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Running down the truth

Philip Freeman's book Running the Voodoo Down: The Electric Music of Miles Davis was published in September 2006, a full five years after Miles Beyond. One could be forgiven for wondering what the reason is for publishing a book that goes over exactly the same ground. Perhaps Freeman offers genuine new insights, but he hasn't done much new research, and inevitably his book is to a large degree based on the facts uncovered in Miles Beyond. Whatever Running The Voodoo Down's merits, one expects as a minimum a dedication to truth and accuracy. Sadly Freeman's book fails on these counts. The following catalogue of opinions-presented-as-facts, unsubstantiated assertions, and often shocking errors, was compiled by several outraged Miles Davis fans and one of them sent it to me. Here it is, without editing on my part, for your perusal and evaluation:

On page xii of the Introduction, Freeman says his book is "an extended work of criticism, albeit one based in fact." Unfortunately, it is nothing like as based in fact as it should be.

On Page 2, Freeman says Reggie Lucas and Pete Cosey had "been in the band for more than a year" when Dark Magus was recorded in March 1974. Cosey did not join the band until the previous April - less than a year.

On page 2, he says "Sonny Fortune's on saxophone." Fortune does not play on Dark Magus - the sax players are Dave Liebman and Azar Lawrence.

On page 2, Azar Lawrence is referred to as "some kid." Lawrence had already recorded with McCoy Tyner, so he was more than 'some kid'.

On page 2, he says Miles is "first heard on organ" on Dark Magus, and does not play trumpet until "a minute or maybe two into the piece." In fact Miles plays trumpet almost straight away; he does not play organ until well into the album.

On page 3, the Dark Magus date is given as March 29th; according to the sleeve it was recorded on March 30th.

On page 4, the Davis/Shorter/Hancock/Carter/Williams group is referred to as the "final quintet"; in fact the final Davis quintet was the 1969 group with Shorter/Corea/Holland/DeJohnette, as Freeman acknowledges later.

On page 9, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock are described as "the first, and sometimes only, electric musicians in Davis' employ in 1968 and even parts of 1969." Jarrett did not join Davis until 1970.

On page 10, "On the Corner marked Davis' last trip into the studio with the idea of making a whole record until 1981." There is no evidence for this in fact; Miles stated that he intended 'Calypso Frelimo' (1973) to be a whole album.

On page 15, reference to "1984's Aura"; Aura was recorded in 1985 and released in 1989.

On page 20, 'Circle in the Round' is referred to as a "1976 album"; it was actually released in 1979.

On page 23, 'by year's end' i.e. the end of 1969, is given as when Miles "stole" Keith Jarrett from Charles Lloyd. In fact Jarrett did not join Miles until May 1970, when he had already been out of Lloyd's band for at least a year.

On page 27, Freeman recounts the alleged incident where Miles and Teo Macero were "at each other's throats" at the start of the Bitches Brew session, as if it were established fact. Ian Carr also recounts this incident, based on information from Macero, but Miles himself denied the episode occurred.

On page 28, Freeman says that Jack DeJohnette plays the rhythmic drum pattern at the start of 'Pharoah's Dance', and Lenny White plays "feather-soft wooshes on cymbals." I don't know what his evidence is for this division of labour between the two drummers, but other commentators have generally had White as the 'timekeeping' player.

On page 29, he says that albums such as On the Corner were "dominated by Miles" concepts much more' than In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. There is no documentary evidence that this is so: Miles always insisted that the musical concepts of the two earlier albums were vey much his, possibly because he was aware that Macero had played a big role in the post-production editing.

On page 33, "Black Beauty also signalled a new militancy in Miles' imagery." There is no evidence that Miles chose the title of this album, which was only released in Japan at the time.

On page 34, Dave Holland is described as appearing on the inside sleeve picture of Black Beauty. In fact Michael Henderson appears in the picture, leading to a long-time general misbelief that Henderson appeared on the album itself, before a proper personnel list was issued.

On page 34, he says that Jackie Battle's picture appears on the sleeve of Miles Davis at Fillmore; in fact, the pictures are of Marguerite Eskridge.

On page 47, Miles "spoke so negatively of the Black Power movement in the late 1960s." No reference is given, and I'm not aware of such negative comments by Miles.

On page 53, "'Orange Lady'... featured a melody Shorter had used on Miles' Great Expectations'." It was Steve Grossman, not Wayne Shorter, who appeared on 'Great Expectations/Orange Lady'.

On page 56, John McLaughlin 'made two records under his own name in England' prior to going to the US; in fact he had only made one, Extrapolation.

On page 62, "nobody expects (Sly Stone) to return to public or creative life." Stone did make a public appearance in 2005.

On page 68, Freeman claims that Jumma Santos appeared with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. Jumma Santos is another name for Jim Riley, who played on Bitches Brew; the percussionist who played with Hendrix was called Juma Sultan.

On page 71, Sly and the Family Stone's "first three albums were relatively negligible, from both artistic and commercial standpoints." In fact, amongst these was Dance to the Music, which was a huge hit and which launched Sly's career.

On page 82, another reference to the disputed altercation between Miles and Macero at the start of the Bitches Brew session.

On page 87, a reference to "Billy Cobham's drums on 'Go Ahead John'." Jack DeJohnette, not Billy Cobham, plays drums on 'Go Ahead John', as Freeman acknowledges later.

On page 89, Miles Davis at Fillmore and other albums are described as "openly hostile." There is no attempt to explain this perplexing and highly contentious comment.

On page 92, March 7th 1970 is given as the recording date for 'Go Ahead John'. Enrico Merlin's discography gives the date as March 3rd.

On page 95, Dominique Gaumont is described as only appearing on 'He Loved Him Madly' and the second half of Dark Magus. In fact Gaumont appears on 'Mtume', and is credited as appearing on 'Maiysha' (although it is possible that he did not actually play on the track).

On page 96, "there were no studio dates in 1973." 'Calypso Frelimo' was recorded in September 1973, and there were several other sessions which yielded material which has yet to be released officially.

On page 100, the personnel list for 'On the Corner' includes several musicians who did not play on the sessions according to any other accounts. These include Lonnie Liston Smith and Al Foster, both of whom played on 'Ife' but not 'On the Corner', and Khalil Balaksrishna, who did not play on either session.

On page 102, there is reference to Badal Roy and Khalil Balaksrishna being brought in by John McLaughlin for the On the Corner sessions from an Indian restaurant where they were playing; other accounts have Balakrishna and Bihari Sharma brought in under these circumstances for the November 1969 sessions.

On page 102, Colin Walcott "became part of the live band in 1972." Walcott never joined Miles' live band - the sitar player for Miles' band in 1972 was Balakrishna.

On page 102, Freeman describes "Macero's insertion of a mesmerizing hi-hat pattern" in On the Corner, and a "sitar loop." There is no evidence that this is how these effects were achieved on the record, which many listeners assume were actually played live in the studio.
- Note by PT: Bob Belden, who has seen this list, commented: "Actually, Freeman is half right. Teo looped hi-hat patterns by playing back a tape of the loop into the studio. The loops were taken from the June 2 date and used on the July sessions. I confronted Teo about it and he confirmed that he used this technique. But I don't think much of that was used."

On page 103, the On the Corner drummers are listed as Jack DeJohnette and Billy Hart for the opening cut, DeJohnette and Al Foster for the rest. Other accounts have DeJohnette as the only drummer for the opening track, joined by Hart for the rest of the album.

On page 114 Freeman claims that Lenny White does not play on 'Miles Runs the Voodoo Down'. Don Alias said that he swapped roles with White for this track, i.e. that he played drums and White played hand percussion.

On page 115 'Miles' own words describe (Jack Johnson) as rock'. There is no reference for this; Miles has been quoted as deriding rock as a 'white man's word'.

On page 117, Airto Moreira was replaced by Mtume and "briefly Jim Riley (aka Jumma Santos)." Riley played once with Miles at the same time as Moreira, at the Fillmore West in October 1970; when Mtume joined in October 1971 he was joined for the next two months by Don Alias.

On page 118, "the high-speed rock vamp that opens Agharta, for example, also inaugurates Pangaea and Dark Magus. In fact a different theme opens Agharta, called 'Prelude Part 1' on the record but often referred to as 'Tatu'. 'Turnaround Phrase', also known as 'Moja-Nne', opens Pangaea and Dark Magus.

On page 133, Reggie Lucas "doesn't solo once on the album (In Concert)". Lucas solos twice on this album, on 'Honky Tonk' and 'Right Off' - Freeman actually goes on to describe Lucas' solo on 'Right Off'!

On page 136, when Miles came back in 1981 he "broke his band's sets into discrete tunes, with pauses for applause." Miles didn't do this until well after his comeback, around 1985.

On page 138, "John Scofield was an R&B and funk player." Scofield had established a strong reputation primarily as a jazz player by the time he joined Miles, having already played and/or recorded with Gary Burton, Billy Cobham, Charles Mingus and many other jazz names.

On page 141 "Wyclef Jean... seems himself to sell more records to white fans than black ones." There is no reference for this assertion, even if it mattered!

On page 146, "Miles didn't record or release anything in 1973." As previously noted, Miles recorded 'Calypso Frelimo' in 1973, and he released In Concert (recorded 1972) in 1973.

On page 148, 'Billy Preston' (December 1972) was 'the last time a sitar was brought to any Miles Davis session'. Khalil Balakrishna continued to play electric sitar with Miles until April 1973.

On page 156, "the 1974-75 septet/octet was not always heard on the studio records." In fact this group appears on 'Calypso Frelimo', 'He Loved Him Madly', 'Maiysha' and 'Mtume', as well as several sessions not yet released.

On paged 184, Marcus Miller was "replaced by Darryl Jones." Miller was replaced by Tom Barney, who was in turn replaced by Jones.

On page 185, five of "Decoy's seven tracks are 'fast funk themes', the exceptions being 'Freaky Deaky' and 'Robot 415'." 'That's Right' is actually a slow blues-based piece.

On page 187, Al Foster is referred to as the drummer on 'Something's On Your Mind' and 'Ms Morrisine', from You're Under Arrest. The sleeve notes give Vince Wilburn as the drummer for these tracks.

On page 193, Miles "plays open horn for a few brief seconds' on 'Don't Lose Your Mind', on 'Tutu', the only time he does it anywhere on the album." Miles plays open horn briefly on 'Backyard Ritual'; there is no obvious open horn solo on 'Don't Lose Your Mind', although there is what sounds like an electric trumpet solo.

On page 198, zouk is referred to as "African music"; zouk actually originated in the French Antilles, in the Caribbean.

On page 203, Miles' albums with Gil Evans are described as 'overrated, Sketches of Spain aside'. This may be Freeman's opinion, to which he is entitled, but it so glaringly flies in the face of the general estimation of the Davis/Evans collaborations as one of the great achievements of 20th century music, that I feel Freeman is at least obliged to back his view up.

On page 216, the Complete In A Silent Way Sessions is described a being the same as the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, i.e. not containing unreleased material recorded at the sessions which produced the finished albums of those names. This is true of the Bitches Brew Sessions box, but not of the Silent Way Sessions, which includes a considerable amount of extra material from the sessions from which the final album was edited.

On page 218, 'What If' is described as a "showcase for Pete Cosey." 'What If' is generally thought to be an out-take from On the Corner, recorded in June 1972; Cosey was not introduced to Miles until April 1973. The aural evidence suggests strongly that the guitarist on 'What If' is John McLaughlin.


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