Miles Runs the Voodoo Down

My shuffling iPod brought up “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down,” from the remastered and expanded version of Bitches Brew. Man, did that sound good, and so fresh it could have been recorded yesterday instead of 1969. Bennie Maupin’s bass clarinet starts weaving a spell, and then Miles comes in with an authoritative single-note blast that could be no one else.It’s alive, sinuous, swinging and profoundly funky–James Brown and Sly Stone were clearly on Miles’ turntable.

No trumpet player used space as effectively as this in 1969, though plenty have emulated that style since. “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” is not only one of the great titles in jazz, but also a real turning point in the history of the music. It’s pretty much where jazz-rock starts. This disc sets the stage for Chick Corea to rock out and for John McLaughlin to create the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which wowed me in high school (at my high school, in fact).

bitches brew

In 1969, this album sounded like something from another planet. It still sounds new.

This album helped break Miles Davis through to rock audiences, and it was no surprise that he started appearing at the Filmores and at rock festivals around this time. “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” shows his affinity for Jim Hendrix. What an album they could have made together”

On this track my friend Harvey Brooks plays electric bass (he told me Miles wanted him to repeat the same pattern over and over again, with Dave Holland on there, too. Bennie’s on bass clarinet, and Wayne Shorter on soprano. Chick is on electric piano in the right channel, Joe Zawinul in the left. John McLaughlin plays guitar, still new to the group after jumping right in with the seminal In a Silent Way. Three drummers: Jack DeJohnette (right channel), percussionist Juma Santos and Don Alias (left channel). Try “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” here: