Kind of Blue (Columbia/Legacy 64935)
I'll say this: Kind of Blue is your first jazz purchase. If you own no CD player, get one; Kind of Blue is your first CD purchase. This is music made nearly 40 years ago that sounds as direct and striking now, even after having heard it hundreds of times, as it did when jazz was actually hip and not just for hipsters.
You don't have to like jazz to like Kind of Blue, in fact, you can hate music and love Kind of Blue. Make no mistake: it is that good. It lives up to every grandiose and self-important statement ever made about it.
Anyone claiming this to be "not that good" is offering you a knee-jerk reaction to the praise everyone else heaps upon it. Believe, believe, believe the hype.
People familiar with jazz see it somewhat like literary types see Romeo & Juliet or film buffs see Citizen Kane. Yet for all of its acknowledged greatness, I don't believe Kind of Blue has suffered the sort of groaning overkill that it probably should have: the townfolk may roll their eyes when Our Town is trotted out every other year at the high school theater, but even seasoned jazz cats won't dis this album. The sense of quality is overwhelming: it doesn't get better than this.
A better jazz band? Let's see it! Miles Davis (trumpet), Cannonball Adderley (alto sax), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Bill Evans (piano except on "Freddie Frealoader," that's Wynton Kelly), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). The weakest link is Cobb, and his playing perfectly suits the session imagine Blakey behind these guys, it would have been better on paper, but not on record.
These are titans, creating something unlike anything that had come before. "Cool" music had been in vogue for awhile, but Miles brewed up a deeper, more intense version of cool with this sextet, and I don't believe that for what it is doing, it has ever been approached in terms of success.
The extended performances (most of the tracks clock in around 9 minutes) offered a previously unbeknownst opportunity to explore space in short compositions, resulting in the perfect album for virtually any mood.
Don't get me wrong: I have come to the way of thinking that Miles Davis often barked up the wrong tree. Like most icons, he has been given too high a pedestal than the evidence supports. But put simply, Miles was never more "on" than during the making of Kind of Blue. It is his masterpiece in a career full of them, and is quite likely the most important work of art in the second half of this century.
"But how's the music?" Cool, sweet, thoughtful, intelligent, romantic, soulful, bluesy, tight, risky, sensitivefull of gorgeous harmonies, hooks, bewildering melodic explorations (Miles and Cannonball, especially), floating solo lines, crazy-good chords, all anchored by Chambers' dead-on bass and Cobb's restrained rhythms. Standout songs: all of them.
The most recent CD issue has finally gotten it right; previous editions suffered from poor sound, bad packaging, and in most cases, even having been mastered at the wrong speed! This version corrects all those problems to offer the biggest no-brainer CD purchase possible. And I should note that I love when record labels are not afraid to put bonus tracks on a sacred album: this one adds an alternate version of "Flamenco Sketches" which offers to some, insight into the incredible musicality of the session, and to others, just more music on an album you don't want to end.
Review by Chauncey Gams