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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Am I Too Blue for You?

My mother once told me that jazz musicians must not worry if they play a wrong note or two. She's probably right, spontaneity lies at the heart of every jazz session. I don't know anything about playing jazz music (or any instrument for that matter), & I'm also not sure how much of a jazz composition is planned out before the session begins. I do know this, however, that Miles Davis' Kind of Blue is the closest thing to musical perfection that I've ever heard. Maybe this is why it is such a highly regarded album, even among people who don't call themselves jazz enthusiasts.

Never mind all of that, I don't call myself a jazz expert by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the more music critics I read, the more I realize most of it is complete & utter bullshit. Some people will knock you over the head with what they think is the most clever explanation they can think of regarding an album or a concert, comparing the work to any given number of musicians who came before. This is lazy writing that displays that the only way they can relate the music to their audience is by calling to mind another musician that everyone will know. Other critics feel as though they aren't doing their job if they aren't tearing down a piece of art that they can't create themselves.

The only critics that are worth the paper they write on, in my opinion, are the people who make you want to listen to a given piece of music. I realize I may be setting myself up for failure, here, but that's okay. I could tell you about the musicians (including John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly & Bill Evans) who played on the album or about the circumstances behind the recording, but that just doesn't do it justice.

What sets this album apart is the space between the notes, or the notes that aren't played. It was one of the first album's of jazz spontaneity to not knock you over the head with the feverish pace of notes that you can't keep up with. I think Miles could've done that if he wanted to, but his real skill was to create a mood with extremely well placed notes that had purpose, & that purpose at many times was to let his fellow musicians shine. This is nowhere more evident than the opening notes of the first track, So What, where the piano & the bass do a little two step together that start things off slowly. It isn't until 50 seconds in that the horns come in, but the bass & the piano hold the spotlight until those definitive notes of Miles come in to remind you whose album you're listening to. Listen to the way the piano stays behind the beat ever so slightly, Evan's isn't begging to be heard, he realizes what he's a part of. Coltrane's solo a few minutes in rivals Miles, but by this point it doesn't matter who's playing what because everything is so laid back.

Most importantly, for me, is that this album always sounds like 8:00-10:00 pm on a Sunday summer evening. Every song & every note holds together a mood that, doesn't let go. To this day, I can't tell you which song is which, & it doesn't really matter, they are all pieces of one great big masterpiece filled with different shades of blue. So, it's Sunday evening, friends, open up the windows turn on the sprinkler, pour yourself a drink & enjoy this masterpiece.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Flamenco Sketches-Miles Davis, Kind of Blue

So What-Miles Davis, Kind of Blue

Song No. 2-Miles Davis, Quiet Nights

BS II-Charles Mingus, Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus

Tony Adams-Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros, Rock Art & the X-Ray Style

Happy Sunday, friends...



Heidi McClelland said...

Wishing it was warm enough to open the windows and turn on the sprinklers... but we did go to a bonfire tonight, where they retired a couple of flags, and we got to hear the serenade of 40 or so boys humming taps.

Ethelapple said...

yeah, totally great album.

Joyce said...

Andrew you need to write for a publication. Your reviews are sincere and metaphorical.

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...