Most of the time the way I feel about a piece of art won’t change over time. There are certain things that everybody who knows my tastes insists I should like, and I’ll try and try only to come away all the more certain I just don’t like it. Or there are things that I’ve loved for decades that I should think are campy now, but still adore. Every once in a while, though, something surprises me and makes a drastic shift on the like scale. I’ve had this album for ages. Probably since it came out. And I knew I liked it, but when I thought of listening to it, I mostly thought “hit and miss,” “challenging,” and “not now.” Now, though…Good God, this album is perfect.
I’m serious. If you’re looking for a place to start with the best of modern jazz, a term so broad it’s pretty much meaningless beyond a strict combination of the meaning of its component words, this is it. Hell, I think you could start and end here and not miss too much.
The three covers range broadly. There’s “Street Woman” (Ornette Coleman, and his version is even nuttier than these guys’), “Velouria” (Pixies, and their version isn’t nearly as awesome as this), and “Iron Man” (Black Sabbath).
As if that wasn’t enough, the originals are all phenomenal. You could write one of those 33 1/3 books about this album, going into a ridiculous amount of detail about each song. I’m tempted to do that here, but instead I’ll highlight the stylistic diversity. “Layin’ A Strip For The Higher-Self State Line” veers into rockabilly and stride, “Frog And Toad” seems to draw from the first few decades of 20th Century classical music, “Neptune (The Planet)” is all sublimated ecstasy, and “And Here We Test Our Powers Of Observation” and “Dirty Blonde” are energetic, no-holds-barred, rocking good times.
Eleven tracks of pure genius, there isn’t a weak moment here. There’s nothing to get rid of, and it’s not missing a thing.
Mix: “And Here We Test Our Powers Of Observation,” “Dirty Blonde”
Keep: “1979 Semi-Finalist,” “Cheney Piñata,” “Street Woman,” “Frog And Toad,” “Layin’ A Strip For The Higher-Self State Line,” “Do Your Sums-Die Like A Dog-Play For Home,” “Neptune (The Planet),” “Iron Man”
Filed Between: Bacharach! The Instrumental Side and The Bad Plus’s For All I Care
Track Notes: Below the fold.
- 1979 Semi-Finalist – This ain’t sound anything like the 1972 Bronze Medalist or whatever. Where did I get the idea I knew that tune?
- Cheney Piñata – It takes a while to get to very good, so we’ll put it as keep. Love the rhythmic interplay of piano and drums during the track’s fourth minute.
- Street Woman – Ornette Coleman. Sweet. The end is particularly awesome. This is actually less crazy, more straightforward than Coleman’s version.
- And Here We Test Our Powers Of Observation – Love the start of this. Very rich. Love love love.
- Frog And Toad – Piano is frog, bass is toad, or so it seems. Album seems to go back and forth between wild/rich/accessible and faint/inaccessible. This is the latter. This and track ten might be the two most inaccessible on here. It’s got a classical vibe. Kinda like Debussy mixed with Bartók. Modal, but a nice tune. This is one of their “not for walkin’ around” tunes.
- Velouria – The Pixies. This is not the start I would usually put on a mix, but when it really kicks in at about 2:30 it is soooooooooooo good.
- Layin’ A Strip For The Higher-Self State Line –
- Do Your Sums-Die Like A Dog-Play For Home –
- Dirty Blonde – LOVE. Might get a titch too weird to mix around 2:00 mark. But god it’s so good.
- Neptune (The Planet) – Starts off with very faint whistling for about 13 seconds. Slow, morose, but quite nice.
- Iron Man – Black Sabbath