that’s great. That makes a ton of sense. Right, because for lack of a better word and I mean that sincerely to you, I thought of once we get into Spanish key, that’s the more accessible. Yeah. Part of the album. Yeah. Right. Not in the sense that it is objectively accessible, but we’re relatively speaking, this is maybe something. Yeah. With Faro’s dance a super long and like you said, daunting thing to get into one of my favorite parts about it. It’s about six minutes and forty five seconds into it. The guitar comes in and it sounds like Omar Rodriguez Lopez is like coming in with a lick to pick up for Cedric to go into something weird. And one of the things I love about it is that it comes in, it ramps up and goes absolutely nowhere. Yeah, it fizzles like a little bottle rocket. That’s what I meant by thinking about provocation, helped me to understand it better. It doesn’t matter that something didn’t happen directly as a result of what was played, because what was played change something else about the trajectory of the music that I can appreciate.

Kyle: So for Faro’s dance, for me, that’s right away. And again, I had to read along with, like, really close writing of here’s what’s actually happening in the thing to be able to perceive it. But Feroze, dance is full of edits, but you have to listen really closely to hear some of these splices because it’s so Kozmic all of it and none of it sounds natural to me. So the six minute mark that you pointed out ends at about the nine minute mark or interludes down into kind of an ethereal thing. But then at the nine minute mark, Miles kicks it back up and then they’re six minutes of everybody jamming. And that’s a totally unedited section from nine minutes to 15 minutes. So you kind of get the thesis statement and farrows, that’s it’s Miles and then Moppin and then the keyboards and then Wayne Shorter. And then McGlocklin does a little something and then Zawinul does a little something in the left channel. And then at 5:00, just after 15 somewhere, there’s another splice, the jam falls apart and then he just immediately cuts in a new little keyboard named. And I’m sure the longer you think about it, the less it makes sense where it’s like, why did this why did you what made you think you end with this thing? And then you start with this next thing, which is I try to put that in the context of another band that I love.

Kyle: I love the band every time I die and have always been fascinated with that thing that that Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams said about how early in their career they just had a bunch of 10 second riffs and their first record is just bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, just like all of them, like smashed up against each other like a car crash. And it was almost music concrete in that way. And so I’m always looking for things now where it’s like two things don’t make sense together if you think about it. But if you don’t think about it, if you like, consciously unlearn, like, oh, that’s the way that it’s supposed to be. So the right around the 15 minute mark that splice, the more times I listen, I listen for that. I don’t even want to call it a transition to a halt, if you will. So that’s an interesting moment for me. And it becomes its own kind of joy, like when you’re watching film and thinking about how you would edit and create beats between visuals. Listening for Mesero edits becomes its own kind of Where’s Waldo? They’re hard to find. Like the really some of the most interesting ones run counter to the physics of the thing.

Cliff: And they’re just like really layer on the nerd about edits. An important thing about Miles Davis, the musician and the bandleader together is that he was known for doing things like not coming up to play with the band for the first 15 minutes, walking on stage, playing a single note which changed the entire trajectory of everything that the band was playing and then walking back onstage. So changes themselves. Abrupt, rhythmic shifts in the music are themselves a staple of how Miles Davis writes music. So what I think is amazing about talking about the edits are if you make the edits too harsh, they almost indicate something in the music that actually isn’t happening in a Miles Davis band. So the fact that those are harder to pick up on is kind of a gift to the music itself, because it meant that I don’t know if he was thinking about this at the time he was editing it or not, but the different varying levels of being able to detect that edit and those changes go along with the way that we understand Miles Davis and that we understand the music that he writes itself. Again, just a million little nuggets like that to me as I start to think about how this music came together and what does it all mean, you know?

Kyle: And then the next one, you get into Bitches Brew and just looking at the the run time of twenty six minutes or twenty seven minutes and you’re like, I’m not listening to that shit. Even if you’re a person that’s like I’ll listen to forty two days worth of live dead, which is neither one of us, but like people that will just go inaccessible places time wise or like I’ll listen to a season of podcast episodes in a day, but then you look at a piece of twenty seven minutes of jazz or free expression and you’re like, no, I’m out pass. It helped for me when I really started listening. There’s kind of like a part in a B part in it and both of them are really cool. And the way that they will throw one out and then signaling the start of it returns you to that idea. And they they just run in two pots on the stove at the same time. The a part starts at the beginning. It’s it’s like an incantation of sorts. I was describing it as a storm, like watching a storm kick up or brew, no pun intended. But then there’s a little bird that I love that I did not notice it for a long time when they start getting into the van. That’s what I’m describing as the bepart. The bassist Brooks, who was described in the 33 and a third, is the weakest player in this bunch, which is like, all right, you’re the sixth or seventh man, 9Certifications, whatever you just mentioned that he tended to lag a little bit, especially because rhythmically they kind of went in and out of meter so much right before the three minute.

Kyle: Mark Brooks is playing the bass line and it’s starting to vamp. And there was also a lot of bass line in the keyboards as well. So those things were competing with each other a little bit. But Miles, Snapp’s at Brooks to try to get him to play at the right tempo. And he doesn’t like four or five times. He snaps multiple times the first time. And then we’ll try to get him to hit on a note. And you can hear it so clearly once you hear it the first time. And that’s one of those moments, you know, Miles, playing a single note, stay in this thing like this. And then they get into the groove and it’s so effortless for miles and so much so, that there’s a moment right around the five minute mark where he makes fun of a line from a blood, sweat and tears song. So there’s a little bit of a winking acknowledgment. But like if this is a rock record, this is way better than any rock record that you’ve ever heard. So I appreciate that. But mostly I just have to chunk Bitches Briere to be able to stick with it for long periods of time that that admittedly, maybe you’ll agree, maybe you won’t, is the hardest part of this record to get into, to stay with, to survive, to get to the other stuff. I mean, one hundred percent. I agree. Super challenging.

Cliff: Yep. The title track on this already challenging record is the most challenging track on the record. It does all the stuff you just talked about and confronts you with effects on a trumpet that.

Kyle: Oh yeah. Like that goes and stuff. Right.

Cliff: Yeah. He’s using while he’s using DeLay and Echo and I mean this, that’s stuff that people hadn’t heard very much of at all at that point. And it still sounds confrontational the way it comes out. But even in in that birth of the cool documentary I was mentioning, one of the percussionists was talking about like that day, Miles, which just like just bring a snare and assemble. And he talked about just really embodying that entire first part of the song because he went back and described it. He said, well, when you think about it all, it really is, is me hitting the cymbal and then Miles playing his trumpet once. I really loved watching people talk about the kind of embodiment of how this stuff got played and how they describe it. And these are really visceral terms. Instead of describing what he is doing in the music. Right.

Kyle: It’s the sense of discovery of what comes out of you when you don’t think too hard about.

Cliff: So then Spanish key is not only great, but also like if you’re a little worried about how daunting this is, just like start with Spanish Kei. It’s great. Around eight minutes and 10 seconds into it, you get a little intro that sounds exactly like a capital city song. Speaking of things you’ll never hear again. That’s the one. So we’re going to play it and then everyone will be trapped with it forever. It’s OK because you’ll remember a riff from a Miles Davis song,

Which is six.

Cliff: But yeah, that one overall touch is more of kind of jazz landmarks for lack of a better term, it borrows a little bit of the framework from time to time so you can get back into it a little bit.

Kyle: So this is my favorite song on the record, probably unsurprisingly to you. I liked it because when I first listened through, you’re like, oh, the influence on Cam is so obvious with this. This is the best canned song I’ve ever heard. So I want to I want to stop down and spend some time with this because there were some macro things that stood out to me. And there are like a bunch of really finite moments that I just want to try to hit on really quickly. The the 33 and a third has a chapter for the first LP and a chapter for the second LP. And the chapter for the second LP starts with one disc of Blow You Away Another to readjust your head. So there’s this interesting kind of framing that was like an O for me and I just want to read it. In the score for symphony number two, Gustav Mahler added a note after the final double bar of the cataclysmic verse movement, asking for the conductor to observe a five minute pause before continuing on to the next movement. Mahler felt the emotional and sonic power of the music would be so great that listeners and even the musicians would need some time to recover their equilibrium.

Kyle: So I love the physicality of that. Something of the same experience was built into the original double album and one that’s lost in the transfer to CD and digital. So at least follow along actively enough with the record to know in Bitches Brew ends and maybe take a five minute pause there. Like emulate the taking one disk off the platter and putting the next one on various dancing bitches brew. Like you mentioned, each took up their own entire side of the first LP in the SAT and the listener had to flip over that LP and change completely to the second side LP or wait for the automatic changer and that necessary pause afforded some time for the music to sink in. So not only is there something built into the Post-production element intentionally for the music to take form, but the way that it’s laid out presents itself in art gallery format to the listener. And they go on to say, Beyond the central impact of the music, there’s the still disorienting sensation of the track simply stopping without coming to a formal and a resolution of any kind. Repeated exposure to Bitches Brew and the cultural accumulation of sensibility, altering musical styles like ambient black metal, drone and psychedelia.

Kyle: You know, again, try to listen to this thing with your twenty, twenty one years and it’s still fresh. All the touch points make it easier to navigate the album. The music will always touch on something in the lizard brain that stimulates the feeling of contemplating a great unnamable power, which is what we’ve been trying to say over the past little bit. And Miles, that is deepest. Prince of Darkness. Musical moments wields power. That’s more tonic than any musician or band that tries to narrate a mythos. Beautifully said. So I just want to give the writer their roses for articulating a thing so beautifully. So, again, it’s relatively more accessible once you get to this point, even if you’re really into super challenging, mind altering types of music. So then you’re like, all right, here’s some. Do I call it jazz? What do I call it? The thing that set me on a hard left when we first started talking about doing this record, you said it’s more Funkadelic than Coltrane. And I sat up in my chair when we were texting and I was like, oh, I can do this now.

Cliff: But I mean, speaking at, like the million aspects, we can’t get all into you but like on the corner and Agatha, which would come afterwards for Miles Davis, are like our funk records, especially Garth. It I’m not even sure it’s a good one, but it’s definitely funk.

Kyle: So I like Spanish you because it’s easier to follow, but you hear interplay really beautifully. It’s a really punchy points in the first thirty seconds that thirty five seconds Miles hits an ascending like straight blues phrasing and he does it once and it’s a little bit tentative and then he does it again immediately after. And that sort of rallies the troops and you can hear the the style of play come up physically.

Cliff: It has a real like, yeah, I think I will feel to it,

Kyle: Yeah, but hey oh hey, you guys can hear me. Well, let’s go. We’re going to go get some waffles. There’s Menschen after Menschen after mention of OK, Miles is in his fourth decade of his career at this point. He’s been playing since the 40s with Cannonball Adderley and all these other people and he’s doing the physically strongest playing of his life. So easy to overlook is just the simple piece of the trumpet is a very physiological instrument to play well. And that’s what separates a good player from a great player. And he is like blasting in this thing. And there’s dissonance in the mix between the instruments. So it’s really easy to lose. But when this dude punches, he damn punches. And so that thirty five second thing, the second one is like, whoa, like everybody in the round kind of sets up after that. And it’s a great John McLaughlin track. It’s not the one you would probably think of on this record, but he’s playing really great slices like almost sounds like a Telecaster mutated but not really rhythm guitar. And there’s a moment, the two minutes and 15 seconds where they lock in really nicely and it only lasts for a second when it comes into your consciousness. It’s like one of those things that I listen for in the really easy thing to lose in the first three minutes as the bass clarinet, like, hits these drone notes underneath it all and descending phrases. And it holds the thing and it grounds it. And it sounds so weird out of the like. If you just listen for that thing, you’re like like that YouTube video of somebody imagining what it would be like to be the guy that hits the tag with the baseball bat.

Kyle: And Slipknot, if you think about just from that first player, one roll hitting those notes, it’s so alien, but it makes so much sense in the context of the thing that’s like how do you even reach for that with that instrument? And then right after that, it hits a funk groove that reminds me a lot of hallelujah. I can. Yeah. And so that’s where I’m like, oh hell yeah. And then that groove last through. Right. I feel like Henckel. How do you talk like Boomhauer about bitches brew man. Dang old man and basically her name and went on and on and on and I know wild man. Right after five minutes John McGlocklin hits this rapid fire thing that because this is my reference point, reminds me of Steve Gaines doing like OK, Picken like really fast stuff. And he works his way up to it, and that’s one of those running back moments where it’ll it’ll go a few minutes past that and I’ll be like, oh my God. And I want to listen to that piece again. And it just kind of stabs at your consciousness. And then once you get past that in the song, it’s this idea of our friend Jason Koretski from the band Stone Writer explained what they were trying to do with jamming to me as the consciousness of the audience as far out as it can go, stretch their attention as far as it can go. And then as soon as you feel like you’re about to lose them, you pull them back into the thing. And that’s what happens from seven to nine minutes. And then it goes on for four or five more or so.

Cliff: You can actually help with the with the John McLaughlin, the kind of percussive guitar playing reference because Frank Zappa criticism of John McLaughlin was, quote, I appreciate this caveat at the beginning. Quote, A person would be a moron not to appreciate McGlocklin technique. You can feel the butt coming. The guy is certainly found out how to operate a guitar as if it were a machine gun. But I’m not enthusiastic about the lines I hear or the way in which they’re used.

Kyle: And similarly, I wrote down I love Bitches Brew because Donald Fagan from Steely Dan hated it so much once that once I read that there was a little bit of a rallying cry like, no, you have to love this record now because the guy that made real it in the years was like offended by this.

Cliff: There was a scale and on one end was the way that Steely Dan recorded music. This one is absolutely on the other side of it.

Kyle: The most opposite it could be. And then at the end of Spanish, Keith, toward the end, 13, 45 miles hits a run where he scales up to the theme of the groove like. And that is that’s a split second snap in the moment, call to the band to return to the main groove and those things happen on a dime multiple times throughout the record. But that’s my favorite instance of it, because it does kind of go back into the like a swampy, syrupy funk groove and it lifts along. So maybe I like this song because this is this is the like beginner’s blues guide to getting into Bitches Brew. I really do feel strongly that you got power through Lenny White, [1] to get to a place where you appreciate the dexterity of what they’re doing.

Cliff: It’s absolutely still a wildly experimental song out of just the least wildly experimental, arguably on the small collection of ridiculous things.

Kyle: It’s all relative.

Cliff: Speaking of relative and ridiculous, the next track is named John McLaughlin after John McLaughlin, who plays the guitar on this record. But this is why I’m just I’m glad that you decided to surprise me with this. What do you think about him as a guitarist thing? Because this is a perfect example. Miles Davis is not on this track. He named the track after the person who is ostensibly the Miles Davis of this track in the middle of what Miles Davis knows is an earth shattering record that he’s leading.

Kyle: It’s just I think I think the other thing to know about it, the respect that John McLaughlin commanded is it is extracted from Bitches Brew. It’s a segment of that movement that they exercised and decided it was so it didn’t fit in the context of the overall thing, the way that they had distilled it down. But it was so good that it still deserved to be on the record. Bitches Brew was originally in retrospect when they were listening back to truck them is like a five part suite and this was part three and then cut it out and they put it in a different place, like when Zeppelin wrote a song called Houses of the Holy and put it on physical graffiti, just

Cliff: Aflex continuing to be self-referential for some reason. I won’t really understand then. Yet Miles runs the voodoo down, which I like because you start to bring in elements of, you know, we’re trying to stay away from labels, but bringing in a little bit more of that free jazz spirit where things kind of feel like, wait, what’s happening? Wait, wait, something’s wrong. My CD player is skipping like things are falling apart. And like I wrote down, like one one note of that specifically was around like nine minutes and 30 seconds into it. And because I couldn’t escape, I had to stop what I was doing when I was paying attention to how this music made me feel. The stop what I was doing. And speaking of pauses, I had to stop the music, took a note of the time stamp and said this was overwhelming. I need to like take a moment to come back because I am feeling like I can’t get my grip. I don’t do this anymore because I’m too lightweight for it. But, you know, when I used to drink too much and you get the spins and you can’t quite touch the wall in the way that makes you feel grounded, you’re just uncomfortable and you can’t stop feeling uncomfortable and like that’s how I felt.

Kyle: I don’t even know how to get to the lift app on my phone. Am I going to do I have to stay here forever? Am I going to die here?

Cliff: I’m just talking into it. Let me listen to me there

Kyle: A little bit like you’re at the end of your golden cord and you’re way out in space and you’re like, oh, my God, I’m going to die out here. There’s no oxygen. And then it’s like Yank groove. The first half of miles runs The View down. It’s super deconstructed Funkadelic. And there’s a lot of comparison because of the bass playing to James Brown. What if you ran the James Brown algorithm through quantum filters a hundred times? What is a James Brown fractal look like? And it’s something like Miles runs the video down. It gets more wild and free as it goes down, which is why I love the title of Running the Voodoo Down. It’s just like something I want to do in my life, like anarchy. I don’t know what it means, but I love it. So there’s really great keyboard interplay between the two keys players around three minutes. That is always like a little bit of a that’s the wall that I touch. I like listen out for that moment when the thing is going and four fifty five, there’s an ascending guitar like by McGlocklin that I always listen out for. And the thing that keeps this grounded to me is the drumming like we haven’t really talked about the drumming on this record. Phenomenal. We began the season by talking about a group with two drummers. And there’s really interesting moments that feel Allman Brothers said to me, obviously, like they were super into jazz, not at the point of the self-titled record that we talked about, but they got more into it.

Kyle: But they play the same backbeat at four fifty five where that guitar lick as and then again at five fifty five. But they play the snare harder and somehow at five fifty five. And somehow McGlocklin knows to accept that with guitar. So there’s a really in tune moment. But this is, I think, my favorite drumming song, and I also learned right before we started recording that this is the only completely unedited start to finish take on the record like this is the no overdubs live in the room. This is the ninth take of the song. But clocking in at 14 minutes is incredible that this is a literal stream of consciousness, piece of music, which I. I don’t even know what to make of that, frankly. Just appreciation, I guess, as John Cage used to say, no, why just here? And then we end on what ostensibly is the ballad of this record Sanctuary, which reminded me of Daniela’s voodoo in its own way. And I see so many similarities. And obviously the way that those records were conjured, it just bruyn’s on the same type of note that Voodoo does with Africa, where it’s like spiritual, it’s resolved. We’ve been through so much. We’ve had such a very physical and spiritual journey, getting to this point of 80 minutes of intense, unrelenting expression and exploration that we get to sanctuary, which again, by objective standards is like not an easy piece of music at all. But it’s what I guess in the language of this record, a palate cleanser.

Cliff: And this was one of the tracks that they had been kind of loosely working through life. And when they were performing, there was a previous version of the song that was actually written by Wayne Shorter. Apparently there was some funny drama between him and Miles about the songwriting credits for it. But basically this version of Sanctuary became like a totally rewritten version, which again, what does that even mean in this context? Right. What do you keep? What do you get rid of? But they are totally reworked it after having performed some form of it in 68 and 69. So I think this probably also kind of feels good as a closer, relatively speaking, maybe because it had some familiar aspects to it and it could bring a little bit of that back home.

Kyle: Yeah. Gives the impression that it was a welcome change of pace in recording, like all of this sort of pseudo formless stuff comes in. It’s like, oh, wait, we get to play a little bit of jazz, you know, now now it’s like I’ve been in the batting cages on the far right where the ball is coming in at 90. Like, let’s go over to the 30 mile per hour side for a minute. Just remember what it feels like to just connect just bam, bam, bam, one after the other. The thing that stands out to me, there’s so much meat in this record, right? It’s over an hour and a half long that I had to go back and just think about the basest elements of the thing, the beginning, middle and end, even though that flies in the face of what this record is doing, it begins on a really interesting and provocative note and that it has like an A. beginning. It draws you in because it’s quiet and they’re working up to a thing. But it ends with Miles hanging a note in the air.

Kyle: It ends on a note of no resolve on purpose. And then if you do like we have done with this record and you put it on repeat, all thing hangs and then you jump right back into the low end and you’re back on the roller coaster again. You’re back inside Space Mountain. That is a specific aspect that I think is really brilliant. But unlike something being taken away from it, not being the LP context, it gets better with digital, right, because it becomes more ephemeral and you don’t have any physical activity to associate with it. So it takes a long time to start differentiating, like that’s why you have to hitch into moments like a little John McLaughlin guitar lick or where the keyboards are playing with each other so that you can be like, oh, that’s Spanish guy or Oh, that’s Farrows dance, because otherwise you can look up and you’re in a part of town that you don’t recognize and you’re like, oh my God, how long have I been driving? I’m about to run out of gas.

Cliff: I started shuffling this record just to give me, like, a hobby that’s like so great and then came back to it again in the original form is while. Yes, just it’s really hard to express how rewarding of a record this is to invest time and energy and emotion into you even more than I would have expected while knowingly planning for this to be the end of a season and for us to spend a lot of time talking about it, I’m still blown away in a way that really, frankly, Kyle is starting to annoy me. I like doing this podcast with you, but I’m already like, so full of sincerity having to come to these records and find out that I actually like music even more than I knew that I did before is becoming frustrating and frankly, untenable.

Kyle: It’s OK if we’re being earnest. Let’s be really earnest. You and I have both been married for a while and we don’t talk a lot about our personal lives on this podcast for extremely good reason. But when people ask me about what it’s like to be married, my first thing is like, well, I married this one person, but I definitely would not have married any other person in the world because, holy shit, what a logical and frankly absurd institution. But that old cliche is true. Like, I love my wife the more that time goes on, just because experience reveals the nuances of what makes something great to you in a way that the excitement and freshness of something can’t be first. Meeting somebody is the stooges. It’s primal and it hits you right away and it struts. Bitches Brew is is having been married for a really long time. We started this podcast. Has it been three years, almost four years now? We’ve been doing this thing. It’s been a minute. And I know we mentioned in one of the last episodes that the we got to look for harder drugs all the time. A little bit. Right. Because after so many live experiences and listening to so many records, like what’s left to learn about music and myself and the unknowable mystery of existence and why we’re here, my

Cliff: Tolerance is sky high. Sky is spreading out.

Kyle: Yeah, sky fucking high at this point. And then you find a record like Bitches Brew and twenty five year old or eighteen year old US would have had a totally different conversation about this record. And more time has gone on and it’s still there standing the test of time, but not in a way that it’s static on the wall, like it is truly free in that it’s molecules arranged themselves in a different way. The light dances off of it at a different time in history when we bring a different set of eyes to it and one that’s incredible that human beings have the capacity to do a thing like that, to express in a way that it’s the same and different all the time. That’s shit that computers will never be able to do. So the singularity will never approach bitches brew and pure true creativity is the value that human beings will bring to consciousness and existence if we don’t all kill each other first. But, you know, thinking about this is not being jazzed to tell the story of jazz is to tell the story of the racial history of America and how we think it’s one thing.

Kyle: And it is having recently, not that long ago at all scene, a bunch of people react to a literal white supremacist KU by saying, this is not who we are. I loved the way the 33 and a third ended. And again, I want to read it because it’s so well said. Bitches Brew fills up and amplifies the ambiguous spaces and ambivalent attitudes in American culture and history. Well, music commonly seeks to make neat order out of time and thus the dates itself. By expressing each era’s idea of just what constitutes neatness and order, Bitches Brew revels in the mess of America. It still sounds like it was made yesterday. Like we said about Stankonia, our first episode. Twenty years later, it sounds twenty years ahead of its time. It’s the music that takes American culture up through the summer of love and carries it to the post Dog Soldier Society we have. It’s a soundtrack for the beats, the hippies, the black. Panthers and beyond the loss of ideals and the fictions we tell about ourselves, Miles, Stew’s blues, jazz, rock and more together to make the messy funk that as America’s heart,

Cliff: That’s good and I like it. But I also want to make sure that anyone who’s not American knows and understands that that is just a super good analogy, that like there there is something here beyond our cultural constructs. And I think I think we’re trying to say what we’re a little bit afraid to say, that we know how to identify when other people are being present and creative and that that just happened to be recorded in this document that we can then receive and be present and creative in response to because there’s no right and there’s no wrong. There’s only what’s happening in this current moment. There’s only responding to to what’s here and now. I love being able to think about it in the way that you just described. And yet I love that it’s true at once that we can encapsulate it and look at it and be fascinated by the outcome of it. And still, on the other hand, which I hope will do. Speaking of America, it’s a great experiment. Like we can participate in it, like we’re a part of it, and we change it by observing it and by interacting with it and by being a part of it. Like we by making this podcast have changed what business brew means going forward, because it was designed to be a piece of music that way, and it was done by people who knew how to execute on that. And like that, being a part of a piece of art like that is a rare experience, no matter what part of the world you’re in, for sure.

Kyle: Yeah, it’s never as simple as the story we tell ourselves about it. The story makes it easier to digest, but it never makes it worth being a part of. So to your point, just be a part of the music and you’ll be better for it.

Cliff: Yeah, and we’re just going to guess, based on the way that the last couple of years have gone, that by the time this episode drops, maybe things are better. But our bet things are still book fucking wild, bro, because. Oh, my God. So this is another good exercise where I take a business brew and let’s just say here in this moment together, because worldwide we’ve gone through some things in the last year or so country wise. We’ve gone through some things in the last year or so. None of us really knows what’s coming or what’s happening next. And quite frankly, I think it would be wise for us to stop looking for it in the same way that we can unlearn a little bit about this record and stop pretending that we know what jazz is supposed to be and let things come to us instead and respond to them as as they approach us in our presence. And I think that that’s a way that we can listen to this record in a way that we can apply it still 50 years later with some of these geniuses.

Kyle: Go to tunedig.com for your chance to win a free vinyl copy of the album we just covered. And follow us on Instagram and Twitter for even more info about the album, including playlist links to interesting articles and videos and even some stories that didn’t make the episode. Most importantly, though, please support your favorite local record store, concert venue, or buy merch from a band you love. Thanks for listening.

Original "Bitches Brew" Art

To celebrate the endless creativity of Bitches Brew—and especially its famous album artwork—TuneDig partnered with two incredible Atlanta-based artists to create one-of-a-kind, handpainted gatefolds.

With the spirit of the original art in mind, each artist brought their own vision to life. These pieces will spark conversation for any jazz fan.

Each piece includes a new vinyl copy of Bitches Brew. 100% of the purchase price goes directly to the artist, so take this opportunity to support the arts in the raddest possible way.

Seriously. There’s literally only one of each. Make it yours. 😎

SEASON 5 EPISODES

TuneDig Episode 41: Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew”

Let’s be clear: "Bitches Brew" is a challenging record, even to some of the best musicians in the world — but all of them say it’s worth the investment. It’s the kind of trip that, even if we *could* draw a map, it wouldn’t take you there. Let go of the need for meaning and enjoy the ride with us. We can promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised where you end up.

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TuneDig Episode 40: Fiona Apple’s “Tidal”

On the heels of one of 2020's most acclaimed albums — Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters — we revisited Apple’s debut Tidal and wound up working to extract ourselves from the mostly male gazes that made its reception … much different. We arrive at a question much like writer Jenn Pelly had: “People would constantly prod Fiona on how an 18-year-old could write songs as mature as these ... Why did they not ask instead how she became a genius?”

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TuneDig Episode 39: Death Grips’s “The Money Store”

The modern world is accelerating beyond our control, shaping our reality in ways we can’t yet perceive or understand. Enter Death Grips, an art project capturing the chaotic energy and illustrating the absurdity of our hubris in trying to harmonize the surreal and extremely real — never more perfectly than on 2012’s prescient "The Money Store".

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TuneDig Episode 38: Augustus Pablo’s “King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown”

Reggae music is easy to take for granted, but its impact is underappreciated and massive — in the case of dub in particular, everyone from Radiohead to Johnny Rotten to Run-DMC owes it a debt. Augustus Pablo and King Tubby together created what’s regarded as “one of the finest examples of dub ever recorded.” Join us as we dive into the culture, history, and unique engineering experiments that made it possible.

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TuneDig Episode 37: Rihanna’s “ANTI”

By every measure — sales, awards, chart-toppers, global name recognition — Rihanna is objectively as big as the Beatles ever were. In fact, ANTI is so big it’s still on the charts, a record five full years later. Take a closer look with us at “the record you make when you don’t need to sell records”, and get a taste of the true freedom that comes from focusing on your inner voice when faced with insurmountable expectations.

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TuneDig Episode 36: Son House’s “Father of Folk Blues”

All American music traces back to the blues, and deep at the root sits Son House. That the recordings on "Father of Folk Blues" even exist is something of a gray area that cuts to the heart of the great American myth, but wherever you land after hearing these stories, you’ll find that what matters most is what the great Muddy Waters once said of House: “That man was the king.”

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TuneDig Episode 35: Melvins’s “Stoner Witch”

The futility of describing the Melvins has stretched critics in the direction of absurd words like “Dadaist” for nearly 40 years now. They’ve belligerently flogged any attempt to pinpoint their essence simply by being themselves, but "Stoner Witch" remains a reliable mall directory for the Melvins’ vast and wild discography. Grab yourself some pretzel bites.

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TuneDig Episode 34: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”

We should talk about Dolly the way we talk about Prince. Her extraordinary kindness and unique kitsch both make her universally loved, but what gets left out of the conversation is the very thing that made her famous: the music. Join in as we focus attention on the sonics and songwriting of the low-key masterpiece "Jolene".

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RADIO EPISODES

SEASON 4 EPISODES

SEASON 3 EPISODES

SEASON 2 EPISODES

SEASON 1 EPISODES

BONUS TRACK EPISODES

Kyle and Cliff

BONUS TRACK: How We Got Here

We got a bunch of interesting listener feedback in our off-season, and it encouraged us to shed some light on why we do things the way we do ‘em. Also, we reflect on our first writeup, which was ... interesting.

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ABOUT US

We're Cliff (left) and Kyle (right). We’re two dudes born and raised in ATL with day jobs in tech and entertainment, respectively.

We met in middle school, and in one way or another, music’s been the thing that’s kept us close for the two decades since — whether it’s sharing and talking about new music (like this podcast, except in our texts or over beers), going to shows, or working with our favorite record stores to help them survive and thrive.

We started TuneDig as a little art project that connects us more deeply ourselves and to the world through the infinite gift of music. We hope you’ll join us for the conversations, let us know what you think, and share discoveries of your own.

More About TuneDig

TuneDig began as a little something called MusicGrid.me, which we created after realizing there was no place online to directly exchange music recommendations with your friends. Our aim was simple: to make rating albums simple, useful, and social. We got some love from places like MashableWiredEvolver.fm, and Hypebot. We managed to foster conversation between music lovers, get thousands of reviews, and meet great people.

Along the way, we realized that record stores were an essential part of the music lovers’ community. After many a conversation about how we could helpfully connect them to the people who loved them, we began helping them leverage technology to create new revenue streams and embrace streaming services without giving up what’s unique to them: expertise and curation. (Long live the counter clerk who knows exactly which record will be the right introduction to jazz fusion!)

TuneDig is our vision to connect music lovers with the music they love, because no matter how much has changed in the way we discover and enjoy music, recommendations from people you trust and respect will always be the best way to find new music you’ll dig. With this podcast, we’re channeling the spirit of trusted curation pioneered by record stores, and bringing you something to take you deeper into music you can love.