Electric Miles

Interesting film subject, will have to look for it when it makes the festival rounds.....

Miles electric period:

Within a few years of Bob Dylan's controversial adoption of electric instrumentation in 1965, the artistic legitimacy of that move was universally accepted among critics and the buying public. In the late 1960s, jazz giant Miles Davis made a similar transformation in his work, and in some corners he's still viewed as a traitor and a sell-out.

"The electric Miles," as the trumpeter's post-1968 period is colloquially known, is the subject of "Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue," a 2004 documentary by Murray Lerner that opens the Northwest Film Center's 22nd annual Reel Music Festival tonight.

"Miles Electric - A Different Kind of Blue"

"Bitches Brew" (Miles Davis)

Davis has been a frequent topic of Reel Music films through the years. Lerner's film essentially is an argument for the quality and significance of the music Davis made in the late 1960s and early '70s, when his fame and sales reached peaks but when a schism developed in his critical reputation.

Stanley Crouch, the purist grouch who figures prominently in Ken Burns jazz documentary and has been the foremost champion of Wynton Marsalis, is the token detractor here, relating his earnest attempts to enjoy such Davis albums as "Bitches Brew," only to end up feeling like someone was driving nails through his hands. Davis abandoned acoustic instruments and the probing, haunting style he'd fashioned with them not because he yearned to communicate more broadly, Crouch asserts, but because he wanted to make money.

Most of Lerner's interviews, though, are with musicians who performed with Davis. They point to his brief marriage to singer Betty Mabry, a fascination with boxing, and the general tumult of late-'60s culture as influences on his change of direction. Having argued a case for the music, Lerner then simply unleashes it, presenting a 38-minute set from the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. In front of more than a half-million fans, Davis, Jarrett, Chick Corea, Airto Moreira, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette and Gary Bartz played an intense, roiling, free-form jam that, according to Carlos Santana's typically airy-fairy interpretation, "converted a lot of people into multidimensional consciousness."

Perhaps. But it's likely that neither that performance nor the engaging "Miles Electric" will settle the great debate about the electric Miles.

I love Bitches Brew personally.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on January 10, 2005 4:16 PM.

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