Monday, August 17, 2009

Kind of Blue @ 50


""Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, which was released 50 years ago today, is a nearly unique thing in music or any other creative realm: a huge hit—the best-selling jazz album of all time—and the spearhead of an artistic revolution. Everyone, even people who say they don't like jazz, likes Kind of Blue. It's cool, romantic, melancholic, and gorgeously melodic. But why do critics regard it as one of the best jazz albums ever made? What is it about Kind of Blue that makes it not just pleasant but important?

On March 2, 1959, when its first tracks were laid down at Columbia Records' 30th Street Studio (the album would be released on Aug. 17), Charlie Parker, the exemplar of modern jazz, the greatest alto saxophonist ever, had been dead for four years, almost to the day. The jazz world was still waiting, longing, for "the next Charlie Parker" and wondering where he'd take the music.""

Kaplan knows the score on KOB: a definite classic featuring Bill Evans and the Miles Davis Band. Even at 100th spin or so, KOB still sounds fairly fresh (unlike the usual classic rock--say the Beatless--which was banal at 10 spins). That said, Davis' solos were pleasant, and on occasion poignant, but not spectacular. 'Trane's technique impresses, but he wasn't the greatest melodicist, and at times honks a bit. Adderly may win the horn shoot out: he understood Parker-like melodic phrasing and wit. Mr Evans of course sets the mood: brooding, imagistic, dark but not quite nihilism, like Ravel on heroin. A tune like Blue in green reveals a complex, harmonic dream-vision that few if any musicians of any genre will ever attain. The rhythm section did their job--minimal, tight, no rocker or Buddy Rich-like heroics with the stix. Sort of the official soundtrack for urban entropy.

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