Recent listening, current

Saturday, November 23, 2013

153. Miles Davis / Big Fun (1974)

Listening to Miles go electric 40 years ago, critics were in a different position. They took issue with his stylistic developments, because 1974 was much different than 1954. They were too close to see that the intervening years would witness Davis' massive influence on successive generations. Today we see what happened, so we evaluate their merits on another scale. It bears mentioning that these aren't records I can listen to every day. I don't have that kind of time to invest on a daily basis. Like Bitches Brew, the music on Big Fun explores modality through orchestration and arrangement. The tracks are brimming with textures, melodic ideas, and moods. Themes are played and repeated, then recalled, then played again. The effect is haunting, like beasts looming in a fog, vanishing and reappearing. After 22 mnutes, the effect is glacial. Like it says in the liner to Coltrane's Ascension, you shouldn't turn it on without expecting to hear at least a whole side. You can't be interrupted for a few minutes without the magic being broken, and the arc is lost with just a few minutes of play time. Collaborations with Zawinul like "Recollections" or "Great Expectations" fulfill the promise, and typify what's found elsewhere throughout the record. As if you really need a curveball, Davis added sitar and tabla.

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