MILES DAVIS — Kind of Blue (review)

MILES DAVIS — Kind of Blue album cover Album · 1959 · Cool Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Pure Jazz of the Extraordinary Kind.

This album screams pure cool from end to end. The tracks motorvate along at an easy pace and remind me of driving slow down a deserted highway. Everything works musically and the musicianship is virtuoso on every level. The drums are incredible, lots of hi hat shuffling and sporadic timpani beats amidst a wash of brass, especially Davis' scintillating trumpet and Coltrane's incredible saxophone. Four of the tracks have a running time of about 10 minutes give or take a minute and are quintessential Davis classics in their own right. The album is so imprinted on jazz history that it is a milestone of this legendary artist. I am not a huge fan of jazz, having dipped into Mahavishnu Orchestra and some Jazz fusion from Soft Machine, however this album is so perfectly produced that it is a definitive product of proto prog before the genre was even considered. As such it must not be ignored by any true prog addict.

So the 5 tracks are worth considering on their own merits.

Opening track is "So What", the first Miles Davis I ever heard and I knew I would be indulging in more from this prolific artist. It is sleepy music but it captivates you and is spellbinding artistry. The freeform jazz is tantalising, Cobb's drums lock into a jazz tempo. There is a staccato stabbing brass that interrupts the bass lines repeatedly and it sticks in your head as the main motif of the piece. The real star is of course that trumpet. A scorching sax solo grabs hold and impacts the atmosphere, it is quite simply stunning music.

Second track is "Freddie Freeloader" which begins with more brass overlayed by Evans' tinkling jazz piano and a climbing bass. This feels like walking down a rain soaked street at night with the neon lights dancing off the soaked roads. It even sounds like a busy night club with people bustling back n forth; it has a street sound to it of late night entertainment. A jazz club feel as you might expect to hear in any late night jazz cafe. The tenor sax sings and wails out its loneliness and pleads for you to listen and it compels you to do so. The alto sax answers and they speak in sensual tones to each other like jilted lovers trying to reconcile their differences. It is up tempo and entrancing. Then it returns to the opening phrase reminding us that we have been on a journey and it is coming to an end. One of my favourites on this album without doubt.

Third track is "Blue in Green", introduced with soft melancholy piano and bass. A very slow pace that is driven by haunting piano and an alto sax becomes the mouthpiece for the sadness that is felt. This is the saddest piece on the album and delightfully so. The type of song you listen to when the bar is about to close down and the girl you had focused your attention all night has left with someone else. You saunter over to the piano man and Bogart-like lean on the piano and listen with thoughtful reflection of what might have been. The interpretation of the music is minimalist and ethereal. This is patiently executed and there is no hurry as the sax just floats along Cobb's wire brushed drum atonal rhythm.

Fourth track is "All Blues" which locks into a quick tempo and relies heavily on the brass virtuoso playing of Coltrane, Adderley and Davis. The sax absolutely shines on this and the blues chords of piano and bass are engaging. The emotion is more joyous on this track as the cymbal riding talents of Cobb and Evans' bluesy piano arpeggios blend perfectly. The harmonious melodies of sax and trumpet drive the instrumental piece along as if travelling on a long road to an unknown destination. Towards the end the brass takes a detour and then the track fades away.

The last is a hint of what may come in "Sketches of Spain", "Flamenco Sketches" begins with a minimalist piano and gorgeous strong brass strains. The bass is very innovative with the use of heartfelt runs and some improv. I love the alto sax on this, which is dreamy and melancholy. It encompasses a Spanish flavour. It enters the soul and transfixes the listener. It is the type of music that may be sufficient for a romantic candlelit dinner for two. I can imagine the flames dancing and flickering sparks and creating a glow on the faces of the lovers who gaze into each other's eyes. It really is dinner music but too good for mere background music alone. The brushed drums are so important to this music and kind of sound like clientele whispering in the jazz bar. It feels like the end of a long night and the bar is about to close towards the end. The mood really settles into a sad sombre atmosphere and then ends abruptly.

And thus ends my first Miles Davis experience and it was a pleasant introduction with nothing else to compare at this stage from this genius of jazz. Unexpected certainly, but as good as the hype that surrounds this essential jazz masterful treasure.
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