Shinjak’s Listening Lounge

Directions – Miles Davis

July 11th, 2008

Which came first?  Infrared Roses or Bitches Brew?  Regardless, in the fall of 1993 the ink on my high school diploma was still drying as I drove off to attend college.  Not only had I graduated from high school, but I had also graduated from the music that represented so well the turmoils of being a teenager.  I started listening to more progressive rock (as opposed to classic 60′s & 70′s rock) consisting of Rush, Jethro Tull, EL&P, David Bowie, etc.  I had a mixtape of these bands that I played until the cassette literally fell apart.  As my musical tastes were becoming more mature and eclectic, little did I know that certain listening choices were about to guide my musical tastes for the next decade.

Somewhere in this time frame, I was going to the local library a lot and listening to tons of jazz.  Stanley Clarke’s self titled debut album got checked out numerous times, as did Theolonius Monk, Coletrane, and Miles Davis. Imagine the stares I got as I rode through town in a bright green car with “Vulcan Princess” blaring at full volume.  Good times.

My brother was always (and still is) a musical adventurer.  He would see an album, say “hey that looks good”, and snatch it up.  On one fateful day in late 1993, one of those musical adventures would lead him to buy “Infrared Roses” by the Grateful Dead.  That same day, my own musical journey changed forever.

But that is not what this post is about.  It’s about directions.  Infrared Roses changed my perception of music (without chemical enhancement).  I was convinced this was the theme track for the apocalypse.  Music was no longer about structure.  It was about raw energy and emotion, creation bottled in the moment.  I was consumed by it, and I had to have more.

One day while browsing through the used jazz cd’s at the locally owned record store (remember those?), I came across a cd with an interesting title.  “Bitches Brew”.  Hmm, it was by Miles Davis, and the record store dude recommended it.  It had to be at least listenable.  I took it home and began listening to it.  I’m not sure that I instantly fell in love with it. Music like this can be intimidating.  But over the coming months and years, I would once again become consumed by music so powerful that it changed my perceptions forever.  I realized now that music could become the ultimate expression of human existence.  That, my friend, is some powerful mojo.

I’m not going to try and chronicle the long and often troubled career of Miles Davis.  But I do know that he and the Grateful Dead often played to the same audiences throughout the 70′s.  Here are some songs from Mr. Davis and his Sextet, sharing the marquee with the Grateful Dead, played at the Fillmore West in April of 1970:

April 9, 1970 Fillmore West – San Francisco, CA

Miles Davis – Miles Runs The Voodoo Down

Miles Davis – Bitches Brew

Check out Black Beauty recorded around the same time.

Bitches Brew isn’t quite as approchable for me as it once was.  Maybe the hectic pace of modern life makes it diffciult to absorb music this profound.  But it left me with a new outlook on music and led me in new directions.

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