Moving ahead on book two – Miles Davis electric band, 1969-1970, the band Circle…
After a breather, I’m back to work on my new book. The title remains tentative, but the content continues to begin with Miles Davis’s electric band, 1969-1970, continuing with the formation of the band Circle. This unfolded in response to the growth of a very special kind of musical rapport and aesthetic within Miles’s rhythm section (Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette). Circle joined Corea and Holland with Barry Altschul and Anthony Braxton. The narrative also explores the breadth of Mr. Braxton’s activities during this period, and the work of his Chicago colleague, Leroy Jenkins, as he co-founded the Revolutionary Ensemble.
Like the Mwandishi book, this one has been a lot of fun to write – the music is great, the personalities interesting, and the stories not widely known. The book has successfully moved through the first of several stages in its review that will hopefully lead to publication.
As I work on some revisions, I’m continuing to listen to the music, simplify some of the musical writing, and rework the structure of the book—the story line (and it does have a story line)—is complex and requires some rethinking along the lines of how one might write a detective story.
Two portions of the original draft have now been spun off as articles. These include writing about Paul Bley’s Synthesizer Show, and about the work of composer Mort Subotnick. Hopefully each will be soon published in music journals. While these topics may seem to be off topic, this was not the case in the early drafts, when the book centered on music in downtown New York City, 1969-1971. My increasingly tighter focus on Circle demanded further thinking and writing, and a reshaping of the narrative flow. By listening to as many live recordings of Miles’s band as I could find, I was able to more effectively trace the evolution of the rhythm section following the departure of Ron Carter and Herbie Hancock, and then Tony Williams. A timeline and a clear image emerged of how the music changed. Tying the musical developments within the band to the musical relationships unfolding in the neighborhood where some of the core people lived moved the story forward. Here, saxophonist Dave Liebman enters the narrative, a few years before he, too, joined Miles Davis’s band.
Working on this book has been a really interesting process. Like my experience while writing the Mwandishi book, I am particularly grateful to musicians who have spoken with me, sharing their stories and perspectives. Most recently, I spent a few hours with drummer Barry Altschul, talking and listening to music together. The latter activity was particularly helpful, bringing into focus topics within our previous conversations. Since that visit, I’ve been listening to Altschul’s own latest trio recording, which is, I will add, fabulous. Recent exchanges with Chick Corea and Dave Liebman have also been quite enlightening.
I will have more to add about the book over the summer.