A WICKED BREW: Lettuce releases a live tribute to Miles Davis, heads to GLA with even more new tunes
Like the rest of his bandmates, Lettuce trumpet player Benny Bloom is a big fan of Miles Davis. Actually, “fan” seems a bit ill-suited to describe his love and admiration for each era of the famed jazz trumpeter’s catalog. And like Davis, Lettuce has made a name for themselves by making original and improvisational music. Lettuce has once again embraced the lack of rules with “Witches Stew,” wherein seven Miles Davis songs were handpicked and recorded at the 2016 Catskill Chill in Lakewood, PA.
Though Adam Deitch (drums) credits Bloom for spearheading the live tribute, he says he and all of his Lettuce bandmates have been drawn to Miles Davis for most of their lives. He met Davis’ nephew Vince Wilburn, Jr.
“I actually sent the record to Vince and he liked it,” Deitch tells. “Being surrounded by people who knew Miles so well—plus, reading all these books and such—we’re all obsessed with Miles’ life and his ability to change, grow and do new things [in his music].”
“It can be dark, it can be happy, it can be funky, it’s music without boundaries and that’s what Miles Davis is all about and that’s what we try to do,” Bloom adds of “Witches Stew,” released earlier this month on Friday the 13th.
Despite how well-received “Witches Stew” has been, this was never a rehearsed or planned endeavor. They were in the middle of their tour and it never occurred to them to schedule in a Miles Davis tribute.
“It really wasn’t a thought out ‘let’s do this thing,’” Bloom iterates, “but it was too good to let it just sit and not put out. . . . And I think if you go along with the album it will take you somewhere. I’m very happy with it.”
“Yeah, we never played this stuff before,” Deitch says. “We were prepared mentally, because we had listened to the music a lot, but we had just never played it in front of people.”
Though there is an appearance from 1985’s “You’re Under Arrest” with one of Deitch’s favorites, “Jean Pierre,” most of tracks are pulled from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s electric period of Davis’ work. The first single, “Shhh / Peaceful,” was released back in September in remembrance of the artist’s passing 26 years ago. “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down” is the only track from “Bitches Brew,” while 1969’s “In A Silent Way” was tapped for “Sivad,” “Shhh / Peaceful” and “In a Silent Way / It’s About That Time.”
“I didn’t want to do the full ‘Bitches Brew’ album—even though that would have been a cool concept,” Bloom muses. “And that later period of the ‘80s could kind a get a little cheesy, so to speak, but . . . he did a lot of stuff with Prince and a lot of different things that a lot of people don’t know about.”
The roughly hourlong live set is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dozens and dozens of albums, but Bloom “didn’t want to go too deep.” He chose to focus on the electronic and often spacey period of Davis’ work because it reflects some of the original improvisation that has inspired them all for years—but also purposefully picked songs with more structure to them.
“They literally played maybe a small melody and then just improvised,” Bloom states. “And they could go 20-25 minutes. I wanted to choose songs that had a little more melody and a little more to grab onto. . . . It’s just a period of Miles Davis that people don’t often do because of the electronics and it’s serial; and it’s not just about playing the notes of the song it’s about improvising, of which the Lettuce crew is perfect for in many ways.”
Though Lettuce doesn’t play tracks from “Witches Stew” in their live sets, its release is to hold people over until they release their next series of studio recordings. In fact, they have upwards of 27 songs they’re priming for release in 2018. Lettuce will perform some of these new tunes at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater this Sat., Oct. 28.
The new songs reflect multiple avenues they like to explore these days in between a balance of high-energy funk with threads of slowed-down psychedelic breaks.
“We’re very excited about this project,” Deitch says. “We found a studio [in Colorado]—we usually record in New York—but we’re glad we did it here. It was a beautiful experience. . . . That’s why this tour’s going to be one of the most exciting ones yet because little by little we’re going to be bringing in these songs. We never repeat the same set, ever. This just adds so much to our repertoire.”
Lettuce is still deciding whether to release these songs as multiple EPs, or perhaps, a double album. “We’re kicking around a few names and concepts right now for it,” Deitch divulges. “But it’s still at the beginning stages so I don’t want to put anything out there yet.”
Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, 1941 Amphitheatre Dr.
Tickets: $25 Adv. | $30 Day Of.
Doors: 6pm | Show: 7pm
Kids 5 and under Free
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