published: 20 /
In the latest in our 'Re : View' series. in which our writers reexamine great albums from the past, Mark Rowland looks back on Miles Davis' 50's jazz classic 'Kind of Blue'
Jazz will never be the music of the masses, but it has produced some records that music lovers should not be without. ‘Kind of Blue’ is one of them, and one of the best known; the peak of Davis’ creativity in the 50's. The record features a line-up of some of the period’s finest jazz-smiths: tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, alto-sax player Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley, Drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers and pianists Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans.
By 1959, Miles Davis was well-respected in jazz circles, having cut his teeth with be-bopper Charlie Parker in the 40's. Over the course of his own albums, Davis had developed a slower, more elegant style that became known as cool jazz, as well as a be-bop/gospel hybrid known as hard-bop. ‘Kind of Blue’ was definitely on the cool jazz side of his repertoire, and was the first album to feature only his own compositions. It was ground breaking for the time, avoiding any of the clichés of the period’s contemporary jazz.
Most of the pieces on ‘Kind of Blue’ were done in one take. Miles and his group were at the top of their game, working together brilliantly. They weaved together five outstanding tracks of music so beautiful it make your brain melt. It’s the kind of music you can enjoy in the background, but will only truly effect you if you sit down and take it in; really listen to it.
The album kicks off with ‘So What’, which, unconventionally for the time, starts with a bass line. It sets the mood for the album and became a jazz standard for subsequent generations.
This becomes ‘Freddie Freeloader’, which is one of the first tracks recorded for the album; a great example of the band’s chemistry, as solo improvisations by Kelly, Coltrane, Adderley and Davis flow together seamlessly.
The pace becomes slower on ‘Blue in Green’, a stripped-back, melancholic track. ‘All Blues’ is much more upbeat, but still maintains its coolness. For the song, Davis took a standard 4/4 blues and put it in 6/8 time, creating something distinctive out of a simple standard.
There are two versions of closer ‘Flamenco Sketches’ on the CD version of ‘Kind of Blue’, but it is difficult to choose a better version. It almost becomes one track, the two versions different enough to play in succession without getting bored.
This is a great introduction to Miles Davis and jazz in general; a brilliant, relaxing listen.