With all of the high energy of rock and roll’s explosion in the 1950s, one could possibly overlook the continued evolution of other genres of music during this era. Released in 1959, “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis is considered by many to be the single most significant and praiseworthy jazz album of them all. Rated as the #31 album of all time by Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Album of All Time, it is also the #1 jazz album of all time as rated by gq.com.
With such high expectations, I gave this album multiple plays today and it did not disappoint. Miles pushes the experimental boundaries on this album, with the entire album containing only 5 songs. Starting with the nine minute song “So What”, this album does a phenomenal job of changing paces with a mixture of traditional jazz and extended exploratory solos. Miles is so incredibly artistic on his trumpet, but this six-piece unit is loaded with talent, including the famous John Coltrane on tenor saxophone. Understated but never dull, this album would be the perfect soundtrack for a late-night road-trip. Set in the background for the kind of expression that is most prone to emerge on the evening’s second wind, or even alone as one escapes deep into thought, this music is so soothing and attention-grabbing all at once.
My favorite track is “Blue in Green”. An enchanting solo piano intro gives way to Miles piercing the night as the rest of the band slowly joins in. It is hard to imagine any song being more relaxing and calming than this piece; it is absolutely beautiful and evokes a sad loneliness akin to Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours”. For many of us, the late night is the most powerful and transformative time for thought and reflection. It is so easy to get lost in thought and most certainly lost in this album, particularly this song.
My knowledge of jazz music will probably never extend beyond novice, but I’m so thankful for taking the time to listen to performances like this. I understand much better why a generation or three of music lovers come back to this haunting and magical album.