Volume 91, Issue 69

Friday, January 30, 1998

cheque please


Bitches are brewin' it

By Mark Lewandowski
Gazette Staff

"When I first heard Bitches Brew, I said, 'what the hell is this? What's going on?' and I couldn't get into it," recalls Jean Martin, drummer and leader of the creative Toronto jazz sextet Bitches Brew.

The outfit was named affectionately for the Miles Davis 1969 jazz fusion meltdown album of same name and has been heavily influenced by Davis' work and jazz of the early '70s. However, the band is not interested in recreating the past. As Martin puts it, "we take pieces from Miles and we'll take a melody or groove and then make it our own." London had a chance to experience Bitches Brew original jazz last year when they followed up a one-and-a-half hour first set with a two-hour night cap.

But even a band that contains award-winning trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, Juno nominated Justin Haynes and Rob Frayne (with Martin as Chelsea Bridge), there are still many hurdles on the road to recognition – which for this band, is really just exposure.

"Everybody plays Miles Davis tunes from the late '50s and '60s but not a lot of people do stuff from the Bitches Brew era," Martin says, unveiling the angle that puts Bitches Brew into its own category of jazz. For the uninitiated, that was an era of musical growth and fusion started by Miles Davis but picked up by such notables as Herbie Hancock and broke down the walls of traditional jazz creation and presentation.

The sextet will find time in its busy schedule to record their first album for this summer so "[they] can do a little tour with it," as Martin puts it. But he feels recording is just half the fun, the real good times come from playing. "You just have to play as much as you can, that's the only way to get known. People will hear you play and they'll like it or not but you still have to do it," Martin erupts when asked about starting out in the business. "Sometimes you have to fight to make it work. Keeping busy with lots of different people – that's how you do it," he concludes.

No amount of print can compare to the dynamic energy that Bitches Brew generates in a live performance, or as Martin puts it, "we have certain cues that we use but after that we just play." A statement of paralyzing humility with respect to the stage energy created by the band.

"With Bitches Brew, we get crowds of 200-300 people coming out, so it's good," he explains. A pretty good crowd for what is still technically a side project, but for those out there who have already heard the band play, Martin has some reassuring words. "Everybody's busy, but everybody's pretty committed to it. When we play, people are real excited. It's a very special thing."

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998