Sunday, November 7, 2010

Moments (Miles Davis)

Miles Davis Greatest Hits I no longer have a membership at the CSL Library, and I no longer own a 2003 Montana (or any Montana, or any vehicle). But last winter I had both those things, and I used my library card to borrow The Essential Miles Davis, a 2 CD set featuring highlights of the career of jazz legend Miles Davis.

Now as I’ve said before, I don’t really understand the language of jazz. I know that Davis is a legend because people say that he’s a legend; I understand the he changed the language of jazz and defined or perfected or redefined one genre after another, and I know this because I’ve read it in books and in liner notes, and because it’s the stuff of common wisdom. But I don’t know it from listening to his music, or any music, because, as I say, I don’t understand the language of jazz.

But I do know that I like listening to a lot of jazz, and I know that I am partial to bop, and more modern forms of jazz, and I was cruising in the aforesaid Montana one afternoon last winter, probably on the way to get the kids from school, and I had the aforesaid Miles Davis CD playing, and I was enjoying the sound from all 4 speakers, a kind of fake surround sound, and I was not thinking too much about it nor paying too much attention, and CD 2 was playing, and the track that came on was called Miles Runs The Voodoo Down, and I knew that it was from Bitches Brew, and as it played it insinuated itself into my consciousness, the rhythm mostly, because it doesn’t have much of what you’d call a tune, but it wasn’t just the rhythm by itself, also the way the drums play off against the guitar and bass and Miles’ trumpet sneaking in and around those rhythmic nuances, similar to how the song snuck up on me unaware, until it had me in its power, totally and completely. And it was unsettling in a way that any unexpected but moving experience is unsettling.

And here’s the thing. I will never hear it that way again. There’s no way to reproduce the surprise, nor the juxtaposition of life circumstances that combined to produce just that emotional effect on me at just that time. That was a moment. And sure you can reproduce the music, but you can’t reproduce the moment.

And my life is full of those. There are songs that I heard at a specific place or time, songs that hit me in just the right emotional place given whatever was happening right then, or whatever I was going through, or whatever I happened to be thinking about or experiencing. And the list is impressive: Because by The Dave Clark Five, Walls by Gordon Lightfoot, I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton, Ready Or Not by Jackson Browne, Bright Side Of The Road by Van Morrison, One More Heartache by The Butterfield Blues Band, Dance With Me by The Drifters, and of course Moments by The Kinks.

And Miles Runs The Voodoo Down by Miles Davis.

And so often the effect is the opposite of what you'd expect, an exuberant song that hits you at the lowest point in your life, or the opposite, a song of heartbreak when everything is wondeful. Can't explain it.

Now the only thing I can say about Miles Davis is a paraphrase from Wayne of Wayne’s World: “I am not worthy.” The collection comes from Miles Davis’ Greatest Hits, which I picked up on vinyl at Pyramid Records and which is a strange concept, The Columbia Years 1955 – 1985, and Bitches Brew from Bitches Brew, the latter two from the West Kildonan Library, the former on CD, the latter on cassette.

Miles Davis:

Seven Steps To Heaven
All Blues Miles Davis The Columbia Years
Someday My Prince Will Come
My Funny Valentine
‘Round Midnight
So What
Bitches Brew
Blues For Pablo
Bye Bye Blackbird
Florence Sur Les Champs Elysées
Filles Des Kiliminjaro
Summer Night
Miles Runs The Voodoo Down Bitches Brew
Thinkin’ One Thing And Doin’ Another
Honky Tonk
What Is It
Water Babies

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