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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bitches Brew



 
There was a time when music was saved or recorded onto vinyl discs; the discs were packaged and sold in wrappings that were decorated as works of art. Artist including Andy Warhol, Frank Frazetta, Salvador Dali and Roger Dean would be commissioned and their works reproduced for these designs. One of the most radical and innovative works of cover art was for a new music by musician Miles Davis. The Davis recording of what he referenced as “New Directions in Music” was titled “Bitches Brew.” It was a landmark and pivotal work in that it changed perceptions of the nature of music itself; particularly Jazz. What the music really was is still being argued. The cover art was by artist Mati Klarwein. He would produce several famous works for recording artists/performers like Miles including an incredible rendition of “The Annunciation” that Carlos Santana would see and use for his opus; “Abraxas.”

The cover for “Bitches Brew” was a painting somewhat surreal in nature featuring an African couple; lovers, standing on a beach gazing at a stormy sea and beyond into infinity. To the left of the couple is a flower erupting in flame as it begins to ignite the woman’s hair filling the sky with smoke. Above the couple to their left is an extreme close up of another African profile with large beads of sweat strategically placed adding intensity to the portrait. The cover wraps around to the back and becomes a sort of a mirror/reversal of the front. The large dark tone face morphs into pink or extremely lighted skin on the back. The images of the facial profiles snake into two joined hands; one black the other white which could be seen as a form of commonality and unity reflected in humanity even with the obvious differences in skin hue. The stars of night subtly illumine the darkness of the reversed back cover. A figure seemingly in a fit of rage or pain grimaces.  A woman of resolve or quiet hope rounds out the composition as we are left to ponder.

Klarwein's original piece for “Bitches Brew” was much admired and sought out by Miles but he was unable to acquire the piece. It would have been an amazing addition to Davis’ art collection but it was not meant to be. Miles was himself a water color and pen & ink artist. His tastes ran from fine sculpture to French and European graphic novels.   

Davis and Klarwein were immensely creative.  Their admirers were and remain many. “Bitches Brew” an achievement for both men and all from a time when music albums were vinyl and the covers were works of art.

 
 

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