Last week, the fab 33 1/3 series posted the covers for their two new books out in September, but things are far better than you thought, because they will also be publishing two BRAND NEW books in October: Wally Holland‘s book on Phish’s A Live One and George Grella‘s book on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. Covers below! Get excited.
Twenty years after its release, Phish’s double-CD collection A Live One has something rare and precious going for it: it still doesn’t sound like anybody else. Oversized, perverse, requiring an unusual amount of listener background knowledge? Yes to all. Yet the collective improvisations it captures, unprecedentedly coherent yet freewheeling and open-ended, are unique in rock ‘n’ roll.
This book considers the music and moment of Phish’s ecstatically inventive 1995 live document, a mix of weirdo acid-psych, ambient moonscapes, vaudevillian Americana, and riotous arena-rock energy, all filtered through bandleader Trey Anastasio’s screwball compositional sensibility and the band’s idiosyncratic approach to spontaneous group creativity. It places Phish and their fandom in historical and cultural context, and picks apart the mechanics of their extended group jams. And it examines the mystery of how a quartet of nice boys from Burlington, VT could have been, all at once, one of America’s biggest touring acts and one of its best-kept secrets.
It was 1969, and Miles Davis, prince of cool, was on the edge of being left behind by a dynamic generation of young musicians, an important handful of whom had been in his band. Rock music was flying off in every direction, just as America itself seemed about to split at its seams. Following the circumscribed grooves and ambiance of In A Silent Way; coming off a tour with a burning new quintet-called ‘The Lost Band’-with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette; he went into the studio with musicians like frighteningly talented guitarist John McLaughlin, and soulful Austrian keyboardist Joe Zawinul. Working with his essential producer, Teo Macero, Miles set a cauldron of ideas loose while the tapes rolled. At the end, there was the newly minted Prince of Darkness, a completely new way forward for jazz and rock, and the endless brilliance and depth of Bitches Brew.
Bitches Brew is still one of the most astonishing albums ever made in either jazz or rock. Seeming to fuse the two, it actually does something entirely more revolutionary and open-ended: blending the most avant-garde aspects of Western music with deep grooves, the album rejects both jazz and rock for an entirely different idea of how music can be made.