Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

2009-04-17 09:21
Kind of Blue

Charlie 'Bird' Parker's bebop has become little more than mathematical masturbation. Damn jazz is in danger of becoming classical music. But as Pops Armstrong told him way back when, shit's always got to break, before it starts swinging again.

And break it does when Miles assembles an all-star cast of hip young sidemen including John Coltrane (tenor sax), Julian "Cannonball" Adderley (alto), Bill Evans (piano), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums) to set about de-and reconstructing jazz's vocabulary into a fresh improvisational space.

Space, for Miles, is the creative place on these fabled sessions which invited the musicians to step out of their comfort zones by shelving hard bop's complex choreographed chord changes for shape-shifting improvisation around understated scales. 'Less is more' is the mantra here with Miles threading his muted trumpet tones through Evans' urbane impressionist moodscapes to collapse the "cool", "classical", "commercial", "avant-garde", and "in" and "out" into something else.

"I'll play it first and tell you what it is later" was Miles' motto. And this is what you get with his 'Justice League of Jazz' workshopping their way through bracingly lyrical tone poem re-imaginings of Morton Gould and Ahmad Jamal ("So What"), conversationally breezy call-and-response jams ("Freddie the Freeloader"), delicate chromatic blues extrapolations ("All Blues") and sublimely beautiful Satie-goes Spanish lounge ballads ("Flamenco Sketches", "Blue in Green").

Workshopping? Oh yes. As Grammy-winning pianist and collaborator Herbie Hancock observes on the 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition documentary DVD, "[Miles] wanted to capture the spirit of discovery in the music." This meant largely one-take recordings which challenged each player to engage in spontaneous compositional conversation through on-the-spot melodic improvisation. It's this sense of creative freedom that makes Kind of Blue, as Hancock suggests "a cornerstone record, not only for jazz, [but] a cornerstone record for music" that would influence everyone from rockers Pink Floyd and The Allman Brothers to conscious hip-hop cats like Mos Def and more.

And if you're still unsure exactly why critics regard Kind of Blue as not only the "The Greatest Jazz Album of All Time", but the "Greatest Album of All Time" then perhaps its worth considering why it remains the best-selling jazz albums of all time. "Everbody knows Kind of Blue" states bassist Ron Carter simply. Hip-hop producer Q-Tip agrees: "It's sort of like the Bible in a way, you just have one in your house". There's also another reason. As Hancock mischievously notes, these songs are so darn sexy they make for fantastic make out music. Just slip the thrilling 17-minute live version of "So What" onto your bedroom stereo and you'll be 'swinging' in no time.

Watch "Kind of Blue: Celebrating a Masterpiece" promo doccie

1959: 34 year-old trumpeter Miles Davis knows he's wasting time. His cool jazz signature has been subsumed by a bunch of white cats with crew cuts and exported to the West Coast.

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Cory 2009/04/16 9:56 AM
Good to see the acclaim, even after 50 years. It really is a milestone in music, poss because it marked a move away from chordal to modal style? (Go google that!)
cj 2009/04/16 10:53 AM
greatest jazz album ever definitely greatest album ever hmmmm Me thinks beatles (revolver) & pink floyd (dark side of the moon)are almost inseparable at the top
Colin 2009/04/16 2:59 PM
If I could only possess one album, it would be "Kind of Blue". Apart from anything else, it's superb value: Davis, Evans, Coltrane, plus Adderley and the others!
Nto 2009/04/17 8:04 AM
"Kind of Blue" is definitely my kind of jazz. I love it, and every time I listen to it feels like the first time I've ever heard it. These guys were geniuses - no comparison.
Luca 2009/04/17 10:23 AM
This is definitely one of the great jazz classics! 'Freddie Freeloader' and 'Kind of Blue' are my favs.
Jean Barker 2009/04/17 11:10 AM
I literally couldn't live without this CD. Or that's how it felt the other night anyhow.
Ryan 2009/04/17 6:40 PM
Dark side of the moon would not have been what it is without this inspired millions
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