CELEBRATING
50 YEARS

JazzTimes 10: Key Post-Bitches Brew Fusion Albums

In the wake of Miles' masterpiece, a new genre emerged—and here are 10 of the best examples

As we celebrate the recent 50th anniversary of Bitches Brew, Miles Davis’ 1969 magnum opus of jazz fusion, we naturally have a great deal to say about the album itself. However, the reason we still talk so much about it today is arguably less about its own musical content and more about the music it inspired. Bitches Brew was one of the most influential recordings of its day, spawning a wealth of imitators.

The most prominent of those imitators, as it turns out, were the musicians who played on the original album. These were legion; Bitches Brew won a Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Recording. Think of it as yet another demonstration of Davis’ shrewdness in selecting his bandmates: He wanted to work with musicians who had their own singular visions to which they could adapt Miles’ music, and vice versa. Below are 10 extraordinary examples, some of which have been neglected over the years. They are included here, along with the better-known children of Bitches Brew, in hopes of fostering the attention they deserve.

1. Weather Report : Weather Report (Columbia, 1971)

1. Weather Report : <i>Weather Report</i> (Columbia, 1971)
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Aside from Miles’ own followups, no other albums channel Bitches Brew’s moody experimentalism like Weather Report’s. Small wonder, since the band was co-led by saxophonist Wayne Shorter and keyboardist Joe Zawinul, both major voices on the August 1969 Miles sessions. That said, Weather Report is thoroughly original. Atop the funky rhythms are mysterious, psychedelic, ethereal soundscapes. Shorter’s soprano and Zawinul’s Fender Rhodes bleed into the mix like watercolors, even when both are screaming. Meanwhile, bassist Miroslav Vitous often blunts the edges of the grooves with acoustic upright bass (as on his own “Seventh Arrow”). It’s not all funk, either; the band swings mightily on Shorter’s “Eurydice.” In either case, Weather Report’s secret weapon—especially on side two—is the percussion combination of Airto Moreira and Don Alias, both uncredited and both fellow Bitches Brew alumni.

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.