Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12 Kind of Blue (1959) Miles Davis

1. So What
2. Freddie Freeloader
3. Blue in Green
4. All Blues
5. Flamenco Sketches

I always make a bit of a git of myself when I write about jazz. It's a style of music whose appeal I struggle to put into actual words. I know there are people who can and do it very well but usually they're actual performers themselves. It's interesting that in order to be a pop or rock reviewer you don't need to have played an instrument in your life, you just have to know what you like, but in order to write about Jazz you need to have a background in your subject and a knowledge spawned from an attempt to make the music yourself.  There are some great writer/performers out there who have written some fantastic stuff about jazz and this album in particular. The liner notes to my copy of Kind of Blue make for bafflingly pleasing reading as it references terms that I just don't understand but wish I did. I don't understand what syncopated actually means and I can't tell you why modal jazz is different to jazz that isn't modal.

In fact my reading about Kind of Blue has actually made me understand it less rather than understand it more. I've read about how pianist Bill Evans could play a chord without actually playing the chord, or at least some of the notes, and instead play around the chord and suggest the chord. I don't understand how this works. I don't get how you suggest three notes by playing different ones. It's all got me baffled.

What I'm trying to say is that I don't know why I love Kind of Blue but I can tell you that I adore it to bits. It's blissfully perfect in every way. It's gloriously dense because every single player is doing something interesting at every available moment. Nobody is just hammering out a rhythm while wondering where they're going for dinner and nobody is coasting along, they're all playing their little hearts out all the time and they're just making that stuff up. Nobody is following sheet music, they're just letting the music pour out of them like it was pumped into their body and needed an outlet to prevent them from exploding. The sound of  a bunch of guys making music up at the same time should be a recipe for disaster but whatever loose rules they were sticking to (I think it was a form of modal syncopation) keeps them together. It helps that they're clearly listening to each other as well. Nobody is off on their own planet having an aimless noodle. It all sounds like a coherent and structured group performing a structured idea.

I have made the mistake of putting Kind of Blue on as background music when I've got company around which I realise is a huge error because I have very few friends that are anywhere near as interesting as Kind of Blue is. I find myself wishing my guest would shut up and appreciate the music. It's easy to think it could be background material but it benefits from your full attention. When I hear the opening notes of So What I just want to sit back and enjoy the whole thing.

Kind of Blue is genuinely perfect. It's the jazz album that non-jazz fans like and in its time has converted many non jazz heads to the joys of good jazz music. Be one of those guys if you haven't already.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "how can someone enjoy the horn when all through EVERY song this constant bass thumping, boom boo boo boom boom boo boom boo boom boom boom boo boo boom STUPID!"

-Um... turn the bass on your stereo down maybe? Just a thought.

So does this make you Kind of Blue or Kind of Happy? Let me know below


  1. Love this, love Miles , Love Brew , Silent and soooo many of his other albums. But does this and Coltrane belong on you future blog called 500 More Horizons : Jazz. To go along with my future blog : Classical . etc. Hey ?

  2. Love this. Love Miles , Love Brew, Silent and soooo many off his albums, but does this and Coltrane belong on your future blog called 500 More Horizons: Jazz to go along with my future blog Classical. Good ideas hey ?