It goes without saying that Miles Davis was one of the 20th century’s coolest and most important musicians, but even with that respect, he faced intense criticism when he shifted towards louder and more aggressive, rock-inspired compositions with his 1969 album “In a Silent Way,” and his 1970 Grammy award-winning Bitches Brew. Despite criticism from Davis’ contemporaries, both albums are now considered visionary in their scope and made a huge impact on jazz, funk, and later on, hip hop.

Juxtapoz Sound and Vision is a weekly segment on our platform dedicated to exploring one piece of substantial album artwork every Sunday. Album artwork is one of the primary ways that musicians and visual artists are able to collaborate, and many iconic album covers are simultaneously iconic pieces of pop art. It’s also an excuse for us to share some of our favorite albums and the visual component behind what makes an album groundbreaking and fun.

November 11th, 2018: Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew
Cover art by Abdul Mati Klarwein

BitchesBrew

It goes without saying that Miles Davis was one of the 20th century’s coolest and most important musicians, but even with that respect, he faced intense criticism when he shifted towards louder and more aggressive, rock-inspired compositions with his 1969 album In a Silent Way, and his 1970 Grammy award-winning Bitches Brew. Despite criticism from Davis’ contemporaries, both albums are now considered visionary in their scope and made a huge impact on jazz, funk, and later on, hip hop.

The cover art on Bitches Brew was hugely symbolic for the album’s message. Unlike his past album covers that featured either his face or largely figurative illustrations, this one is directly surreal and among his most colorful, featuring bold black people staring over the ocean. Since the album’s composition was a controversial statement, the boldness of its cover captures that same energy before the record is even out of the packaging. The illustration was created by Abdul Mati Klarwein, an iconic surreal illustrator who inspired huge swaths of surreal illustration over the next decade, going on to work with Carlos Santana, Time Magazine, Betty Davis, and many others.