The Bodacious Belgrade Blog

October 13, 2008

Dark Magus Of Funk

Filed under: Uncategorized — bunitingi @ 10:45 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I know everyone loves all the beautiful quiet stuff Miles Davis did, and most non music-geeks like myself pretty much think of him as basically a jazz guy, but the fat, sticky, stanky stuff that just does it for me is his 70s Dark Funk.

Any make no bones about it, this IS the darkest, deepest, nastiest funk you’ve ever heard. You can’t HANDle this kind of stank…

Prelude (Part One) from Agharta, Miles Davis

Miles hit a heyday during the 50s with his a quintet featuring some of the greatest jazz musicians around, including a name most non musicians will recognize, John Coltrane. Despite the reams of heroin going around the band, they kicked out some of the finest boppin’ jazz of the decade. Picture swinging, grooving, playful stuff.

In the 60 he assembled a new quintet of fresh young talent and took his music a step forward. This band could improvise beyond anything seen up to that point. They could stretch, speed, slow, do anything they wanted to a song on a dime with esp-like super human powers. This is the band that made Herbie Hancock famous.

By the end of the 60s, however, Miles was at another crossroads. Despite having spent the decade with the greatest jazz group ever assembled, the public’s enthusiasm for jazz had peaked in the 50s, and audiences had dwindled. Rock was exploding from the rather simplistic teen candy of the 50s into an whole new cosmic entity.

And of course, during the 60s, Funk had arrived. James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone were blowing Miles’ mind, and he wanted some of that kind of vibe in his music.

The 1969 album Bitches Brew is of course well known, an electronic jazz fusion masterpiece that caused a near war amongst music lovers. Many jazz lovers hated it beyond words and were outraged by it. Many others embraced it and i’ll just add that if i had to list my top 3 albums of all time, Bitches Brew is one of them.

But Bitches was LIGHT by the standards of what came afterwards. Musically it was much more complex with a lot more going on which is why i ultimately prefer it. But as the 70s grooved it’s way into 73, 74, & 75, miles’ music became more primal. More basic. More funky. This pure, dark funk. He credits his monster guitarist Pete Cosey with breaking him of the last vestiges of European music in his mindset.

Truly, the idea of a linear progression, of notes in a scale, of harmony, of structure were out the window. His band had become a giant grooving funk beast that played funk like a drum circle. There is no melody, there is no verse or chorus or structure of any kind. There is only the monstrous raging groove and it goes where it wants.

Personally, Bitches Brew changed how i saw and interected with music, right around 2001. While i love harmony and structure and verse/choruses and all that stuff, it’s the album that taught me how to listen to and just cruise with the organic groove, that doesn’t need to go anywhere in particular, it’s not trying to be a clever section or idea, it just is a living entity living out it’s strut through audible space.

Today’s selection is not from Bitches Brew, it is from Miles’ last concert of the 70s before he went into hiding from 6 years, locked inside his manhattan apartment, not coming out for months and some say years at a time.

He had gone as far as he could go, he had been strung out on various drugs for decades, he had been in a car accident, broken his legs, and was in constant pain (listen to his trumpet, it sounds thin and painful) and his black funk beast was at it’s height, playing for baffled audiences.

When i want to get my groove on, and i don’t mean a little bop in my step, but get down to the bottom of my soul and stir it up with a primal, spicy, lumbering roar…. i mean get your NASTIEST mother of a GROOVE GOING, THIS is what i listen to, and i never get tired of it.

Hell, i’d play it during Maja’s delivery if i could, but somehow i don’t think she nor the other women surrounding us popping out THEIR little funk monsters would appreciate it quite like i would. Ah well. George Winston it is…

To the FUNK!

(this is an m4a file, and after clicking “Click for m4a File” you might have to wait a hair for it as it’s REALLY long)

Prelude (Part One) from Agharta, Miles Davis


  1. I must say here that I’m far more familiar with Davis’ 1950s work than the dark funk, though I have a passing familiarity with the above-referenced period and beyond (I vaguely recall enjoying “Aura”).

    Davis’ chief flaw in BOTH eras, to my philistine ears, was in picking co-soloists. Coltrane’s formless blobbering only served to highlight what a beautifully melodic and texturally perfect player Davis was. The same is true of Jon McLaughlin’s furtive guitar-neck-groping exercises in Davis’ later band.

    The cynic in me would posit that he chose those sorts of players to make himself look better. However, his interviews seem to suggest that he enjoyed the contrast between his own playing and theirs. To each his own.

    Comment by matthew — October 14, 2008 @ 10:49 pm | Reply

  2. Incidentally, my son seems to enjoy Kind of Blue. My friend Doug Kwartler once mentioned that his toddler at the time would get really quiet if that album was on, and my son seems to respond similarly. What really gets him moving, though, is Wynton Marsalis’ The Sound of Jazz. He’s a better dancer than I am, thankfully.

    Thus far I haven’t subjected him to any Floyd or other teen depression salves. They’ll be on the shelf if he needs ’em later.

    What he categorically will NOT abide is Phil Collins in any form or fashion. My appeals in regard to the man’s drumming skills have thus far fallen on deaf ears. Sigh.

    Comment by matthew — October 16, 2008 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  3. Loves kind of blue? hates phil collins? It’s official. Your son is gifted with great taste.

    Comment by bunitingi — October 16, 2008 @ 6:54 pm | Reply

  4. Saying that Coltrane was a second rate blobberer i believe is grounds for crucifiction in most new england colleges.

    Comment by bunitingi — October 16, 2008 @ 6:56 pm | Reply

  5. Au contraire, he was a first-rate blobberer. As the viewer/participant/victim of a very large number of jazz jams, I can authoritatively say that if I had to be subjected to blobbering, I would rather it be him than the vast majority of the blobberers on the market who want to BE him.

    I just hate blobbering.

    It’s like Stevie Ray. If I have to listen to Stevie-Ray-style blues-rock, I’d rather have Stevie playing it than any of his ham-handed imitators.

    But I really don’t want to hear Stevie Ray do it for very long, either.

    I do, however, love Miles. Why he hangs with the blobberers, I haven’t the foggiest.

    Comment by matthew — October 16, 2008 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

  6. And I SAW you rocking out to Phil & the boys at MSG, so don’t ack like ya don’t know…

    Comment by matthew — October 16, 2008 @ 11:16 pm | Reply

  7. Oh Genesis is a different picture. Old Genesis RULES and i’m not ashamed to say it. I’ll stand behind Lamb Lies Down and Selling England By The Pound any day of the week. I’ll even give Phil Brand X. But despite enjoying some of his solo stuff when i was in, like, early HIGH school, when it comes to his solo career, i have to get off the Phil boat and wave it goodbye as it sails far far away from where i like to be.

    Comment by bunitingi — October 17, 2008 @ 12:06 am | Reply

  8. Brand X was about the weirdest thing Phil did ever. Not my thing, but I give him props for giving it a shot, and for quite a while.

    Comment by matthew — October 17, 2008 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

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