PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

bitches-brewMiles Davis’ Bitches Brew album is a seminal work. This double-LP was released forty-five years ago this month, and it remains one of the most challenging, controversial and influential works in the history of Jazz and Jazz Fusion. Not content with already having revolutionized Modern Jazz, Davis began this project with heavy influences from rock and funk, but also brought the use of the recording studio in Jazz up to contemporary standards.

This album is filled with multi-tracking, post-production edits and looping. It’s ahead of its time, and had the technology been available at the time, Davis probably would have experimented with sampling and auto-tuning, too.

Because this album is such a notorious studio creation, performing it live is a major undertaking that is not something that musicians just decide to do on the spur of the moment. In this episode of Radio Free Charleston we sit in on a rehearsal by the group 4tet, with added musicians “and more,” as they tackle this epic work in preparation for the first of a series of shows where they will perform the entire album live.

4tet and more
4tet and more

We interview Thom Walker, the bassist and instigator of this project, as he explains how he assembled the players and the struggles and adaptations they had to make to bring this music to a live venue. You will also hear from band members, Chris Clark, Nate Bohach, Chris Mickel, Jeffrey Thomasson and Dave Roberts as they share their enthusiasm and concerns over translating a classic album to a live performance.

For Bitches Brew, the line up of 4tet and more is…

Thom Walker – bass
Jeffrey Thomasson – guitar
Nate Bohach – vibraphone
Dave Roberts – drums
Tyler Stewart – drums and percussion
Tim Smith – keyboards
Chris Mickel – saxophones
Chris Clark – saxophones and bass clarinet
Gabe Muncey – trumpet

Nate Bohach, playing piano parts on vibes
Nate Bohach, playing piano parts on vibes

There’s a lot of anticipation for this show. Gabe Muney will be filling the shoes of Miles Davis, while vibraphonist, Nate Bohach, is tackling most of the piano parts on his instrument. Jeffrey Thomasson will be armed with a double-neck SG, just like John McLaughlin used on the original recording. Thom Walker will be handling two bass parts by himself.

You can see the first performance of 4tet and more’s Bitches Brew this Saturday at The Empty Glass starting at 10 PM. It will be a memorable night not only for the music, but for the sight of nine musicians, including two drummers, a vibraphone and a horn section, all convened on stage at The Empty Glass.

Jeffrey Thomasson with that guitar
Jeffrey Thomasson with that guitar

There will be an additional performance April 27 at WVSU (we’ll have more details as the date approaches) and more performances around the state are being lined up as we write this.

This has been a departure episode of Radio Free Charleston. We recorded everything Sunday evening, and spent the next two days editing it into a comprehensible 46-minute sampler of what 4tet and more is trying to do. In the next week or so we will release complete run-throughs of some of the songs from the rehearsal session we recorded.

The ever-so vital horn section with the keyboard in front
The ever-so vital horn section with the keyboard in front

We switch things around on RFC like that sometimes, just to shake things up. Normally we don’t include interviews in the show, but for a project this special we sort of had to. In the coming weeks the plan is to get back to alternating full-length episodes of Radio Free Charleston with episodes of The RFC MINI SHOW.