Bitches Brew

“And now I choose to recite a list: tether ball, Olympic race, sparkling, Tim Duncan, Wisconsin, a book of matches, next week, a lot of money, witches brew.” – Homestar Runner (the first one to eat a million wins!)

So I recently had this experience.  I was up in the Land for a weekend hollyday with the Princess.  We were staying in the University Circle area, which is within walking distance to Little Italy.  Right next to our boutique hotel (I say it sarcastically, but it really was a nice place to stay) was a little restaurant.  It had an Italian name.  The menu looked to be Italian.  We both like Italian food.  So we went in to give it a try…and suddenly nothing was as it seemed.  The waiter offered us a “tasting experience” that would have taken three hours (and, incidentally would have made us late for the show we were there to see).  A young, pony-tailed general manager came over and started talking to us about the “romance” that inspired each dish on the menu.  It was poetry, he said.  Art.  Expression through cuisine.  The salads had been “foraged” that morning.  The vegetable was pickled cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.  There was llama meat in the lasagna (no joke).  It was all rather bizarre.  We ate.  It tasted good.  Not great.  We declined dessert, but savored an extra glass of vino.  We left wondering exactly what had just happened (and why it had cost so much).  It certainly hadn’t fit the picture of what we had expected based on our previous experience with high end Italian restaurants (should I add a Billy Joel reference here?  bottle of red, bottle of white, etc.?).

So I tell you all this because, essential that is the same experience I had with this album.  I had not heard this record before I purchased it on Ebay for $7.17, but I’ve heard some Miles Davis before…Kind of Blue was after all #12 on this list.  And I played saxophone in my high school jazz band for two years.  And I even studied jazz a little bit in college.  So I thought I knew what I was getting into when I popped the first of the two CDs in my stereo. But, just like with the Italian restaurant above, it was completely different than I expected.  This isn’t jazz…at least not the structured jazz I know in which instrumentalists take turns soloing over a rhythm sections that plays a repeated chord progression.  No, this is free form.  Primal.  It seems like all the instrumentalists are improvising all at the same time.  There is no form.  No structure.  It’s the Kid A of jazz, released thirty years before Kid A was even conceptualized.  And does it work?  I don’t know.  I have a hard time following it.  Without a clear solo melody, my mind tends to wander, only to be brought back a few minutes later by the surge of the drums or an unexpected lick on the electric keyboard.  Is it romantic?  Is it art?  Poetry? Expression?  Sure.  It passes the time alright, but I’m not sure I feel an emotional connection to any of it.  To me it sounds more like a musical experiment than anything else.  I think I like the second disc better than the first, but overall I think I’d rather be listening to Kind of Blue.

Other lists: None, really.  Rolling Stone just isn’t a jazz magazine.

Ch-ch-changes: This was originally #94 on the 2003 list, but was bumped down one spot by the rise of Hank Williams 40 Greatest Hits.  The original #95, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Green River, was bumped completely off the list in favor of the Chronicle Vol. 1 greatest hits package which came in at #59 on the 2012 list.

My favorite track: “Sanctuary” (its the mellowest track, at least at the beginning)

Honorable mention: “Spanish Key”

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