Miles Davis – Bitches Brew

Calxie #1: Album most likely to ruin a dinner party: Nominee 2 of 4

If I was the type to “pull chicks”, ‘Bitches Brew’ would be my chick pullin’ record. Instead I use it to give my friends the illusion that I’m half interesting. You think your friends see you as a little uncultured? Ask them to come over, letting them know that the door is open first, and position yourself reclined on the sofa, eyes closed, whiskey in hand with the dimmer switch at 50% and this playing loud. Tried and tested method; you will be referred to as the cultured one in the group from then on once they find you. Either that or the pretentious one, I forget what I was called last time I did that. I think the phrase “Brian f*cking Sewell” appeared a couple of times. I jest, I jest, but the point is, this is a powerfully fascinating and atmospheric record. Davis gave the musicians a tempo, some chord progressions and the occasional snippet of melody, not to mention very little rehearsal time. They recorded it live in the studio with Miles giving them instructions (he can audibly be heard doing so on some tracks). The whole thing sounds like anything could happen at any time. Melodic ideas are freely exchanged, toyed with and discarded like playing cards; as one solo ends another begins, be it guitar, trumpet, sax, keyboards or whatever appears, sometimes lasting for several minutes sometimes fading in and out in a matter of seconds. Most tracks run for a quarter of an hour or more; the title track clocks in at a staggering twenty seven minutes! Even so, it’s a fantastic cauldron of seething weirdness that could only be born out of Davis’ fixation with becoming the jazz Jimi Hendrix – in style and not just ability. In terms of influence, it threw open the double doors of jazz and rock to whatever they wanted to do. So what’s it doing here in the nominees for albums to ruin a dinner party when I’ve already said it makes you sound as clever as the music itself? Well it depends what you mean by dinner party. Nearly all the dinner parties I go to are hosted by my parents and their friends, all of which are bone-shakingly middle class. The number of ornamental egg cups in the house vastly outnumbers the amount of times we eat eggs in a year. So, at these kinds of dinner parties, it’s a no no. I once played it at one of my parents’ civilised “do’s” and got a lot of strange glances as if to say “This noise was your idea was it?”. The fantastically tight on-edge-ness of ‘Bitches Brew’ makes it mesmerising, but equally un-cosy listening, which is both good and bad depending on when you play it.
Key track: Bitches Brew


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