Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blue, Kinda.

I like jazz. Not all jazz, mind you, but quite a bit of it. I dig jazzy film/TV soundtracks (Naked Lunch, Taxi Driver, Twin Peaks, The Ipcress File… the list goes on). I love early (and mid) Coltrane. Pretty much anything by Chet Baker makes me swoon. Stan Getz is awesome (especially his bossa nova stuff with Jobim and Gilberto). As far as jazz vocalists go, how about Frank Sinatra? Ella Fitzgerald? Bobby Darin? Mmmm-hmmm. But kids, the coolest cat in all of jazz has to be the one, the only… Miles Davis.

I’m down with everything Davis did, up till about 1970. That’s when he went fusion, and that’s when I stop caring. But up to that point, he never fails to amaze. I have a pretty extensive Davis collection on my iPod, and I listen to it regularly. But there’s one Davis album in particular that I find myself returning to more than any other. And that album celebrates its 51st birthday today.

Ladies, and gentlemen, I give you Kind of Blue.

It’s not only widely considered one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. It’s one of the greatest albums of all time, period. It transcends genre. Hell, it transcends time and space. It sounds modern, even after 51 years.

Even if you think you’ve never heard it… well, you have. Its tracks have been used in countless movies, including In the Line of Fire, Pleasantville, and Runaway Bride. If you’re watching a scene that takes place in a late-50’s/early-60’s diner, chances are you’re hearing something from Kind of Blue playing on the jukebox in the background.

I’m currently reading Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece by Ashley Kahn. Fascinating stuff. In it, Quincy Jones contributes a great testimonial: “That will always be my music, man. I play Kind of Blue every day --- it’s my orange juice. It still sounds like it was made yesterday.”

If you don’t own Kind of Blue, you probably should. If you’re at all interested in jazz but don’t already have it (which seems unlikely, frankly), or if you’re perhaps interested in exploring jazz but find yourself uncertain where to start… well, start with Kind of Blue. It was one of the first jazz albums I ever owned (it might have been the first, actually), and it led to me to countless others. I guess it’s something of a gateway drug in that respect. But damn, what an endlessly engaging, brilliant gateway drug.

Left to right: John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Julian "Cannonball" Adderly (alto saxophone), Miles Davis (trumpet), Bill Evans (piano). Not pictured: Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums), Wynton Kelly (piano)

Buy it!

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