JAZZ: Scott DeVeaux, W.W. Norton & Company


The soul, I mean, people looked to James Brown, they looked to Sly and the Family Stone, they looked to these people and said, "Man, that is the kind of music we want to create." They're trying to create it without a vocalist, which is really tough, right? I mean that's one of the things jazz musicians tend to do is to create things that are not vocal in nature. Yes, there are jazz vocalists, but instrumental music is primarily the main means by which jazz musicians do this. If you listen to – of course, the big fusion breakthrough was Bitches Brew, which is Miles Davis' big 1969, 1970 album. If you listen to that, in some ways it's a commercial breakthrough. It obviously sold a lot of records and helped to reestablish Miles Davis' name as somebody who can compete with Creedence Clearwater Revival or whoever you want to imagine out there on the rock side of things.

It's not a very commercial album. If you listen to it, it's a fairly bizarre, experimental album. The kinds of things he's doing harmonically: the kinds of things he's doing as he tries to create a new jazz texture are really pretty subversive and bizarre kinds of things. But it's still fascinating to listen to because he is finding a way of using the recording process and his habit, like Duke Ellington, drawing on a lot of people's musical personalities and mixing it together and coming up with a kind of mixture. He is able to use those things to produce an interesting kind of music.

He also uses new recording technology because in some ways the main – you know, Miles Davis creates Bitches Brew, that's true. It's also Teo Macero, who was actually a saxophonist as well as a recording engineer, who literally, Miles said, "Take this stuff, Teo, and do something with it." And so he looped it and did all kinds of editing things to create these pieces out of nothing. He just had these kind of various kinds of groove textures that he had, and he created a piece out of it because he knew something about composition. So it is using modern recording technology as well as the modern sound of electric guitars and electric synthesizers and things like that to produce a new kind of piece.