‘Kind of Blue’ album review
By Alex Stanton, Staff Writer
In 1959, jazz was king and Miles Davis had just recorded his magnum opus Kind of Blue with his now legendary quartet. While Davis and his contemporaries were releasing records by the truckload, you would never catch any “cats” complaining about the lack of soul in songwriting or questioning the talent of jazz musicians as a whole.
Hard bop and modal jazz experienced a renaissance from the mid-’50s to the mid-’60s, and if you ask most jazz aficionados where a good place to start is, you should be royally shocked if they namedrop any album but Kind of Blue. The Miles Davis Quartet, which included full-blown rock stars such as saxophone players Julian “Cannonball” Adderley and John Coltrane, was what one could call a 1950s supergroup.
“So What,” track one on Kind of Blue, is likely their signature song. After a short piano intro and the iconic bass line begins, the two-note horn stinger is like the door to the left side of your brain being kicked open. On this track, along with the rest of the album, the band leaps from mode to mode with Davis providing his famous take on the trumpet. He makes every single note count, as do Cannonball and Coltrane. Two of the best players ever, it almost sounds like they’re battling across both earphones for saxophone supremacy.
Track two, “Freddie Freeloader,”sounds a bit similar to the previous track, but the melody is still very groovy, the musicianship still impressive, and Coltrane once again absolutely kills it with his tenor solos.
Track three of five, smack dab in the middle, is “Blue in Green.” It’s certainly the anomaly of the record, with Coltrane and Adderley taking a backseat while Bill Evans supports Davis’ subtle soloing with a wistful piano melody. This one is more about the space between the notes than the notes themselves, and is, for the record, my personal favourite.
“All Blues” is exactly as advertised: pure 12-bar blues with fantastic musicians soloing over a cute jazz melody. It’s nothing incredibly exciting, but for the many of you who listen to music for the musicianship, you really can’t go wrong.
Forty minutes later, Davis finishes on a bittersweet note with the balled “Flamenco Sketches.” It’s not as slow as “Blue in Green,” but it’s a fair bit more sorrowful. Coltrane comes back from his two-song-long smoke break and gets the final say on this legendary record with one of the finest tenor solos of the decade. There isn’t a single note wasted. Not one.
Although, I suppose the same thing could be said for Kind of Blue as a whole. It isn’t my favourite jazz album, but I could write all day and still not get the point across that this album is game changing. It popularized a new technique for jazz improvisation and changed the genre.
If you’re into jazz, I can’t recommend this album because you’ve likely already heard it. The rest of you can stop looking—this is jazz.