Live Jazz: Bitches Brew Remix at the Sunset Junction Festival

By Devon Wendell

There have been many Miles Davis tribute bands over the years that have primarily focused on capturing Davis’ exact sound rather that the creative spirit and energy of the late musical pioneer.  This was not the case with the Mile Davis Bitches Brew Remix performance Saturday night at the Sunset Junction Festival.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Davis’s jazz/rock experimental album masterpiece Bitches Brew, Davis’s nephew — drummer Vince Wilburn Jr. — led an all star band which featured Wallace Roney, trumpet, Antoine Roney, sax, and bass clarinet, Darryl Jones, bass, Dewayne “Blackbyrd” Mcknight,  electric guitar, Fausto Cuevas III, hand drum, Deron Johnson, keyboards, Badal Roy, tablas and hand drums, DJ Rocc, turntables and Wilburn Jr. on trap drums.

Instead of copying the Bitches Brew album track for track, the band focused on their own blend of loud, psychedelic funk and jazz, even playing a set of material from other Davis albums, opening with “One Phone Call” from the album You’re Under Arrest (1985 Columbia records), which was originally co-produced by Wilburn Jr. and featured Darryl Jones on bass.   (Oddly enough it was the performances of tracks from other Davis albums such as Nefertiti” and “Jean Pierre,” along with “One Phone Call” that were the highlights of the set.)

Dewayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight was the most original and exciting musician of the show, playing amazing solos on “Bitches Brew,” and “Sanctuary” with more energy and imagination than that of John McLaughlin (Electric guitarist on the original Bitches Brew album), with blazing fast runs, finger tapping, and sonic string bending. McKnight also played syncopated, synthesizer-like rhythm guitar, recalling his early to mid- ’70’s  rock/fusion work with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Sonny Rollins, and Charles Lloyd.   McKnight’s tight yet constantly moving chord comping even overshadowed keyboardist Deron Johnson’s keyboard work, which, though competent, seemed to fall back on ’70’s funk clavinet clichés.

Wallace Roney’s trumpet phrasing, tone, and physical mannerisms were initially a bit too close to that of Miles.  His brother Antoine (in the roll of Bennie Maupin, who played bass clarinet in the original Bitches Brew album) played some brash yet soulfully punctuated rhythms around his brother’s recognizable yet masterfully delivered Miles-like lines, especially on the title track of “Bitches Brew” and “Spanish Key.”  The Roney brothers’ playing became even more inspired as they got further into the set, especially after the intensity of McKnight’s guitar playing, which seemed to light a fire under the entire band. And by the fourth number, “Sanctuary,” Wallace’s playing had reached a level of fierce originality.

In the rhythm section, percussionists Cuevas III and Roy locked in tightly with Wilburn Jr.’s aggressive drumming and Darryl Jones’s dynamic, in the pocket bass grooves.  The presence of DJ Rocc’s turntables, however, felt unneeded and forced,  as if their presence was aimed at trying was to reach a younger demographic.

Unfortunately the set was too short – a necessity, apparently, because of the number of acts performing at the festival – but The Bitches Brew Remix band was able to fit in moments of adventure and brilliance, demonstrating a unique inspiration from the original that would surely have made Miles smile.

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3 Responses to Live Jazz: Bitches Brew Remix at the Sunset Junction Festival

  1. A Fan says:

    Excellent review. Made me feel like I was there.

  2. Kate Daum says:

    Wish I could’ve been there – sounds excellent!

  3. [...] Relacionado: Live Jazz: Bitches Brew Remix at the Sunset Junction Festival, por Devon Wendell [...]

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