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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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musings on music by Miles Davis; on the death of jazz by James Mtume (1970 Isle of Wight Festival)

I transcribed these quotes from a Miles Davis DVD I own which features interviews with numerous old band members, interview footage with Miles himself, and the entire 1970 Isle of Wight concert at which he performed for some 600 thousand fans. Biggest jazz performance of its time -- don't know if that's ever been surpassed since then.

These first two are from Miles, just him talking about his approach to music.
I like a lot of rhythm; broken rhythm

I like strong melodies
I like smooth voice leading on the piano and chords on the synthesizer

Maybe a patch on the synthesizer will turn me on to write something in that particular path
Listen, sound and music change so click
It's like the world on its axis, turning
It doesn't turn so you can say, I'm a turning
It turns so slow that you can't feel it

Music changes you
I also have to highlight this luminous and illustrative quote from James Mtume, a member of Miles' electric band in the 1970s:
We cannot make new music without access to new colours. And unfortunately, jazz stopped developing when the premier jazz creators did not want to accept the reality of electronics.

Look, when the piano came along and the tempered scale was created and we got A440 [cycles per second], that was the synthesizer of its time. I'm sure there were some harpsichord players walking around talking about, "Hey, they're not keeping it real."
Bassist Dave Holland speaks of his experience with Miles:
As far as I was concerned, every time Miles put the horn to his lips it was a great event.

The bass player has a tremendous responsibility in the music to create a centre, to create a focus within the music that Miles is creating. But how you do that can change drastically from one situation to another.

What I did with Miles was influenced by the things that I heard around me at those times: what Jack Bruce was doing with Cream, what Jimi was doing with his band, and of course there were always the influences of James Brown's music and a lot of the other things that were going on at that time.
Context for the Isle of Wight concert was expertly set by Bob Belden, Sony music producer:
Now, can you imagine being Miles Davis, you've been struggling your whole life, you've got money, but you've got high expectations [placed on you], you've been with Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Cannonball [Adderley], Wayne Shorter, Ron [Carter], Tony [Williams], and you've got this record [Bitches Brew] which is essentially a jam session, and it becomes the top-selling jazz record of all time at the time. And then on top of that, you do the Fillmores, and you're on the Newsweek magazine, and within the space of six months, he played the Isle of Wight. East Afton Farm, Isle of Wight: Half a million people, minimum: playing opposite Hendrix, all those pop acts that were at the top of the scene at that moment -- that's as high as any jazz musician ever got in the world, playing that kind of music. That was the mountaintop.
Other acts that played the 1970 Isle of Wight festival included Chicago, Free, Procol Harum, The Doors, The Who, Joni Mitchell, Sly & The Family Stone, Free, John L. Sebastian, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull, Joan Baez, Canadian acts Leonard Cohen and the band Lighthouse, and of course, Miles Davis.
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