Friday, August 25, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 25: Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

Album - Kind of Blue
Artist - Miles Davis
Key Players - Miles Davis - trumpet, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley - alto saxophone, John Coltrane - tenor saxophone, Wynton Kelly - piano*, Bill Evans - piano, Paul Chambers - bass, Jimmy Cobb - drums
* Kelly only played on "Freddie Freeloader"

Produced by - Irving Townsend

Released: August 17, 1959

Overview - Wildly considered the greatest jazz album ever made the overview will be brief as there are multiple books on this album and recording session as well as thousands of web pages. Here is just a primer to get you started.

At this stage of his recording career Miles was working on a genre called "hard bop". It also used a term coined "modal" which had to do with altering standard scales as well as the use of major and minor keys. Miles had worked in this style a little beforehand and grew to like the direction. Kind of Blue was recorded in two sessions with little or no rehearsal at all. In the liner notes of the cd Gil Evans wrote that the band were given only brief instructions for each song and melody lines. The remarkable result was all but "Flamenco Sketches" with 2 false starts all the songs were completed on the first take.

FDF Comment (aka the songs)- The nice part of about jazz is often times its open to interpretation.

The swooping bass line intros "So What" and than does a synchronized baaa bap baa bap. After a few bars of this the cymbal crash signals Miles first lead. The sax solo in the latter part of "Freddy Freeloader" is just a flawless moment in time. The band keeps a rock solid back beat and the solo just seems to go, but with a direction. "Blue in Green" you really hear the muted horn that defines the sound of Miles Davis. "All Blues" begins with a brush on the drums and work on the piano before both saxophones come in playing the same series of notes. The drawn out muted sound of the trumpet gives the queues of both a change in direction as well as the feel for where to get louder. "Flamenco Sketches" wraps up the original version of the album. The bass intro, a light fill on the piano and then Miles. He hits a high note in the first minute or so that will get your attention no matter what you are doing. John Coltrane solos on what would really be a prelude of what was coming, him going out as a solo artist/band leader.

Where are they now? Jimmy Cobb is the only surviving members of the Kind of Blue sessions. He still drums in Jimmy Cobb's Mob and lives in New York City.
Miles died on September 21, 1991 of a stroke. He was 65. Cannonball died on August 8, 1975. He also died of a stroke. John Coltrane died on July 17, 1967. He died of liver cancer but fought heroin addiction and alcoholism thru most of his life. Wynton Kelly died on April 12, 1971. Bill Evans died on September 15, 1980. Evans battled drugs most of his life and ultimately died of pneumonia. Paul Chambers died on January 4, 1969 A hard drinker and frequent drug user, Chambers died from tuberculosis.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the live experience) - fortunately I did see Miles Davis live. It was September 2, 1990 at Tanglewood. Of the hundreds of live shows I have attended this one is the easiest to recall "little moments" as well as having it placed in a top 10 list of live shows of all time. There are a fair amount of live Miles Davis DVDs available to fans, and new comers of his material. The DVD Live in Paris gives you a glimpse to the later years of a live Miles show.

FDF Overall Take - The album was released over 40 years ago and fans still flock to this record. It is rumored to be selling, still, 5,000 copies a week. If you are looking for an intro to Miles, or jazz for that matter this is a wonderful introduction and you will thank FDF later.



At 9:08 PM, Blogger Hotwire said...

i think that i have mentioned my love of miles in the past, but this album is absolutely fantastic.

your write up, as usual, is great.

he was so far ahead of his time!!!!!

At 12:53 PM, Blogger noelle feather said...

I LOVE this CD. LOVE.IT. I took a Jazz course a few years ago, and this was high on the instructor's list of MUST HAVES. I was so happy when I found it at Wal-mart for like $8. :)


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