Saturday 30 March 2019

Ralph J. Gleason’s Original LP Liner Notes for Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew"

This is a reproduction of the Grammy Award-winning liner notes for Miles Davis' Bitches Brew written by Ralph J. Gleason in the lower-case format printed in the album.

there is so much to say about this music. i don't mean so much to explain about it because that's stupid, the music speaks for itself, what i mean is that so much flashes through my mind when i hear the tapes of this album that if i could i would write a novel about it full of life and scenes and people and blood and sweat and love.

and sometimes i think maybe what we need is to tell people that this is here because somehow in this plasticized world they have the automatic reflex that if something is labeled one way then that is all there is in it and we are always finding out to our surprise that there is more to blake or more to ginsberg or more to trane or more to stravinsky than whatever it was we thought was there in the first place.

so be it with the music we have called jazz and which i never knew what it was because it was so many different things to so many different people each apparently contradicting the other and one day i flashed that it was music.

that's all, and when it was great music it was great art and it didn't have anything at all to do with labels and who says mozart is by definition better than sonny rollins and to whom.

so lenny bruce said there is only what is and that's a pretty good basis for a start. this music is. this music is new. this music is new music and it hits me like an electric shock and the word "electric" is interesting because the music is to some degree electric music either by virtue of what you can do with tapes and by the process by which it is preserved on tape or by the use of electricity in the actual making of the sounds themselves.

electric music is the music of this culture and in the breaking away (not the breaking down) from previously assumed forms a new kind of music is emerging. the whole society is like that. the old forms are inadequate, not the old eternal verities but the old structures. and new music isn't new in that sense either, it is still creation which is life itself and it is only done in a new way with new materials.

so we have to reach out to the new world with new ideas and new forms and in music this has meant leaving the traditional forms of bars and scales, keys and chords and playing something else altogether which maybe you can't identify and classify yet but which you recognize when you hear it and which when it makes it, really makes it, it is the true artistic turn on.

sometimes it comes by accident. serendipity. with the ones who are truly valuable, the real artists, it comes because that is what they are here to do even if they can say as miles says of his music i don't know what it is, what is it? they make music like they make those poems and those pictures and the rest because if they do not they cannot sleep nor rest nor, really, live at all. this is how they live, the true ones, by making the art which is creation.

sometimes we are lucky enough to have one of these people like miles, like dylan, like duke, like lenny here in the same world at the same time we are and we can live this thing and feel it and love it and be moved by it and it is a wonderful and rare experience and we should be grateful for it.

i started to ask teo how the horn echo was made and then i thought how silly what difference does it make? and it doesn't make any difference what kind of brush picasso uses and if the art makes it we don't need to know and if the art doesn't make it knowing is the most useless thing in life.

look. miles changed the world. more than once. that's true you know. out of the cool was first. then when it all went wrong miles called all the children home with walkin'. he just got up there and blew it and put it on an lp and all over the world they stopped in their tracks when they heard it. they stopped what they were doing and they listened and it was never the same after that. just never the same.

it will never be the same again now, after in a silent way and after BITCHES BREW. listen to this. how can it ever be the same? i don't mean you can't listen to ben. how silly. we can always listen to ben play funny valentine, until the end of the world it will be beautiful and how can anything be more beautiful than hodges playing passion flower? he never made a mistake in 40 years. it's not more beautiful, just different. a new beauty. a different beauty. the other beauty is still beauty. this is new and right now it has the edge of newness and that snapping fire you sense when you go out there from the spaceship where nobody has ever been before.

what a thing to do! what a great thing to do. what an honest thing to do there in the studio to take what you know to be true, to hear it, use it and put it in the right place. when they are concerned only with the art that's when it really makes it. miles hears and what he hears he paints with. when he sees he hears, eyes are just an aid to hearing if you think of it that way. it's all in there, the beauty, the terror and the love, the sheer humanity of life in this incredible electric world which is so full of distortion that it can be beautiful and frightening in the same instant.

listen to this. this music will change the world like the cool and walkin' did and now that communication is faster and more complete it may change it more deeply and more quickly. what is so incredible about what miles does is whoever comes after him, whenever, wherever, they have to take him into consideration. they have to pass him to get in front. he laid it out there and you can't avoid it. it's not just the horn. it's a concept. it's a life support system for a whole world. and it's complete in itself like all the treasures have always been.

music is the greatest of the arts for me because it cuts through everything, needs no aids. it is ... it simply is. and in contemporary music miles defines the terms. that's all. it's his turf.

- ralph j. gleason

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