One of 33 1/3 books two October titles, Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew by George Grella Jr. is an astounding read, as brilliant as the album itself, really, and one any music fan will want for the holidays. Bitches Brew is still one of the most astonishing albums ever made in either jazz or rock. Seeming to fuse the two, it actually does something entirely more revolutionary and open-ended: Blending the most avant-garde aspects of Western music with deep grooves, the album rejects both jazz and rock for an entirely different idea of how music can be made.
Check out their Q&A with George from last year for more info about him and the making of the book.
For your reading pleasure, the fine folks at 33 1/3 also included an exclusive excerpt below from the forthcoming book. As Picasso was to art and Stravinsky was to classical music, so was Miles Davis to jazz. Because of him, jazz music will never be the same.
It is a uniquely twentieth-century phenomenon for an artist to be a major practitioner of one style and concept in his particular medium, then to create a new style that changes the history and direction of that medium, then do it yet again, and, even more, to lead each new style, to create enduring, exemplary masterpieces in it. Picasso did it. Stravinsky did it. Miles did it. His achievement as an artist is equal in stature to theirs, the only real impediment to acknowledging this has been that Miles’s medium, jazz, was for decades seen as low-class, pedestrian, vulgar in all the wrong ways by the cultural powers-that-be. Miles cared about that, but also didn’t give a shit, because, like Picasso and Stravinsky, his art reached a broad audience, one far outside that typical of his genre. But then, his genre was music.
Modern painting, classical music and jazz are actually impossible to imagine without Picasso, Stravinsky or Miles. No painter had to work with cubism, no composer had to write in the neo-classical style, no jazz musician had to abandon bebop or hard bop for modal harmonies. But cubism, neo-classicism and modal jazz were all in the vanguard of their respective mediums: keeping their traditions moving forward, adding to the accumulation of knowledge, and the continued vitality and relevance that was the direct effect of these three artists was a boon to every other painter, composer and musician around them.
Another commonality for these three men was that they found their ideas and made their breakthroughs not via theory but praxis, through the constant discipline and effort of paring away the superfluous to discover their own purest sense of beauty. As intelligently as each could express their artistic values, none were philosophers or conceptualists. They were working artists, selling and gigging. Stravinsky described a process that was true for each, eschewing the idea of inspiration and instead explaining that being a composer meant spending the time and energy writing music. Through that very process of work, he not only honed his craft, but ended up producing music he never intended to write, discovering its value and using it to create masterpieces, all of which was the residue of the design of work. It is also easy to discern consistent techniques and aesthetic values through their careers, through each change in style: a basic love of figurative painting for Picasso, powerful rhythms and short, repetitive units for Stravinsky, linear development and a constant search for the simplest means possible for Miles.
The history and cultural position of jazz, however, is entirely different than that of painting and classical music. It was born in the twentieth century, built its own traditions on the fly, and came of age as a modern art along with Modernism. Jazz also began and thrived as an essentially commercial genre—there was an art and an artistry to it, and it has always demanded extraordinary musicianship, but it worked by entertaining the public and by making them dance, and for good or ill, the music was made in dance halls, restaurants, speakeasies and whore houses—that underwent a startling metamorphosis into an art music, as abstract in form, structure and intention as any string quartet by Haydn. Nothing else has achieved this.
Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew was released in the U.S. on October 22, 2015.
Sam Hunt began college at Middle Tennessee State University, where the football coach had him returning punts instead of playing quarterback, then transferred to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he had a promising junior year (58 percent completion percentage) followed by a disappointing senior year (10 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and only two wins in 12 games). In May 2008, while his pals were graduating, Hunt tried out for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent. The Chiefs saw him play and didn’t invite him to training camp. Back home, Hunt shocked his relatives by announcing that he was moving to Nashville to be a country songwriter. No one in the family even knew he had been writing songs since he was 18.
“Maybe I was insecure, because being a football player was my identity. I didn’t see myself that way,” says Hunt. “But it took a long time before I decided to test out a song I’d written for my roommates, who were some of my closest buddies. I felt trapped inside a stereotype and was a little afraid to step out of it.”
Two months after his NFL tryout, Hunt stuffed a couple of mattresses into his mom’s minivan, raided the freezer for provisions and moved to Nashville with his hometown pal John Worthington, who’s now his road manager. Worthington was Misfit No. 1. “We were scraping the bottom of the barrel for years, just trying to get by,” says Hunt.
Cherry Bar owner James Young has sparked a debate about the impact of dating app Tinder on the live music scene with a Facebook post recounting a recent conversation with another promoter in Melbourne.
The pair were chatting about how difficult 2015 has been for the business with Young suggesting that the current downturn could be attributed in part to the “diabolical Australian Dollar” and the closure of the Palace. Young says that those factors have led to fewer international tours and smaller crowds at Cherry especially during the week. But his un-named counterpart proposed a different theory laying the blame – at least in part – on Tinder.
“Tinder has destroyed the live music and pub scene,” the anonymous promoter told Young. “It’s bleak out there for club owners. These are dark and challenging times. We need to get young people off their phones and back into our bars to actually socialise or we’re all going to go out of business.” According to the anonymous promoter, the pattern follows the example of Grinder’s impact on the gay scene with the app replacing clubs as a place to pick up. “Now we are seeing the same thing with Tinder … [it’s] killing off clubs and pubs all over Melbourne and Australia. And when they take their dates out for the first time, they try to impress them with some chic dining experience, rather than a rowdy live music experience. I’m telling you, Tinder has a lot to answer for.”
Via Faster Louder
“Eric Clapton is the most important and influential guitar player that has ever lived, is still living or ever will live. Do yourself a favor, and don’t debate me on this. Before Clapton, rock guitar was the Chuck Berry method, modernized by Keith Richards, and the rockabilly sound — Scotty Moore, Carl Perkins, Cliff Gallup — popularized by George Harrison. Clapton absorbed that, then introduced the essence of black electric blues: the power and vocabulary of Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin and the three Kings — B.B., Albert and Freddie — to create an attack that defined the fundamentals of rock & roll lead guitar. Maybe most important of all, he turned the amp up — to 11. That alone blew everybody’s mind in the mid-Sixties. In the studio, he moved the mic across the room from the amp, which added ambience; everybody else was still close-miking. Then he cranked the fucking thing. Sustain happened; feedback happened. The guitar player suddenly became the most important guy in the band.”
– Steven Van Zandt in Rolling Stone Magazine
What advice about acting would you give your younger self?
MICHAEL CAINE: No matter how bad it gets, you’re going to get there. Nine years in little theater, and I thought I was never going to make it to the West End. And then an American director called Cy Endfield cast me as an officer in Zulu, which was the start of my movie career. No English director, even if he was a left-wing communist, would have cast me as an officer.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON: I was a kid sitting in the movie theater watching that movie, going, “That dude, he’s f—in’ mean! There’s only eight of those dudes [soldiers], and there’s like 8 million Zulus out there, and they won the fight.” I would tell myself it’s not a normal job. I thought this was like every other job — you start in the mailroom and then you get higher and higher. So I thought, “OK, I’m doing theater, and eventually I’ll get a commercial, and then I’ll become a movie star.” I thought that was the progression. I had no clue. And after 25 years, I finally figured out that it works a whole ’nother way. But I fell in love with the theater, which was the really wonderful thing. My love for audiences, and performing in front of people live, gave me a deal of satisfaction that I don’t get when I do this movie. That’s a very different thing.
MARK RUFFALO: I started in the tiny 30-seat theaters here in Los Angeles, of all places.
CAINE: In those little dressing rooms, when you’re starting, there’s no toilet, and when you get nervous, you want to pee. So the first thing you learn to do as an actor is learn to pee in the sink. (Laughter.)
BENICIO DEL TORO: That’s where he comes from.
WILL SMITH: It was tough for me ’cause I have to poop before. … (Laughter.) It’s probably an American/British thing. We learn to poop in the sink.
CAINE: The first time I went onstage, there was a bucket there. I said, “What’s that bucket for?” They said, “Well, in case you want to throw up.” And a couple of times, I did. I threw up in the bucket, I was so nervous.
Via The Hollywood Reporter
The mainstream of anything is essentially commercial and it’s going to offer what sells, or what could be marketed to someone else’s benefit. I mean, there are people who feel that protest is inappropriate no matter what, just because it’s not the place of musicians to do that sort of stuff. There are people who genuinely hold that point of view. I don’t, but there are those who do. And some of those people live in places where if you stick your head up out of the sand, someone chops it off. So, they can be forgiven for thinking that way. But some of them don’t live in places like that and they just make a choice, and everybody’s allowed to choose how they’re going to live.
But I think there’s a lot of stuff going on. At the grassroots level there’s all kinds of protest [movements] and all kinds of interest in issues, certainly among musicians and I guess in the rest of the population — but it doesn’t get the media coverage unless Bono does it, or somebody very high profile. But the cumulative effect has weight, I think, over time. It remains messy, everywhere you look.
An individual song isn’t going to change the world, but a whole bunch of people singing about an issue and encouraging people to feel the truth of an issue might result in some sort of demographic of resistance that would then affect the choices that the politicians make. And I think that’s what we hope for. That’s what the Occupy movement almost was, and to some extent actually was — the bankers got around that stuff, but it was a close one and it made a lot of people pay attention, and it was also the result of a lot of people who were paying attention, who were being affected by things or were empathizing with those who were. It’s the empathy — I guess that’s what songs can do, and what musicians can do. But I think a song is stronger if it comes from your own experience than if you write about theory, and that’s true of the stuff you see on the media.
Yes, you can go online and you can watch ISIS cut people’s heads off, and it’s outrageous and horrifying — but it’s not the same as being there, by a long shot, and it’s not the same as knowing the people who are involved by a long shot. You could meet those ISIS guys that turn out to be really nice, you could hang with them and talk about God and stuff and they’ll be great, chances are. But then they go and do that — it’s a very complicated thing. But if you’re going to be an artist writing about stuff like that you kind of have to know what it is. There’s probably a million exceptions to what I’m about to say, but I don’t think you can really produce art that’s just about stuff you’ve seen on TV. I think you kind of have to have a feel for it.
– Bruce Cockburn, The Newfoundland & Labrador Independent
“If you think about it, the majority of victims last night are music fans. This is the first direct hit on music that we’ve had in this so called war-on-terror or whatever it’s called. It’s very upsetting. These are our people… I think music is very important. I think U2 has a role to play and I can’t wait till we get back to Paris and play and that’s what I’m feeling from the messages we’re receiving from music fans is these people will not set our agenda. They will not organize our lives for us… You’re not gonna turn us into haters or you’re not gonna turn us around in the way we go about our lives.” – Bono, U2
Spotify’s deep reservoir of listener data provides a wealth of insights about behaviors and preferences that can inform not only how to be a better platform for consumers, but also how to achieve infinitely better results for advertisers. In this presentation from hivio 2015, the audio future festival, Brian Benedik, Spotify’s VP and Global Head of Ad Monetization, reveals some of those amazing insights.
From Mark Ramsey: What if music genres are a lot less important to how listeners tune in music than “use case” moments? That is, what if what you want to do while you’re listening is more important than the genre you are listening to?
That’s just one insight from Spotify’s deep dive into their massive dataset.
Think about the implications of that for a moment. It suggests that you should spend less time trumpeting your genre and more time trumpeting the moments that your genre is suited for in the lives of your listeners.
You’ve described yourself as very shy when you were younger. How do you think shyness affects creative people?
Richard Thompson: It’s a funny thing. I can never tell who’s shy and who isn’t. Danny Thompson, a bass player I’ve worked with, will say, “I’m really quite a shy person.” What? He’s always the loudest person in the room!
A lot of shy people end up on stage. Being on stage has done me a lot of good. It took me a long time—I used to kind of hide in the back. Even though you’re shy, there’s this thing in you that wants to get up there. I remember being six years old and getting up at a party and singing something. This is me, a kid with a bad stutter, but somehow I get up on stage and do this.
Via Mother Jones
Eric: I was going to start this interview off by telling you Lee Harvey Osmond’s bio, aka Tom Wilson aka One of Three Rodeo Kings aka that large, melodic growling man from the former Junkhouse has a new record. This record is called “Beautiful Scars,” as in: “Man, that scar is beautiful,” or “She has a beautiful scar right here…” or “My scar is beautiful. It reminds me of that time I didn’t die.” And it goes on. And it’s a great bio. But when I was growing up, Junkhouse was probably one of the most intimidating bands I’ve ever seen because if you know what Tom Wilson looks like, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But if you’ve ever spoken with Tom Wilson, he’s like a Caramilk bar, hard on the outside, and a real softie inside.
Tom: Awe baby, I’m one sweet filling.
Eric: What makes you decide to put a Lee record out, as opposed to calling up Colin Linden (along with Stephen Fearing who make up Blackie And The Rodeo Kings) and everybody and getting that band back together. Or Junkhouse? Or putting it under your own name. How do you decided when you’re writing where it’s going to go?
Tom: I think I decided around the age four that I wanted to be an artist of some kind. I didn’t know what that meant and I didn’t want let the world to tell me what that meant. But the one thing I did understand about being an artist, even at the age of four, was that it wasn’t something that you do so that you could sit around waiting for other people to tell you what to do. I guess I had some…I guess I had some authority issues at the age four. So now I’m like 56, so you can imagine the authority issues I have now.
Eric: It must go deep.
Tom: Yeah, basically being an artist is the ability to be able to do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it. Like the fact we put Lee Harvey Osmond together about six years ago with members of the Cowboys Junkies, and the Skydiggers, and the Sadies, and Hoxy Workman, and Oh Susanna, and Brent Titcomb, and members of Junkhouse. That was just like, a bunch of people getting together who are able to treat music and play music without ego. So that’s actually how I end up making Lee Harvey Osmond records is being able to surround myself with people who can play music without showing off.
Eric: The brand new album is called Beautiful Scars. Your lack of respect towards authority, How deep does the pain get? How deep does the anger get? How deep does the disrespectfulness get? Because sometimes you have to go through the pain in order to get to the other side.
Tom: Wow Eric, you know what, that’s a brilliant question. I don’t know how old you are Eric…
Eric: I’m 45 and I probably have the exact same authority issues as you do. I just choose to go in another direction because I can’t play an instrument and kick out the jams like you can. But I can hang out with people like you until you tell me to go home and live through you a bit by doing publicity and spreading the word.
Tom: Here’s the deal. When you get into your 50s, you actually become the man that you always wanted to be. We fight throughout our lives to kind of stand up to other people’s levels of bars, you know what I mean. We try to reach other people’s bars, which is unfair. If we’re able to learn we can only be ourselves, we’d probably have a really happy first 50 years of our life. Instead of landing in your 50 and actually after having to have gone through, you know, drug addictions, and divorces, and a long 40 years on the road, you realize that you can only be yourself. And once I realized that I’m about the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.
Eric: And when did you realize that?
Tom: I realized that in the last four years or so.
Eric: What made you realize that?
Tom: It was the fact I actually looked in the mirror and my face was actually starting to come into place. It’s almost–it’s almost like we morph over our lives. We look at ourselves in our teens and we just looked fucked up right. You know what I mean, we got pimples and we got–our eyes aren’t quite right with our face. And that kind of thing, we’ve got weird hair growing on our faces. By the time we get into–by the time we get into our fifties our face almost looks like it’s coming into place. It almost looks like our eyes, and mouths…It’s like we actually become handsome after 50 years. The same thing is going on inside and the thing we carry with us is our beautiful scars. Beautiful scars is being able to own what has hurt us and not have to hold it up as an example. We don’t have to cross and crucify, we don’t have to hang it or burn it anymore in public. We can actually live with it inside of us and it’s a part of us now.
Eric: Tell me about the song Bottom of Our Love. There has to be a story behind it.
Tom: It’s a song I wrote for Miriam Toews, the author. I dedicated it to my friend Gary. He put on a Speedo bathing suit and got a pistol and robbed a Royal Bank back in the late 70s. And my advice was that you shouldn’t really rob banks in Speedo bathing suits, it never works. The other thing is that, it’s about a little bar that I used to play as a teenager that he used to hang out in. So, Bottom of Our Love, it’s a factious disaster.
Eric: If Canada ever has a music Mount Rushmore, you would have all four faces. I would put you right there without anyone else for each of the bands you’re in.
Tom: Yeah, well my head is so big already. I found out I was adopted a couple of years ago. So I grew up thinking I was like an Irish guy, my whole life. Ends up, I end up being a Mohawk. I’ve been through, once again, 53 years of thinking I was one person and I end up being this other guy. So you know…
Eric: It’s like I don’t even know who you are anymore, Tom Wilson.
Tom: It’s hard to know, isn’t it?
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