MUSIC NERD MOMENT OF THE DAY: Miles Davis – Miles Runs The Voodoo Down

Unequivocally and without a doubt one of Miles Dewey Davis’ most signature songs from one of his most essential albums that seemed to change everything for him…again. Miles had already stood at the forefront of some of the biggest and most notable shifts and genre defining moments in jazz history (cool, hard bop, improvisational), but with the 1960s coming to an end and jazz music increasingly losing out to the more experimental, psychedelic of rock and funk by artists including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone and Santana, Miles knew he needed a new direction. He gained inspiration from his wife, Betty Davis, a woman about town that would introduce him to the music of Hendrix and Stone. From that point forward, Miles abandoned the old guard of jazz music, and nothing would be the same. Bitches Brew would go on to be one of the most celebrated, controversial and polarizing albums in all of Miles’ career. Aided in his innovative free/fusion jazz exploits by the likes of Jack DeJohnette, Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea and John McLaughlin, Miles constructed a piece of art that’s as perplexing and strange as it is brilliant. “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down”, considered one of the centerpieces of this museum of sound, is a rollicking, vengeful middle finger pointed squarely at old jazz heads that turned their backs on Miles and the new direction he was taking. It starts out sneaky, brooding, bubbling and slow, then quickly ups its tempo when Miles comes in with his horn, with each respective instrument (electric piano, congas, clarinet, saxophone) creeping and crawling at Miles’ command. By the middle of the song, a forceful, violent grab bag of sounds overtakes the track with a powerful rip tide of ad libs. The come down towards the end lends itself a bit more to the cool era Miles, only to pick right back up again with a percussion-driven, melodic send off that eases into a silky smooth finale. Legend has it that Miles was one of the most demanding task masters the music industry has ever known, and judging from the spectacle of “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down”, it’s truly no wonder that he probably sought out perfection. In terms of innovation, the seeking of curious new sounds and a new musical direction, he came pretty damn close with this song.

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