Talking Bitches Brew

Last week, I sat down for an interview with boice-Terrel Allen (he took that snazzy picture of me with Elvis Costello) for his excellent Talk Music with boice podcast, and talked about Bitches Brew, the album and the book, and how I got to the point of putting the words down on paper. I think it’s interesting and informative, and boice is an excellent person who is a pleasure to spend time with.

You can listen to us talking Bithces Brew here, check out his site here, and subscribe (for free) to his podcast through iTunes. His series is excellent and spans a wide-range of styles and personality, I recommend it highly.

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Miles Davis Week – Day 3: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Day 3 of Bitches Brew blogging




Jazz history is the story of musicians and bands and the records they made, and it can be charted as a family tree. Jazz is an oral tradition, and even though it has now been heavily institutionalized (fundamental to the music’s economic survival, but not necessarily an aesthetic benefit), it remains so, and is pretty much the only still-living thing we have in the West that approximates the Homeric tradition.

From the very beginning, musicians led bands and made records, and the sidemen went on to lead their own bands and make their own records, and on and on. Miles is arguably unequalled in his importance as a bandleader in jazz history, going by his sidemen and collaborators: Lee…

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Miles Davis Week – Day 2: The Lost Quintet

Day 2 of Miles Davis blogging



One of the compelling mysteries about Miles Davis’s music in the late 1960s is how got from here to there, from the formally free, but still idiomatic music of Nefertiti, Miles in the Sky, and Filles de Kilimanjaro, to In a Silent Way, then Bitches Brew. Miles in the Sky and Filles de Kilimanjaro are transitional in that they add soul, funk and rock elements to what Miles was doing, and Filles starts exploring extended duration, but the music is within reach of what others like Lee Morgan and Herbie Hancock had been doing contemporaneously.

The key is there on Filles, although the record doesn’t really sound like it—two of the five tracks…

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Miles Davis Week – Day 1: Music To Read Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew By?

Day 1 of my Miles Davis blogging



Music to read Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew by?

Maybe so. 33-1/3 books, who have their own Spotify account, asked me if I wanted to put a playlist together for them as part of Bitches Brew week here at 333SOUND. Of course I said yes, I’m no fool. Then I started to put it together. Countless man hours later …

This is actually the third version, once revised. What began as a mix of music that come before and after Bitches Brew, from Miles and others, turned into (after seemingly endless listening and hemming and hawing) a limited playlist that relates to my book chapter “Directions in Music by Miles Davis.” The purpose of that chapter and…

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Master Brew


Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, by yours truly, drops one week from today—22 October. You’ll be able to pick it up at any well-stocked bookstore in your area (here’s a list of bookstores that carry the series, although there are certainly book sellers who are not on the list), and of course you can still pre-order it, at a discount, from Amazon.

There will also be a handful of book events, and if you come to one I will sign your copy! You can catch me talking about the book, about Miles, and playing some of the music at:

  • October 26: BookCourt in Brooklyn.
  • November 5: Word in Greenpoint, where I’ll be appearing with Bryan C. Parker, who wrote the 33 1/3 on Beat Happening (buy his book too!), and series editor Ally-Jane Grossan.
  • November 11: Spectrum—this is a special event, a listening party, where we will listen to Bitches Brew on vinyl through Spectrum’s state-of-the-art sound system. There’ll be book talk too, and I’ll have copies to sell at a discount (cash only).
  • November 20: Librarie Drawn & Quarterly in Montréal, with more music, Miles, and book talk. I’m already expecting a good crowd of Miles Davis fans.

I hope to see you at any these events, but if you can’t make it, do buy the book. It’s good. And it’s Miles.

I sign an advance copy of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew for Elvis Costello.
I sign an advance copy of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew for Elvis Costello.

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Join The Club

Over at 333sounds, my editor announced that there will be a new open call for book proposals, with notice and guidelines going up at the end of June, and proposals dues in early August. Time to get your shit together.

Series Update/Open Call News/You’ll Want to Read This One:



Dear Readers,

For the past 11 years we’ve been publishing these tiny little books on the best-loved (sometimes hated), most popular and often most misunderstood albums in pop, rock, soul, hip-hop and electronic music.

And we’re still going VERY strong. Thanks to an amazing crop of books over the past two years, the 33 1/3 series re-launch under Bloomsbury Academic  has been a huge success. Special congratulations are due to Jordan Ferguson for his book on J. Dilla, which was our bestselling title in 2014. And of course to Carl Wilson for his book on Celine Dion, our bestselling title overall.

Around this time last year I posted, on this here blog, an announcement of the open call for new 33 1/3 proposals.  As you may know the titles in the series are selected from proposals submitted from writers around the world. I received over 400 submissions and selected 14 titles to become books. The first of those is already ready and will be available May 21st. That’s Koji Kondo’s soundtrack to the Super Mario Bros video game by Andrew Schartmann. Around then we’ll also publish 33 1/3rds on Devo’s Freedom of Choice by Evie Nagy (with a forward by Fred Armisen) and the Dead Kennedy’s Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables by Michael Stewart Foley.

I’ve got tons of excellent manuscripts coming down the pike and I’m happy to announce that…

the next open call will be posted on at the end of June 2015 with proposals due in early August 2015.

I hope this late summer date will give a lot of you writers/teachers more time to formulate your proposals. Please don’t submit proposal before the official start date as they will not be considered.

As always, the guidelines will generally be the same as last time: you can find those here.  I’ll try and respond to any additional queries in the comments below but please note that I can’t respond to every email I receive.

Did you know that 33 1/3 makes up a very small part of the Bloomsbury Academic music list and in addition to the 33 1/3 series, we publish really neat books in popular music and sound? If you like Kevin Dettmar’s literary take on Gang of Four…then you might like Simon Warner’s Text and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Like Marc Weidenbaum’s book on Aphex Twin? Then you might like eldritch Priest’s Boring Formless Nonsense: Experimental Music and the Aesthetics of Failure.

And in case you haven’t heard, we’re publishing a textbook called “How To Write About Music” this month that I co-edited with Bee Thousand author Marc Woodworth. You might want to pick up a copy since there’s a chapter called “How Pitch a 33 1/3.” Just sayin.

All the best from your faithful series editor,


A Bitches Brew Reading List

I’m of course personally excited to be writing the 33 1/3 book on Bitches Brew, and on the most selfish level it’s the perfect reason to either reread my favorite books on Miles or else read ones that are new to me, for information, critical thinking and the overall context of the music. Here’s my current reading list (in no particular order):

  • Miles: The Autobiography, Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe
  • Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography, by Ian Carr
  • So What: The Life of Miles Davis, by John F. Szwed
  • Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis, by J.K. Chambers
  • The Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-68, by Keith Waters
  • Downbeat Hall of Fame Series, The Miles Davis Reader, by Frank Aklyer
  • Running the Voodoo Down: The Electric Music of Miles Davis, by Phil Freeman
  • Miles Davis Reader, edited by Bill Kirchner
  • It’s About that Time: Miles Davis On and Off the Record, by Richard Cook
  • The Miles Davis Companion: Four Decades of Commentary, edited by Gary Carner
  • Miles Davis and American Culture, edited by Gerald Early
  • The History of Jazz, by Ted Gioia
  • Birds of Fire: Jazz, Rock, Funk and the Creation of Fusion, by Kevin Fellezs
  • You’ll Know When You Get There: Herbie Hancock and the Mwandishi Band, by Bob Gluck
  • The Cool School: Writing from American’s Hip Underground, edited by Glenn O’Brien
  • Birth of the Cool: Beat, Bebop, and the American Avant Garde, by Lewis MacAdams
  • The Birth (and Death) of the Cool, by Ted Gioia

You can see the whole list collected here. I’m also deeply curious about Enrico Merlin’s Bitches brew. Genesi del capolavoro di Miles Davis, but I’m wary of getting bogged down in the translation when I should be writing (and if there’s anyone who would like to tackle that for me, I’ll provide a copy of the book as well as acknowledgement and gratitude). Aaaaaaaand, I just discovered this, which appears to be a dissertation set for publication early this year. I imagine the price will drop from $50, but this type of academic book is usually priced out of the market for the general reader.

If you have any reading suggestions or discoveries, let me know in the comments.