Two of my favorite things in this world are good music and good beer. Somehow they've always gone hand-in-hand with me, so I thought I'd spend a little bit of time explaining what I like in both. The making of each to me is an art form and both are necessary to a good outlook on life and general happiness. They both seem better while you're sharing them with others, and each enhances the other.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Miles Davis - 40 years ago, more or less

Miles Davis was the most influential jazz musician ever. He was born to a well-off family in downstate Illinois and began taking trumpet lessons when he was 13. While living in East St. Louis his family gave him his first taste of jazz by taking him to see Billy Eckstine who had Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker on tour with him. After he graduated high school in 1946 he went to New York City to attend the Juilliard School of Music. Shortly afterwards he dropped out so he could concentrate on gigging in Harlem with other musicians like Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker.

The rest is pretty much history. Davis went through several stages in his playing, and in doing so influenced everyone who heard him. Bebop, cool jazz, his Blue period, hard bop were all different stages in his development and the development of others. He had several signature bands that changed jazz by taking advantage of each member's unique talents. By the time the late 60s rolled around, Davis was very aware of contemporary rock and roll and the effect it had on live audiences. He was amazed at the reaction performers like Jimi Hendrix had on their fans. It was while he was at a Sly and the Family Stone show when he decided he wanted to electrify his band so he could also have his audience go nuts. In 1969, Davis formed a new band and then worked on a new album which turned out to be called Bitches Brew. This was his breakthrough work as far as young people of the time were concerned.

Here's a  63 minute fragment of a show that the Miles Davis Septet performed at the Fillmore in San Francisco on October 15, 1970. Performers were:

Miles Davis (tpt)
Gary Bartz (ss, as)
Keith Jarrett (el-p, org)
Michael Henderson (el-b)
Jack DeJohnette (d)
Airto Moreira (perc)
Jumma Santos [James Riley] (perc)

You can either stream this on your computer or click on the Divshare link to download the MP3s for your player. (Unfortunately, the second piece has a voiceover by radio station KPFA)

Bitches Brew was such an influence on people that it's carried over even now. The great craft brewery Dogfish Head came out with a beer recently called Bitches Brew. It borrows the artwork from the album as its label. It features ingredients that were used long ago in African brewing like gesho (a hop-like plant grown in Ethiopia) and honey. The bottle I had poured very thick, with a one of the darkest heads I've ever seen. It's aroma was smokey chocolate and the taste was complex, with molasses, coffee and smoke. A very good beer. I believe its classified an imperial stout, but its like some kind of chocolate milk stout. Now I want another.

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