Identify How Miles Davis Influenced Jazz-Rock Fusion of the 1970s, Both in Terms of Musical Style as Well as Musicians He Hired Who Eventually Went on to Develop Careers of Their Own
The ground was set for the focus on innovation that would define the next six years of his career. On Bitches Brew, recorded in 1969 and released in April 1970, Miles' electric style blossomed into a startlingly vivid new sound that crosshatched modal improvisation with the forefront of rock's own experimentation, finding affinity with the ferocious psych-rock of Jimi Hendrix and the kaleidoscopic rock/pop/funk stew forged by Sly & the Family Stone. Iconic fusion epics like "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" are even more remarkable given that their free-flowing grooves were not played all at once but pieced together by Miles' brilliant longtime producer Teo Macero from hours of recorded jams.
Electrification, amplification, and virtuosity in jazz fusion was compared to similar features in progressive rock, with its associations with whiteness, excess and a soulless complexity for complexity’s sake. Stuart Nicholson goes as far as to suggest that the fuzing jazz with what he calls “pomp rock” led to the fall of jazz-rock altogether: of the album Romantic Warrior by Return to Forever he wrote that it combined “the worst of two worlds: a fusion of jazz’s populist urges and rock’s elitist ambitions.” Despite the sonic similarities between Return to Forever and progressive rock groups like Yes and Gentle Giant, they were treated separately in a largely race-based genre system while not necessarily accepted by critics of either camp. Nicholson’s quote, which borrows liberally from sentiments expressed twenty years earlier by Robert Christgau, became my starting point for an investigation of the relationship between what the critics heard and what a polystylistic analysis could reveal (Nicholson).
Amiri Baraka and Amina Baraka, The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues (New York City: William Morrow and Co., 1987), 177.
Leonard Feather, “A Year of Selling Out,” in Down Beat 16th Annual Yearbook: Music ’71 (Chicago, Maher, 1971), 10. He continues, “Never before, no matter how grievous the economic woes of jazz musicians … at any prior point in jazz time, did so many do so little in an attempt to earn so much.” Also quoted in Fellezs, 68–69.
Stanley Crouch, Considering Genius: Writings on Jazz (New York City: Basic Civitas Books, 2006), 240, 256, originally published as “Play the Right Thing: Miles Davis, the Most Brilliant Sellout in the History of Jazz,” The New Republic, February 12, 1990.
Nicholson, Jazz-Rock, 229. More specific criticism of Chick Corea’s electric periods and of Return to Forever include that the group was a “disappointing band,” an “idle quartet of virtuosos” that had “turned to profitable bombast in the 1970s.”