Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
As with Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Bitches Brew was a work of art that I just couldn’t GET, no matter how many times I tried. With Faulkner, I GOT As I Lay Dying right out of the gate, just like I got The Birth of the Cool right out of the gate. But The Sound and the Fury was something I had to try, and try, and try with.
Same for Bitches Brew. I listened, I didn’t get it. I didn’t dig it. I couldn’t get through it.
What changed? With Faulkner, it was a conversation with my Dad. He gave me simple advice—just be patient. Don’t worry if you don’t know what’s going on through the first third of the book. Just absorb the words, the language, the feeling. Don’t worry too much about the story.
And he was right. I stopped trying to wrestle the first third into submission, and just experienced it. And suddenly, the book fell into place. It’s extraordinary. One of the greatest books I’ve ever read.
I could have used that advice for Bitches Brew. Ultimately, it was reading ABOUT the album that got me across the impasse. Something about reading HOW the album was recorded, WHY it was recorded the way it was, and WHAT was going on in Miles’ world at the TIME it came together made it all make sense.
And then, when I went back for another listen, it all clicked. it GOT it. It’s extraordinary. One of the greatest albums I’ve ever listened to.
The trick of it is, is that it’s that thing—that whole “being deadly serious about that which is incredibly fun” thing. You have to get that Zen thing if you’re to understand this album. You have to understand both its seriousness and its fun, and you have to transcend them both. That’s the brew.