Miles Davis: Pharaoh's Dance


Pharaoh's Dance


Miles Davis (trumpet)


Bitches Brew (Columbia G2K 40577)

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Miles Davis (trumpet),

Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, Larry Young (electric pianos), John McLaughlin (electric guitar), Dave Holland (bass), Harvey Brooks (electric bass), Lenny White, Jack DeJohnette, Charles Alias (drums), Jim Riley (percussion)


Composed by Miles Davis


Recorded: New York, August 1969


Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

It is lucky for jazz-rock and fusion fans that Miles Davis had the power he did at Columbia Records. For a decade he had been a proven winner for the label. Somehow I think if he were any other jazz performer, he would never have been given the money to record the double-album Bitches Brew. The recording certainly would not have received the huge promotional blitz that went along with it, either. Its release was a sea change that provided jazz-rock music a wave on which to ride.

Those familiar with my views know that I believe from a fusion music standpoint, A Tribute to Jack Johnson was actually a more pivotal Miles Davis album. But it cannot be denied that from a commercial angle, Bitches Brew is one of the most important albums in jazz history. It sold tons for a jazz album, although many jazz fans never accepted the music as jazz. Yet love it or hate it, people talked about it, and still do.

In some ways, despite its kinetic electric drive, "Pharaoh's Dance" is primitive in nature. The scales used bring to mind Africa more than Egypt. The tune is jungle-like, in fact. Each individual voice becomes lost in the dense underbrush of rhythmic activity. The traditional solo sections are eschewed. When a musician is briefly featured he stays within the borders of the camp. In an ensemble creation such as this, it is difficult to say who is playing off whom. It just becomes a huge organic creation. On this cut we have some of the future greats of fusion. Even though no one stands out, it is obvious that a rapport is being developed. This collective creation is the sonic equivalent of trying to put a square peg into a round hole. You just try to squeeze it in even though you know you can't. It is that conundrum that makes it all so exciting. It is really about trying to find a way even if you think none may exist. This was jam-band material 20 years before there was jam-band material.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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  • 1 Daryl // Dec 24, 2008 at 05:07 AM
    "Each individual voice becomes lost in the dense underbrush of rhythmic activity"...true, to a point. I think this can be somewhat avoided if you know who to listen to at the right time; that said this track is at times extremely dense. If you listen well you can tell when certain players are steering. You make no mention of the massive postproduction however. Do you not think the arrangement of loops/sections merits some acknowledgement?