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From Columbia Studio B to Carnegie Hall: The Studio-to-Stage Creative Trajectory in the Fusion Jazz of Miles Davis

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posted on 2021-11-15, 10:54 authored by Booth, Timothy

This thesis proposes an interrelationship between the creative processes of the recording studio and the concert stage in the fusion jazz of Miles Davis. Recent scholarship highlights the importance of the recording studio to fusion jazz musicians as they developed unique approaches to composition and improvisation. While providing valuable insight into the studio-derived creative processes distinctive of fusion jazz, this scholarship inadvertently obscures some of the live performance practices of fusion jazz musicians. Turning attention towards live performance, yet without neglecting the insights of this recent scholarship, I consider how the creative processes forged by Davis in the recording studio manifested in his activities as a concert artist. Combining commentary on Davis’s formative fusion jazz studio recordings (produced between 1969 and 1972) with analyses of the live album Dark Magus (exemplary of his mid-1970s concert performances), this thesis suggests a reorientation in Davis’s conceptions of improvisation and composition during this period by highlighting some of the creative processes he engaged in, both in the recording studio and on the concert stage.  Drawing on the accounts of several musicians who worked with Davis in the recording studio during the late-1960s and early-1970s, I consider how post production tape editing allowed Davis and his band a new means for composing and improvising in the studio. Then, to demonstrate what I have termed a studio-to-stage creative trajectory, I analyse two creative processes common to Davis’s mid-1970s concerts as evidenced in Dark Magus: Davis’s on-stage direction of sudden, rhythm section cuts in the midst of lead instrumentalists’ improvisations; and the featured use of two accompanimental instruments unusual to jazz performance—a YC45 electric organ (played by Davis ) and a drum machine (played by percussionist James Mtume). Finally, framing this studio-to-stage creative trajectory in terms of performance theorist Philip Auslander’s concept of liveness, I claim that Davis’s fusion jazz stands as an example of mediatization rich in human agency. I then suggest that the work of other fusion jazz musicians and musicians associated with other jazz styles could be usefully reappraised using a similar methodology that explores the role of record production in creative process


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Music

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

New Zealand School of Music


Hudson, Elizabeth; Cosper, David