Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kind of Blue

50 years ago, one of the greatest jazz albums ever was being conceived in the mind of Miles Davis. 50 years ago next Spring, he and an amazing cast of musicians went into the studio and did their musical thing. In less than 10 hours, they got the job done.

And we are all better off because of it. (of course, 50 years ago next Spring, I was born too, but that's another post for another day...;) )

The album is called "Kind of Blue" and represents a new type of jazz. In jazz-speak, it's referred to as "cool jazz." Cool jazz was a reaction against the frenzied bebop that was so popular at the time. Whereas bebop relied on a bunch of notes played in rapid succession, cool jazz relies on the silence between the notes. Note: I love both types. Charlie Parker's frenetic sax playing, for example, is among my faves; but it's very tiring to listen to because it demands so much of the player and by extension of the listener. Cool jazz, on the other hand is very relaxing.
Charlie Parker is...the middle of a very loud & crowded dance floor with music thundering. Great fun, and quite wearing. Kind of Blue-vintage Miles is Friday afternoon sitting on the back deck enjoying a glass of tea & watching the dog sleep next to you. (I always play KoB when we go to the beach...Saturday morning when the beach is quiet, the breeze is gentle, and the sun hasn't made it unbearable outside yet.)
Not sure if jazz is your thing? Pretty sure jazz is not your thing? Pick up a copy of Kind of Blue. I know young folks who are head-banging rockers by nature who also love KoB. One such person lives in Oxford & is related to me.
Miles Davis on trumpet...Julian "Cannonball" Adderley on alto sax...John Coltrane on tenor (have mercy!)...Bill Evans on piano (aside: check out his album Waltz for Debby for more very good cool jazz)...Wynton Kelly, also on piano...Paul Chambers on bass...Jimmy Cobb on drums (the only one of the bunch who is still alive). They were in the studio for less than 10 hours total. Brittney Spears spends more time than that to record her...stuff! When one is a master of one's craft, and chooses to join with other masters, it just doesn't take very long to get it right.
The result is incredible! Rolling Stone magazine...Rolling Stone!...rates Kind of Blue as the 12th best album of all time in any genre. Again, my son who tends toward hard rock likes it. My daughter who tends toward Counting Crows or rap likes it.
You know how some music is great for its period, and then years later...not so much? That's not at all the case with Miles Davis's Kind of Blue. It has aged very, very well. Perhaps even better now than then, which is, of course, one sign of very good music. Yeah, there's been some very good jazz recorded since 1959. (My current favorite? Astral Project from New Orleans...great stuff, and a NOLA Jazz Fest favorite of ours and many others.) But for my money, this particular CD is as awesome a collection on one CD as there is. Go check it out!
"It's always been a gift with me, hearing the music the way I do.
I don't know where it comes from,
it's just there and I don't question it."
Miles Davis
Among my favorite songs of any genre are a couple of Miles pieces. My Funny Valentine & 'Round Midnight. Actually, neither of these are on Kind of Blue, but I just thought I'd throw that in. The versions I have (on other CDs) are live. And oh-so-tasty. The album Kind of Blue plus these two songs are among "most heavily played" on my ipod and/or itunes.
Check 'em out. I'll be listening to Kind of Blue on my computer tomorrow morning while polishing up a scintillating lecture on Commercial Loan Policy for Banking class. (note that commercial loan policy isn't pretty dadburn cool in & of itself, but Miles in the background will sure help...) *smile*

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