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SoundGround >> RIP Pete Cosey, Miles Davis' mid-70's guitar hero


5/30/12 5:34 PM
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hugomma
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  http://ultimateclassicrock.com/pete-cosey-dead-at-68/

Pete Cosey, who played guitar on some of the most controversial albums ever made by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, has died at age 68 of unknown causes.

According to the Chicago Reader, the news of Cosey’s passing was posted on Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid’s private Facebook page. Cosey was a session musician at blues label Chess Records during the late ’60s, before helping Miles Davis explore jazz-rock fusion in the early ’70s with his pioneering work on landmark albums such as ‘Agharta’ and ‘Get Up With It.’

While at Chess, Cosey contributed to Waters’ controversial late ’60s psychedelic blues albums ‘Electric Mud’ and ‘After the Rain,’ as well as Wolf’s similarly targeted ‘The Howlin’ Wolf Album.’ In an attempt to cross over to a modern rock audience, the albums featured heavy Jimi Hendrix-style production. As AllMusic humorously describes it, some critics considered the effect “as ill-advised as putting Dustin Hoffman into a Star Wars epic.”

Regardless, Cosey’s innovative and creative playing was singled out from any blame. The albums also won more than their fair share of love from fans and peers, including Hendrix and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, who reportedly stated that ‘Electric Mud’ influenced the creation of his band’s song ‘Black Dog.’ That album has also been cited as an early influence on the rhythms of hip-hop music.

In later years, Cosey participated in a wide variety of projects, including work with Reid and Public Enemy frontman Chuck D. He appeared briefly in Martin Scorsese’s 2004 documentary ‘The Blues,’ appropriately enough reuniting with the ‘Electric Mud’ band to record a new song.

5/30/12 5:35 PM
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hugomma
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RIP Mr. Cosey.  You were one of a kind.
5/30/12 5:36 PM
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hugomma
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5/30/12 5:37 PM
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hugomma
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5/30/12 9:31 PM
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Ali
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Edited: 05/30/12 9:42 PM
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R.I.P. -- an underheralded great. Every time I say his name I automatically shake my head in disbelief. Pete freakin' Cosey.

My favorite writing about him is from Greg Tate's article on the Electric Miles. I can't find a copy online (it's contained in Tate's anthology, "Flyboy in the Buttermilk"). But this article from 2007 by Bill Milkowski is pretty good, gives a good idea of the range of his work, and of how he talked: http://jazztimes.com/articles/18873-pete-cosey-guitar-catharsis

The contrast between Howlin Wolf's reaction to him and Muddy Waters' is kind of funny. Wolf just wiped him out with a sentence.

I love Cosey, particularly on Miles' Agharta and Pangaea and Dark Magus. He also replaced Bill Frisell in the Ronald Shannon Jackson trio, Power Tools -- but the only recording they did was an independent release and hard to find. And he was very active in a project Greg Tate conducted, or curated, or oversaw, called Burnt Sugar. There's some wild stuff on those records, too. He takes some real chasing down outside of a very few records, sadly. He always had a deep blues sensibility, while playing super "outside", sort of post-Hendrix with odd tunings sort of sensibility.

I hadn't heard he died till Hugo.... So sorry to hear it. I was looking forward to what else he might pop up on.
5/31/12 12:59 AM
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Ali
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In a simpler mood, hanging at home.
5/31/12 1:01 AM
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Ali
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And with Melvin Gibbs' band. This is called "Pete's Mojo".
5/31/12 11:30 AM
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hugomma
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Ali - 

In a simpler mood, hanging at home.



A great example of Cosey's "deep blues sensibilities", which made him unique among other outside, experimental guitarists. I would've loved to have heard a album of solo acoustic blues instrumentals from him.
5/31/12 11:46 AM
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hugomma
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Edited: 05/31/12 11:50 AM
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Ali - 

And with Melvin Gibbs' band. This is called "Pete's Mojo".

A very cool, Miles-y,  mid-70's sounding piece.  Loved the wha licks & how he develops those bizarre intergalactic melodies.  That slow build up in the beginning to the face-eating psychosis at about 1:20 is classic Cosey.  As Hendrix-y & blooz-y as he was, he had unique, outside, harmonic senseibilites.  I love how he combined that harmonic vocabulary with the wha, fuzz, & phasers (a Uni-Vibe, perhaps?).  I also hear a strong Miles influece on how he used space in his phrasing.  God I wish there was more Cosey out there (yes, pun intended).

I've never heard the Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf stuff though.  I'll have to hunt it down & post it later.

Thanks again, Ali.
  
5/31/12 5:18 PM
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hugomma
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 A bit over-produced, but still pretty damn cool.  Nice phased/fuzzed solo at 1:18 by Mr. Cosey.  Nice, weird screaming lick at 1:51.  The dude could play the booze, no doubt.  
5/31/12 5:24 PM
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hugomma
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Damn, being ahead of your time must really suck sometimes.  This sounds like slightly over-produced, heavy blues-rock that was the norm in the 70's. Nice clean wha solo starting at 1:30, & hint of Cosey's trademarked outside tendencies at 1:47.  It's a shame hardly anyone knows or cares about Pete Cosey.
6/1/12 12:26 AM
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Ali
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I love that Howlin' Wolf album cover; never bought that record, though -- I'm not sure what to think. I generally much prefer Howlin' Wolf to Muddy Waters, but perhaps not as a platform for Cosey in particular.

Still, this is very much Cosey as Chess Records' studio ringer.... and it was an attempt to get the psychedelic hippy crowd into the older Blues masters. An overtly commercial endeavor, I suppose. Cosey reached an altogether new freedom with Miles and later. Still, he was a beast from the start, sui generis.

(I dig that wah-wah solo on the Wolf, btw, which I'm just coming to now, as I type!)
6/6/12 9:33 AM
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DasBeaver
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RIP Pete.
Just going through the tunes you guys posted. I avoided the 70s Howlin' Wolf and Muddy albums because they seemed like overproduced money grabs.(sorta like RL Burnside's ;Wish I was in Heaven') Now that I'm less idealistic I'll have to give them a chance!



Unrelated, but it was on the site you linked too:

 
6/6/12 10:33 AM
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hugomma
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Edited: 06/06/12 12:43 PM
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DasBeaver - RIP Pete.
Just going through the tunes you guys posted. I avoided the 70s Howlin' Wolf and Muddy albums because they seemed like overproduced money grabs.(sorta like RL Burnside's ;Wish I was in Heaven') Now that I'm less idealistic I'll have to give them a chance!



Unrelated, but it was on the site you linked too:

 

 'Beave, my man...nice to see you here.  LOL, I missed that pic.  Thanks for posting.

Found another Miles/Cosey jam, but won't be able to check it it out till later.  Enjoy!

  
6/7/12 1:27 AM
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Ali
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DasBeaver - RIP Pete.
Just going through the tunes you guys posted. I avoided the 70s Howlin' Wolf and Muddy albums because they seemed like overproduced money grabs.(sorta like RL Burnside's ;Wish I was in Heaven') Now that I'm less idealistic I'll have to give them a chance!
/(merciful)snip 


Thing is... Cosey wasn't really "in the band" on those records. He was a studio guy for Chess, and a beast, but really imported and asked to add psychedelic flavor -- so indeed a production/commercial decision. He's an animal, and it's cool to hear what he did. But it's an altogether different thing with Miles, where it was a real band -- and an uncommonly democratic one. Cosey is something truly special on that stuff, whether soloing or not.
6/8/12 12:00 PM
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DasBeaver
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Jesus, that guy was out of control, what a player!
I stand behind my original thoughts on the Chess blues hybrids, although that is some sick and highly respectable playing.


'Why don't you take them wah-wahs and all that other shit and go throw it off into the lake on your way to the barbershop?'
6/8/12 1:01 PM
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hugomma
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Edited: 06/08/12 1:02 PM
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Ali - Thing is... Cosey wasn't really "in the band" on those records. He was a studio guy for Chess, and a beast, but really imported and asked to add psychedelic flavor -- so indeed a production/commercial decision. He's an animal, and it's cool to hear what he did. But it's an altogether different thing with Miles, where it was a real band -- and an uncommonly democratic one. Cosey is something truly special on that stuff, whether soloing or not.

Great point about Miles' 70's band being a democracy.  I need to get another copy of Miles' autobiograpth, I'd love to hear his thoughts on Cosey (for better or for worse, LOL).

Acutally, here's a cool little Miles/Cosey story (bros:-).  I'd love to find out more about the 30 distinct musical "systems Cosey mentioned:  http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/playing-with-fire/Content?oid=894254 

Guitarist Pete Cosey's first rehearsal with Miles Davis took place in a Portland hotel room in 1973. Davis would play a bit of a recording of the band's performance the night before in Calgary, and Cosey would listen enough to get the gist of it, ask Davis what key it was in, and then move on to the next part. Cosey had only met Davis briefly before joining the band, and as the men listened to the tape, they made small talk, began to know one another. At one point the conversation turned to food. The legendary trumpeter insisted that fish was all he ate, and it just so happened that Cosey was fresh off the plane from Chicago with a batch of red snapper and perch sandwiches he'd prepared a day earlier. Cosey scampered off to his room to get some for Davis, who took a bite and then asked what he was eating.

"I said, 'Red snapper,'" recalled Cosey on a recent afternoon at his garden apartment on Chicago's south side. But Davis croaked, "No it's not, it's chicken." After arguing for some time with Cosey and even calling in bassist Michael Henderson for his opinion, Davis finally sighed. "Well, I don't know what it is," he said, "but it's gooder than a motherfucker."

 
 
6/8/12 1:04 PM
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hugomma
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 Here's another Cosey article by the same author:  http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/building-bridges-with-an-ax/Content?oid=912361

I'd love to hear some of these projects. 

Pete Cosey has kept a low profile for most of his four-decade career. In fact, in the past ten years it seemed as though the guitarist had vanished completely. "I just go and woodshed," the former Miles Davis sideman told me in 1997. "I disappear from the scene and come back with different stuff." Recently he's come back with several new projects: he's a member of the Electric Mudcats, a Muddy Waters-inspired act organized by Public Enemy's Chuck D; he's the featured soloist on a disc that reinterprets Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps; and he's formed the Children of Agartha, a band with Davis alums Gary Bartz and John Stubblefield that pays homage to the hard-charging, nonlinear music that Cosey made with the trumpeter in the mid-70s. And recently he got an unexpected dose of mainstream exposure: he appeared as a plaintiff on The People's Court.

Last June, Children of Agartha made their debut at the Village Underground in New York. At the end of the night the club's talent buyer, Steve Weitzman, didn't have enough cash on hand to meet the band's guarantee; Cosey agreed to let him pay the balance of $1350 by August 15. When the date came and went without payment, Cosey filed a suit in New York small-claims court. But before the November court date rolled around he was contacted by representatives of the TV program. Both he and Weitzman agreed to appear; the episode was taped late last fall and ran early this year. Cosey presented the facts, the original contract, and Weitzman's promissory note. After some backpedaling from the promoter, the judge ruled in the guitarist's favor.

As Cosey nears 70 quite a few judgments have gone his way. He made significant contributions to some of the most critically maligned records of the late 60s and early 70s; contemporary critics and musicians have reevaluated those albums and Cosey's performances. "It's not so much people catching up to what I'm doing as it's a matter of rediscovery, or, for some of them, discovery," he says. "My music is light-years from that right now. I'm interested in bridges, not barriers. A lot of the young people aren't familiar with many of our great jazz artists nor our great blues artists, so if we can introduce them through our music that'll be beneficial for everyone."

6/8/12 1:11 PM
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hugomma
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DasBeaver - Jesus, that guy was out of control, what a player!
I stand behind my original thoughts on the Chess blues hybrids, although that is some sick and highly respectable playing.


'Why don't you take them wah-wahs and all that other shit and go throw it off into the lake on your way to the barbershop?'

I've only heard the Chess stuff I posted here, but I dig it. 

I keep wondering how Cosey slipped through the cracks, but the 2nd article nails it: he's was a big part of some of the most hated albums of all time.  Critics HATED late-period electric Miles, & people still don't like the late 60's Chess stuff.  Cosey would've fit right in with guys like Nels Cline, Vernon Reid, Jimmy Herring, etc...but imagine the initial shock of hearing that shit in 1974?
6/9/12 12:50 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 06/09/12 12:56 AM
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Below posts - are two selections (dealing directly with Cosey) from Greg Tate's essay, "The Electric Miles, Part 1 and 2". That is, I think they were in parts in an original magazine publication, but put together in a book of Tate's writings.

Tate is a writer/critic, obviously, also a guitarist and a guy who has organized a lot music, as curator/conductor. And linked up Cosey with a bunch of the young "Black Rock Coalition" guys (like Vernon Reid) and also Mike Hampton and some more obscure (amazing) dudes. Anyway.... I read this stuff a longish time ago, and here are some paragraphs that got me REALLY listening to particularly three (what to me were, then) difficult and noisy Miles records. And made me a total convert. They also had a lot to do with my developing patience to listen to 20-something minutes at a time of strange music and not just want to hurry to the solos. Anyway, you might like this, and maybe get something from it (like I did!):
6/9/12 12:51 AM
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Ali
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Cosey's staccato guitar simultaneously functions like a second set of congas to Mtume's, a second rush of cymbals to Al Foster's, a second steel drum simulacrum to Miles' Gnostic organ, second rhythm guitar to Lucas', and as one of three solo voices. In effect, the ensemble music isn't dissimilar to Sunny Ade or Steve Reich--especially in terms of the conversion of multiple melodies into polyrhythms and subtly swelling metamorphoses. Where Miles' work goes beyond theirs is in having his trumpet and Cosey's guitar improvise a swinging infinity of new colors, lines, lyrically percussive phrasings, and needlepoint-by-laser stitching out of the given melody.... And because Cosey and MIles can continually solo, and enhance rather than rupture the communal fabric of the calypso, they celebrate jazz as a way of life and as an aesthetic model for the human community...
6/9/12 12:52 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 06/09/12 1:02 AM
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Like Miles and Cecil Taylor, Cosey is a constructivist whose improvs affirm fellow architectonic-anarchist Taylor's belief that music from a man's innards will systematize that gut-bucket spillage on its own terms. For Cosey those terms derive from years of studying the guitar systems of the country-bluesmen, and from applying the microtonal intervals of sitars and koras to electric guitar. (In conversation recently, Cosey told me he has "32 systems for tuning the instrument" which means Glenn Branca can sit down and Robert Fripp has got a lot of scales to go). Cosey's improvs extend upon the orchestral guitar techniques of Hendrix by likewise moving successive waves of harmonic distortion (that's noise to you, mom) which have the logic and density of symphonies and the filth of the blues. Where his vast scalar armament takes him beyond Hendrix is the elongation of microtonal scales into multidirectional hooks and tentacles of curvaceous, screeching sound. What's even more amazing is that he makes these monstrous creations swing like a Basie band arrangement or a tenor solo by some of his former employers named Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons. For what it's worth, proto-punk axemaniac Robert Quine claims Cosey as an influence, and hearing Agharta, Dark Magus, and Pangaea will make you think Keith Levene, Andy Gill, Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp ought to own up too. Besides Hendrix, the only music which comes close to his in terms of all-out heavy metal furor and invention is The Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks, hardcore punk's Bad Brains, and what Eddie Hazel roared out of the gate with on Funkadelic's "Super Stupid" in 1971.
While Cosey and Promethean firebreather Sonny Fortune dominate Agharta and Pangaea as soloists, those LPs are also magnificent ensemble works. Because by 1975 Miles, through his decades-old practice of paying cats to practice on the bandstand, had created the world's first fully improvisational acid-funk band -- by which I mean one capable of extemporaneously orchestrating motifs from Santana, Funkadelic, Sly, Stockhausen, Africa, India and the Ohio Players (check out how their 1974 hit "Fire" gets revamped on Agharta's first side). The band's cohesion amidst sonic chaos knows no parallel in fusion, funk, rock or either the black or white avant-garde. And while others may have achieved similar ends since, these furthermuckers (sic) were making it up night after night on the road....

- Greg Tate, (from the book Flyboy in the Buttermilk)
6/10/12 2:00 AM
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hugomma
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Edited: 06/10/12 2:03 AM
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Thanks for posting that Ali.  So much truth in Tate's writing, particularly this: And because Cosey and MIles can continually solo, and enhance rather than rupture the communal fabric of the calypso, they celebrate jazz as a way of life and as an aesthetic model for the human community...

This: Besides Hendrix, the only music which comes close to his in terms of all-out heavy metal furor and invention is The Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks, hardcore punk's Bad Brains, and what Eddie Hazel roared out of the gate with on Funkadelic's "Super Stupid" in 1971.

And this: And while others may have achieved similar ends since, these furthermuckers (sic) were making it up night after night on the road....

Beautiful.

BTW, look what I found.  Check out what starts around 1:11...
6/10/12 2:27 AM
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hugomma
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More Cosey with Burnt Sugar.
6/10/12 2:31 AM
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Ali
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That thing you point out that starts around 1:11 -- first time I really get Tate's Fripp references, actually. Yeah, this is killing.

There were several Burnt Sugar records, with varying amounts of Cosey; the only thing that seems to be available anywhere is what you just posted. I might have that album around somewhere. (Or not). I looked for all of them starting from back when there was still a brick-and-mortar Tower Records.

Rites of Spring sounds better than I remembered, though, that's for sure.

(The other most recent thing I know of from him was a tribute record -- he's on a few tunes on the compilation "Miles from India", which is ex-Miles guys and a bunch of Indian musicians doing Miles tunes. I think that's a bit more than half-good.

Again Cosey starting about 5:52 or so... more spaced out, if anything.

(BTW, some of those Burnt Sugar records feature another dude named Rene Akan (sp?) who is another stunner, freakishly powerful guitarist; and there's just about nothing else at all with him on record. Clearly file under "children of Cosey").

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