Forget the Adderall. Check out Miles, Satchmo, Trane, Monk, Pres and Duke.
by Bill Mehlman
Considering how I've bemoaned my inability to stay focused on a piece of music, particularly lyric-less music, it seems reasonable to offer, gnomically, some exceptions that prove the rule.
Sunday, September 28, was the anniversary of the death of Miles Dewey Davis III. Miles, of course, is not a discovery of mine, some half-forgotten musical giant like Lucky Thompson. He is, along with Satchmo, Trane, Monk, Pres and Duke, one of the monomial giants. (Note to self: find out how much a plot at Woodlawn Cemetery would cost. Nice place to wind up, since Miles and Duke, inter alia, are residents.)
But the music, Bill— have you forgotten the music already?
Nope. As a matter of fact, I recently paid $2.99 to Verizon for the privilege of downloading the first few bars of "Freddie the Freeloader" because I couldn't stand any more of the generic ringtones, and couldn't find any Monk that I liked.
So, then here is what you should hear. Clear your bean and relax. Give your corpus callossum a vacation. Indulge, if you will; god knows that Miles, cynic, addict, s.o.b and genius, indulged, widely and incessantly.
Actually, you can do it with one album, possibly the best jazz album ever recorded, Kind of Blue (1958). If you're like me, you will have little difficulty "understanding" the music. You won't drift away. The possibility of hope extends its hand. On piano, Bill Evans. "So What" and "All Blues." Pure uncut brain candy. This is the stuff that, once you've heard it a few times, will allow you to identify Miles' music across a crowded room.
My second favorite is the post-epiphanic Bitches Brew (1976), which followed Miles' introduction to Jimi and Sly (anyone who thinks "Sly" refers to Stallone should leave the room posthaste and get a funk infusion). This album has cuts that not only keep you tuned in and turned on while you're listening, but implant themselves in your head forever. I can't play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" (especially since I keep thinking about the perverse subtext) on any instrument, and can barely whistle. But I can play, intracranially, passages of "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" at will. Or in Will. If you will.
Forget the Adderall for a while. Check it out.