Friday, January 19, 2007

From the Spaceship

I switched over to the new Blogger and am trying to post again. As I said in my comment below, I’ve been combing through old stuff in my mother’s house, including some of my old records from high school. Surrealistic Pillow, Cheap Thrills, Blonde on Blonde. One that brought back memories was Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. I actually saw Miles play several of the pieces from Bitches Brew at the Monterey Jazz Festival (in 1969?), and, unbelievably, I saw him with my mother.

All this music and recording also reminded me of the wonderful Ralph J. Gleason, jazz (and later rock) critic for the San Francisco Chronicle for many years. I found Gleason’s liner notes for the original Bitches Brew. Here’s an excerpt:

it will never be the same again now, after in a silent way and after BITCHES BREW. listen to this. how can it ever be the same? i don’t mean you can’t listen to ben. how silly. we can always listen to ben play funny valentine, until the end of the world it will be beautiful and how can anything be more beautiful than hodges playing passion flower? he never made a mistake in 40 years. it’s not more beautiful, just different. a new beauty. a different beauty. the other beauty is still beauty. this is new and right now it has the edge of newness and that snapping fire you sense when you go out there from the spaceship where nobody has ever gone before.

Today this attitude feels to me like a breath of fresh air: celebrating the electricity of new art without denying the beauty of the old. Isn’t this the only honest attitude to have? I would love to hear someone praise cutting-edge experimental poetry and at the same time say, “How can anything be more beautiful than Keats’ ‘To Autumn’?” I would love to hear someone praise James Wright and at the same time praise the snapping fire of contemporary experiments with language. Isn’t anything else just posturing and hypocrisy?

5 comments:

Andrew Shields said...

Can you say some more about that Miles show? I saw him twice: once at the Circle Star in San Carlos, of all places, with John Scofield on guitar, and once at the Berkeley Jazz Festival, with Robben Ford. Darryl Jones was on bass at both shows. At the Greek Theater, Carlos Santana walked past me in the crowd. Still the skinniest person I have ever seen.

Robert said...

I'm afraid my memory of the show isn't good, Andrew. I'm having a hard time even figuring out the year, whether I was 12 or 20 (I think 18). We need a historian of the Monterey Jazz Festival. Miles played the same night as Woody Herman and his big band. Now that's an interesting combination! I know he played the music from Bitches Brew, with pretty much the same musicians as on the album.

Diane K. Martin said...

Yay! You're back posting! All it took was my blogging about my dental torture, huh? Wasn't it fascinating?

I was at Newport Jazz Festival in '69(?), but can't remember who played. I do know I drove my father's station wagon.

I like Gleason's comment and I like what you say about Gleason's comment.

Beverly said...

Takes me back to my college dorm where I listened to Miles Davis. Everyone thought that was kind of weird when I could have been listening to the Beatles. Now--I rarely listen to jazz. Can't say why, but it doesn't move me so much any more. Or maybe I just don't listen to the right stuff. Likely. I don't listen to music at home much at all, which drives Linda crazy. She is constantly plugged into her iPod. I like silence unless I'm cooking in the kitchen.

Andrew Shields said...

Woody Herman and the Bitches Brew band is a cool bill; I also like Miles Davis opening for the Grateful Dead sometime in 1970. It would have been the Live Evil band, I suspect, which means that it was just about the most utterly out there stuff Miles ever did. And Phil Lesh tried to hide backstage because he was embarrassed to follow Miles, saying, "We should be opening for them."

Or as a friend of mine put it, "imagine all those tripping Deadheads getting their minds messed up by Miles!"

Caveat: I love the Dead, and Miles. I even named my son Miles, and if we had had another, his name would have been Jerry.