I’m sitting at the supper table, eating a meal of my own devising, as the family are away for a week. It means I can experiment without getting rude comments about stinky cheese or strange smells. So tonight on the menu is tomato and beetroot soup with gorgonzola on körnerbrot, sausages, mashed potato with extra gorgonzola, auburgine, mushroom and garlic stir fry and a small gin with lemon and elderflower to wash it all down.
A riotous cacophony of flavours, individual, contrasting, strong and clashing, though sometimes complementing in unpredicted and delightful ways.
And to soundtrack this, I am lucky enough to be listening to ‘On the Corner’ for the first time ever.
As I prepared the meal, I was listening to the final moments of the smoothly-stewarded and enthusiastically-informing Afterword two-parter on Miles Davis – well done to all who took part – a most enjoyable journey through his life and musical career. I suppose I downloaded it because of the great affirmation that ‘Kind Of Blue’ got in the 60 years thread. I listened to some of that record earlier in the week, but I’m afraid I got a bit bored (sacrilege, I know).
Anyway, the guys on the podcast summed up Miles in part by saying that his great legacy would be because he tried and succeeded at so many different styles of music. So, maybe if ‘Blue’ wasn’t for me, what about something else?
Now when I was a teenage music fan, sitting metaphorically at the feet of NME journalists, Bitches Brew was proclaimed to be the album that was the height of his experimental greatness. So I went out of my way to get hold of a double cassette of that album, determined to play it until I liked it. But it never took. As I recall, it just seemed like Miles said: “OK, play all your instruments together, constantly, at great volume”. There was no variance, it was oppressive.
But as soon as I stated listening to the opening track of ‘On The Corner’, it was like – where have you been all my life? As if Ornette Coleman, Barry Adamson, the Third Ear Band had teamed up with a couple of classical Indian musicians and decided to jam – with fluidity, space and above all, rhythm. I didn’t know what was going to come next, but I had confidence it would surprise and delight and, most importantly, groove. I love music like this – it’s like entering a strange house full of mismatched furniture and strange paintings – it shouldn’t work, and at first it is a bit overwhelming, but slowly, themes and connections make themselves known and the odd richness of the mix rewards with new perspectives and fresh vocabulary for what it’s being perceived. The space makes sense, and it is beautiful.
And now, whenever I hear this music, I will associate it with the diverse flavours in the meal accompanying it, as well as the tomato and beetroot soup spattering up the kitchen wall from the pot job the stove as I was too caught up in the music to notice…