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Stanley Crouch on Miles's fusion period

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Wie Gehts?, Oct 19, 2006.

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  1. Wie Gehts?

    Wie Gehts? New Member Thread Starter

    A DVD titled Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue presents two opposing opinions concerning Miles Davis's transition from straight-ahead jazz to the music epitomized by Bitches Brew and later efforts.

    Carlos Santana contends, as Miles himself said, that Davis was compelled to "constantly move forward" and couldn't be content to rest on his laurels. Santana also opines that Davis grew tired of playing to dwindling audiences and saw the potential of rock music (as embodied, in particular, by Jimi Hendrix) for increasing his audience and revitalizing his own conception of what it meant to be "hip." Noted jazz critic Stanley Crouch, on the other hand, dismisses this as "b******t," going on to say that Miles was in need of money and simply "sold out" in order to maintain his opulent lifestyle.

    In a collection of jazz criticism by Crouch titled Considering Genius: Writings on Jazz, he states that Miles "turned butt to the beautiful in order to genuflect before the commercial," was the "most brilliant sellout in the history of jazz," a "licker of monied boots," and even more caustic remarks.

    I can see validity in both sides. What do YOU think?
  2. Mike B

    Mike B Forum Resident

    New York City
    This thread will provide a wealth of posts that generally agree with Santana. Miles the visionary, Miles the embracer of the youth and the new, Miles the brilliant mover and shaker and shaper of music.

    I don't know if Miles meant to "sell-out" or was operating under genuine artistic impulses. My guess is that it was a bit of both. But I can only go by my impressions of the music itself, and after a lot of time absorbing and living with Mile's music career, his "electric" music simply doesn't hold up nearly as well as his jazz music.
  3. Beatlelennon65

    Beatlelennon65 Active Member

    If Miles did sellout, he did a hell of a job. I like the fusion stuff better than the first great Quintet, but Miles had no way of knowing that Bitches Brew would do as well as it did. He may have turned his back on the jazz fans just as Dylan did to the folk fans, but I can't blame either of them.
  4. poweragemk

    poweragemk Old Member

    One's answer to this question will have much to do with whether one enjoys Miles' electric period or not, won't it? I don't see a whole lot of difference other than that in Santana's and Crouch's answers. Both seem to agree that Miles broadened his audience and reaped the benefits.

    Personally, you'll have a hard time convincing me that ON THE CORNER is the sound of "selling out."
  5. Aman

    Aman Forum Resident

    The Village, NYC
    Good comparison to Bob Dylan, Beatlelennon65. That's exactly how I would characterize it.

    Miles and Bob both did not "abandon" people, though, they simply changed directions. Miles sacrificed some of the beauty held within the improvisations of his old music because it was extremely rock-influenced, and Bob Dylan sacrificed some of the beauty in the humanism and rawness of his music because he became more blues-and-rock-influenced.

    I personally like the classic Quintet better than anything else, but Miles Davis' move into the fusion world was undoubtedly innovational and unique. Not too many other artists did this, whether or not people like to believe that. The only downside to Miles' fusion movement was that it inevitably led to smooth jazz. Yuck.
  6. RobertBankers

    RobertBankers New Member

    Having seen the Quintet live and years later seen the electric ensemble cast of 30+ playing everything from a pretty standard electric guitar to - I swear - a set of electrified cow-bells I must confess....

    ...which one I like depends on who I am with and what we are doin'....I just like Miles.
  7. Wie Gehts?

    Wie Gehts? New Member Thread Starter

    The Crouch remarks I quoted were taken from his review of On the Corner, which was generally considered a disappointment; the result of Miles trying to appeal to the black youth of that era (1972).
  8. Wie Gehts?

    Wie Gehts? New Member Thread Starter

    In the DVD I referenced, Joni Mitchell likens Miles' "electric" period and the hue and cry from his older fans to Pete Seeger bursting into tears when Bob Dylan "plugged in" at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.
  9. poweragemk

    poweragemk Old Member

    I guess Mr. Crouch and I disagree. (and appealing to black youth is hardly licking monied boots, heh.)
  10. Dave G.

    Dave G. Forum Resident

    Don't worry fusion fans, Crouch's current favorite target is Gangsta rap.
  11. Wie Gehts?

    Wie Gehts? New Member Thread Starter

    I agree with everything you say, but I thought it might be a provocative topic for discussion. :p
  12. RobertBankers

    RobertBankers New Member

    Well, "lickin'boots" and all the rest not with standing, I'll say this about Miles Davis...and a few thousand other great musicians...

    "Times of good music will get you thru times of bad critics better than times of good critics will get you thru times of bad music."
  13. -=Rudy=-

    -=Rudy=- ♪♫♪♫♫♪♪♫♪♪ Staff

    I don't care for Stanley Crouch's writings on anything (especially the way he always put Marsalis up on a pedestal :rolleyes: ), so I'd have to agree more with Santana's comments. Jazz, like any music, is not cut and dried, and one can't go on creating the same music for decades, being essentially a museum-keeper. Without progress, music goes nowhere.

    Miles didn't sell out. Miles did what ever he damn well pleased. :agree:
  14. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Forum Resident

    What On the Corner actually did was appeal to the black youth who were not yet born - that album is arguably the first hip-hop record, ten or fifteen years before its time. I completely disagree with Crouch - you can get a further sampling of his arguments in the Ken Burns Jazz DVD and companion coffee-table book, which hew to the Wynton Marsalis-approved "jazz stopped in 1967" party line. I don't think that all of Miles's electric music worked (my personal favorite era is the second great quintet featuring Shorter, Hancock, Carter, and Williams), but when it did, on In a Silent Way, "Spanish Key," the right live dates (the It's About That Time archival release featuring the "lost" quintet of Shorter, DeJohnette, Holland, and Corea is simply mindblowing), Jack Johnson, On the Corner, etc. it really worked. There are also many continuities between the Marsalis and Crouch-approved second quintet and the electric era that followed.

    And I find the "sell out" argument to be completely unfounded. If Miles had really wanted to sell out in emulation of Sly and the Family Stone or whomever back in '69, don't you think he would have gotten a vocalist? Or maybe released an album that didn't consist of four side-long instrumental tracks? Miles's electric music certainly won him some new "rock" fans, but his fusion records did not sell anywhere near the amount that the major rock albums of the day did. They were still too challenging for true mass popularity.
  15. Wie Gehts?

    Wie Gehts? New Member Thread Starter

    There's a story about Miles once being approached by an older gentleman who said something to the effect of, "I love what you used to play but I can't get with this new stuff of yours," to which Miles was said to have replied, "Mother*****r, am I supposed to wait for you?"
  16. bluesbro

    bluesbro Forum Hall of Shame


    Not even worthy discussing, I just ignore him.
  17. tspit74

    tspit74 Forum Resident

    Woodridge, IL, USA
    Some of the Fusion stuff is really good. Most of it I find to be terrible.

    Everything prior to Bitches Brew is steller IMO.
  18. jblock

    jblock Forum Resident

    Crouch needs to listen to the Cellar Door box.
  19. robertawillisjr

    robertawillisjr Music Lover

    Hampton, VA
    Having just about all of his original early releases and just about all of his original "electric" releases to the time he became really ill, all I can tell you is that I love them both. While some to the live electric dates were excessive his music has always been Pure genius to me. The jazz gestapo/KGB can't merely express their likes and dislikes they also have denigrate any form of jazz that doesn't appeal to their sensibilities.
  20. major_works

    major_works This is my Custom Title

    Ramsey, NJ, USA
    You think Wynton Marsalis actually thinks that jazz got as far as 1967? I'd say he thinks it ended somewhat earlier, like maybe 1960-62.
  21. Wie Gehts?

    Wie Gehts? New Member Thread Starter

    You make some good points, but I believe Bitches Brew outsold all other jazz albums (if indeed it even was "jazz") up to that point, including Kind of Blue, although it certainly didn't outsell the Beatles or the Stones and the like. Also, Miles was invited to perform at the Isle of Wight festival, which had something like 500,000 in attendance, primarily based on the popularity of Bitches Brew.
  22. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Forum Resident

    I think he thinks it ended with Nefertiti, the last all-acoustic Miles album. I used to think this myself at one time.
  23. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Forum Resident

    I don't know the exact sales figures for jazz albums of the 60s, but I do know that certain other jazz albums, such as Coltrane's A Love Supreme, also crossed over to rock audiences through artists such as the Byrds name-dropping Coltrane around the time of "Eight Miles High." I think I read somewhere that Bitches Brew sold around 100,00 copies on its initial release - I'd be willing to bet that A Love Supreme sold as much or more than that. There were other jazz crossover albums such as Dave Brubeck's Time Out that sold a lot, too.

    With regard to Miles playing the Isle of Wight festival, was that "selling out"? I'm not sure whether you are asserting that it was or wasn't. I'd suggest that he was invited to perform that and other dates as much due to his lifetime body of work as to Bitches Brew.
  24. Wie Gehts?

    Wie Gehts? New Member Thread Starter

    No, my point about him playing the Isle of Wight (a rock festival, definitely) had to do with the popularity of Bitches Brew. I doubt seriously that he would have been there had he remained a straight-ahead jazz artist.

    Incidentally, as my previous posts should reveal, I tend to think Miles was indeed "moving ahead" artistically in his own mind but I do suspect that money was also on his mind (as it is for most people). My own feelings on this topic are echoed by Mike B's earlier post.
  25. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Forum Resident

    I agree that money was on his mind. I just think he could have made a lot more money with the electric sound if he had edited all of the Bitches Brew tracks down to three or four minutes (Columbia actually did release single edits of "The Little Green Frog" and maybe even "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down," iirc) on a single album and hired a vocalist to sing on top of them. His new sound certainly appealed to the rock audience, but he never pandered to the rock audience. That's where I disagree most sharply with Crouch on this topic.
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