Bish Bosch is, according to Scott Walker, the final recording in the trilogy that began with 1995’s Tilt and continued in 2006’s The Drift. Its title combines urban slang for the word "bitch" and the last name of Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Like its predecessors, Bish Bosch is not an easy listen initially. It's utterly strange, yet alluring. Musically, Walker is as rangy and cagey as ever. His players have worked with him since Tilt; they know exactly what he wants and how to get it. A string orchestra arranged and conducted by keyboardist Mark Warman, and a full symphony on three cuts are also employed. The lyrics on Bish Bosch are full of obscure historical, philosophical, medical, geographical and cultural allusions. For instance, subatomic science, a dwarf jester in Attila the Hun’s court, St. Simeon, and an early 20th century fad all appear in "SDSS14+3B (Zircon, A Flagpole Sitter)." Elsewhere, Nicolai Ceausescu, Nikita Khrushchev, the Ku Klux Klan, and God himself show up. While Bish Bosch is another exercise in artful pretension, it is the most accessible entry in this trilogy and well worth the effort to get at it. Themes of decay are woven throughout these songs – of empire, of the body, of language and religion – yet they are often complemented and illustrated by wry, pun-like, and even scatological humor.
This is one of pianist John Lewis' most rewarding albums outside of his work with the Modern Jazz Quartet. Three numbers (including a remake of "Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West") showcase his piano in a quartet with guitarist Jim Hall, bassist George Duvivier, and drummer Connie Kay. A 15-and-a-half-minute rendition of "Body and Soul" has one of tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves' finest solos, while "Afternoon in Paris" features a diverse cast with trumpeter Herb Pomeroy, Gunther Schuller on French horn, tenor man Benny Golson, baritonist Jimmy Giuffre, and guitarist Jim Hall; altoist Eric Dolphy cuts everyone.