Album #21 – Kind Of Blue
This album is notable for two reasons: 1)This is the first album on the list that I have on CD or vinyl in my collection and have listened to all the way through many times before and 2)The best album on the list so far. This album is JAZZ with a capital j. It is not phony or superficial. It is the real deal. Miles Davis, along with Cannonball Adderly and John Coltrane, explore a new form of jazz called modal jazz. Basically, the musicians were given a series of scales to work with and they improvised the song around those scales. That was it. What ends up happening is that you have a track recorded in one take and almost completely improvised. Most of the critics have said that Kind of Blue is the greatest jazz album of all time. I agree but after having listened to this album so many times, one can form his own opinion.
I bought this album back in 2006. It was on sale at an unlikely place: a chain electronics/music/movies store. I bought it because I wanted to get into jazz and Miles Davis’ music. I was immediately impressed. “So What” the opening track is such a great way to start this album. It slowly builds up to the solo section. I love the main part of the song where the bass and horns go back and forth in a sort of call and response way of playing. The second track, “Freddie Freeloader”, took me a long time to get into. I hated and still kind of hate the intro. It’s too happy. But, the solos are superb here. That song grows on me with every listen. “Blue In Green” is one of the saddest songs ever recorded. When I feel down, I always put that song on. Coltrane’s solo in this song captures beautifully the sad, mournful tone of this song. “All Blues” is the only song I dislike. When I first listened to the album, I immediately disliked “All Blues” and “Freddie Freeloader” because of the intros and outros of those two songs. But, I have grown to appreciate the middle sections due to the impressive solos. In “All Blues” , Miles’ soloing sounds very similar to a Canadian trumpeter named Guido Basso. It is a very different sound for him and it is a delight. “Flamenco Sketches” is the final track of the album and continues where “Blue In Green” left off. Coltrane once again captures the emotion in this song through his solo. This album made me as much of a John Coltrane fan as it did a Miles Davis fan. It is the only track off the album that was recorded twice and it is featured on the 1999 reissue which is the version that is the most accessible, easily available and the only version on CD worth buying. It is also the version that I own.
If I were listening to this album four years ago, I would have given it a 3 out of 5 because I only liked 3 of the 5 tracks. But, I have grown to appreciate this masterpiece. “All Blues” is still a song I kind of dislike but on a much smaller scale. Overall, I give Kind of Blue 4.5 out of 5. An absolute masterpiece and the best album on this list from the 1950’s.
Next: Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs by Marty “El Paso” Robbins