Directions In Music 1969 To 1973.

Label: BGP.

Format: CD.

By the time of John Coltrane’s death in 1967 rock was by far the most popular musical genre in America. A headline in Downbeat magazine warned that: “Jazz as We Know It Is Dead.” The future of jazz looked bleak.

Fortunately, fusion rode to the rescue of jazz in the late-sixties. Pioneering the new genre was  when Miles Davies who released Filles De Kilimanjaro in September 1968. This was his first album of fusion and the start of a new era. 

Just ten month months later, Miles Davis returned with In A Silent Way in July 1969. On the cover of his second fusion album were the words “Directions In Music By Miles Davis.” Some listeners wondered what this meant?

When In A Silent Way was being recorded Miles Davis and producer Teo Macero were working in a very different way. They looked closely at every aspect of the recording session as the band combined jazz and rock during the sessions. Miles Davis wanted the world to know that he was firmly in control of his music and career. However, this way of working only lasted for two albums, and second was Bitches Brew which was one of the most important, innovative and influential albums of his career.

When Bitches Brew was released  on March the ‘30th’ 1970, it reached number thirty-five in the US Billboard 200 and number one on the US Jazz charts. It was the biggest selling album of Miles Davis’ career and resulted in his first ever gold album in America. Across the Atlantic, in Britain, audiences embraced Miles Davis’ groundbreaking opus Bitches Brew, which was certified silver.   

Meanwhile, many jazz musicians in America, Britain and Europe had been influenced by the music on Bitches Brew. It was a gamechanger of an album. Musicians were inspired and influenced by the album and went away and recorded music that was ambitious, innovative and groundbreaking. 

This includes the nine musicians and groups that feature on Directions In Music 1969 To 1973, which was recently released by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records. Fittingly, there’s also a live version of Miles Davis’ Directions which is from the First Set that was recorded at the Cellar Door, on the “16th” December 1970. Just like the rest of the music on Directions In Music 1969 To 1973 it’s ambitious and innovative and is a reminder of what was an exciting time for jazz.

Opening Directions In Music 1969 To 1973 is In A Silent Way by Joe Zawinul who was part of the band that played on Bitches Brew. The music that he recorded with Miles Davis undoubtably influenced   him. When he recorded his eponymous album two electric pianos and two contra basses were used during the session. Miles Davis had used two rhythm sections during the recording of Bitches Brew. One was on the right side and the other on the left side. The thirty-eight year old Austrian pianist did likewise on what’s regarded as essentially the first Weather Report album. Zawinul was released in May 1971 and was a pioneering album of fusion.

Just ten days after playing on the first Bitches Brew session Wayne Shorter recorded his Super Nova album on the ‘29th’ August 1969. It featured some of the members  of Weather Report and was produced by Duke Pearson who helped the soprano saxophonist make the transition to fusion on what was a landmark album that was released by Blues Note Records later in 1969.  

After leaving Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Lonnie Liston Smith played alongside Pharaoh Saunders and was a member of Miles Davis touring band but never played on an album. By 1973, the pianist and keyboardist had formed Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes’ classic and had signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label. Later that year the group released their debut for the label Astral Travelling. It featured In Search Of Truth a genre-melting track which veers between beautiful, laidback and poignant to dramatic as fusion, jazz and Eastern influences melt into one  and is one of the highlights of this jazz classic.

British guitarist John McLaughlin was part of the band that played on Bitches Brew. However, in January 1969 he recorded Arjen’s Bag for his album Extraploitation which was released later that year. The track features one of pioneers of fusion as he make tentative steps in the genre that he would make his name playing.

On the ‘14th’ and ‘20th’ May 1969, Bette Davis who was married to Miles Davis entered the Columbia 52nd Street Studios, in New York. She was backed by an all-star fusion band when she recorded Politician Man which was penned by Pete Brown and Jack Bruce. The vocal is soulful and sultry and is delivered against an arrangement where funk and fusion are combined. Sadly, this song and others lay unreleased until it was released as The Columbia Years by Light In The Attic in 2016.

Gary Bartz was a member of Miles Davis’ live band and played on two live albums. He founded Gary Bartz NTU Troop who were recording the Milestone album at Decca Sound Studio, New York, in January 1971. The band included vocalist Andy Bey whose vocal features on Uhuru Sasa. It’s one of the highlights of the album and introduction to two of jazz’s best kept secrets Andy Bey and bandleader and saxophonist Gary Bartz who both play a starring role on the sound and success of the song.

The live version of Joe Zawinul’s Directions was recorded by Miles Davis during the First Set at the Cellar Door on the ’16th’ of December 1970. It’s a tantalising taste of The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 which were released in 2005 and are a reminder of one of Mies Davis’ great bands as he continued to reinvent his music.

Having heard Keith Jarrett play Miles Davis wanted to recruit him to his band. Despite being a pianist, he ended up playing organ in the band. However, his versatility meant he was able to adapt to the new role. However, on April the ‘6th’ 1972, Keith Jarrett recorded his Expectations album which was released by Columbia later that year.  It featured the gospel-tinged Common Mama which was one of the standout tracks on the album.

For three days between May the ‘11th’ to ‘13th’ 1969 Chick Corea recorded his Is album which was released later that year. He switched between acoustic and electric piano on album that featured Song Of The Wind. An alternate take of the track featured on The Complete “Is” Sessions which were released by Blue Note Records in 2002.  However, just a couple of months after the Is sessions Chick Corea was making history when he was part of Miles Davis’ extended band that featured on Bitches Brew.

Herbie Hancock also had a spell as pianist in Miles Davis’ band. However, in 1971 he released his Mwandishi album which featured You’ll Know When You Get There which was his Warner Bros debut. It featured a new band who played much more complicated and had been influenced by Miles Davis’ fusion albums. For Herbie Hancock this was the start of a new era so it’s fitting he closes Directions In Music 1969 To 1973.

When Miles Davis released Filles De Kilimanjaro in 1968 it was  a landmark album. This was his first album of fusion which he followed up with In A Silent Way in 1969 and one of the greatest albums of career Bitches Brew in 1970. It was a groundbreaking album that like its two predecessors would inspire musicians in America, Britain and Europe. They followed in his footsteps and their bands plugged in and became part of the fusion movement. This was the start of a new era for jazz and saved the genre from becoming irrelevant. 

Between 1969 and 1974 some of the most important, innovative and influential fusion albums were released. This included albums by many of the artists on Directions In Music 1969 To 1973. 

All of the artists on Directions In Music 1969 To 1973 have one thing in common, they’ve all members of Miles Davis’ band. He was a hard taskmaster who had the highest and exacting standards. Some musicians had recorded albums with him other stood beside him on stage and watched as he encouraged and cajoled performances from his band. Their time with his band made them better musicians and bandleaders. 

Many of the musicians who were part of Miles Davis went on to form and lead there own bands and between 1969 and 19674 recorded and released some of the most important, innovative and influential albums of the fusion era. Tracks from some of these albums feature on Directions In Music 1969 To 1973 which is a reminder of what was the start of a new, exciting and innovative era for jazz.

Directions In Music 1969 To 1973.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: