Of Miles

Bitches_brewBitches Brew | Miles Davis | 1970 | Columbia | #323

1 hour and 45 minutes of completely indulgent, all-instrumental jazz-fusion. It’s always been a genre I’ve been more curious of that appreciative; always uncomfortably in a kind of tension between wanting to appreciate the musicianship and wondering what the hell is going on. Here are seven tracks, only one of which comes in under 10 minutes, which are essentially free-form jam sessions seemingly revolving around a core progression, melody, groove, whatever. The key to appreciating this album is understanding how proficient each of the twelve musicians that are playing at any one time have to be in order for each track not to sound like a piano falling out of a tree. Having hosted jam sessions of a dozen-plus musicians I find it amusing to reflect on how difficult that is to avoid, and really that’s my only source of fascination here.

Of course the focus is Miles Davis himself and his trumpet solos, always sitting on top of a busy rhythm section of a drummer who sounds like he must have four arms, a bassist who’s so good you don’t even know he’s there until the odd scale flurry, and a guitarist constantly arpeggiating chords which I’m sure I’ve never heard before. In true jazz-fusion fashion the meandering melodies make you feel like you’re tripping on acid whilst floating down a lazy river on an alien landscape. The trouble is you’re never allowed to settle on noticing how brilliant it all is for too long before you’re completely bewildered, wishing someone would wake you up.

There’s certainly a lot here to listen to and brood over if you so wish, but you can’t help feel that Miles and co. are giving you the middle finger and laughing at you whilst you’re doing it.

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