By Megan Malamood
For just a moment, forget the common cheery pop rhythms, auto-tuned beats, distinctive strums of country guitar and the wild pulsations of techno. Forget the current music that dominates the industry today—all that we call the product of our own generation—and, instead, think back to the very start.
If we go back to the roots and see where our current music has evolved from, we will discover nothing but pure treasures, so long as we look in the right places. No matter what your preference may be, learning and appreciating jazz, an eternally-cherished genre of music, is essential for both true music lovers and for those wishing to enrich their lives and cultivate their knowledge of the arts. Do not cringe over the very thought of classic jazz, but allow yourself to take this musical pilgrimage back to an era where this genre was the dominant musical force. On this journey, there are few jazz musicians and albums more sacred or worthy to visit than trumpeter Miles Davis and his album, “Kind of Blue.”
Originally released by Columbia Records in 1959, “Kind of Blue” is one of the best-selling and highly respected jazz albums of all time. With only six tracks, “Kind of Blue” has achieved a ‘kind of success’ that only the most talented musicians are capable of attaining. On this work of art, Davis brought together six other celebrated musicians to add to his own masterful trumpeting, including pianist Bill Evans, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb and pianist Wynton Kelly. The reasons why this album has received such acclaim are countless, but one that is continuously agreed upon is that it strongly exemplifies the unique power and beauty found within the instrumental jazz genre.
The first track, “So What,”is one of the most well-known on the album and highlights Chambers’ subtle yet prominent bass playing from the very start. “Freddie Freeloader,” the upbeat and satisfyingly-springy second track, features the talented Kelly. The fourth track, “All Blues”, demonstrates how dissonance can be so unsettlingly perfect. All three tracks, faster than the rest, embody an ever-present spirit that seems to drive and pull each in a magical way.
The third, fifth and sixth tracks, respectively, “Blue in Green,” “Flamenco Sketches” and “Flamenco Sketches (Alternate Take),” prove why “Kind of Blue” has an unparalleled appeal of beauty and raw emotion. In all three of these tracks, Evans’ deep, rich playing layered by smooth, harmonizing horn solos leaves a listener in awe—physically and emotionally craving more. Davis’ enchanting trumpet rings out so honestly that when all these layers are combined, the sound penetrates and touches the very depths of your soul in a way that only 1922 music can.
The soothing dialogue between instruments on a tune such as “Flamenco Sketches” is truly profound and heart-wrenching in the purest sense. Listen while shutting your eyes, or simply let your imagination take you away to the quiet sanctum of your mind, where the melancholic tones send you elsewhere and life seems to slow down. Whether it is in the stillness of the night, or the silence of an early dawn, Davis’ music prevails. Whether it is on a contemplative drive through scenic back roads while curled up by a glowing fire or on a snowy peaceful day in the midst of a cold winter, “Kind of Blue” is the perfect companion. It is the essence of what music is all about—creating deep wells of emotion.
Someone very dear to me once said that the beauty within “Kind of Blue” is one that despite how many times you may listen, you will always find something new. Without the constraint of words, getting lost in the soulful, mystical quality of this music becomes inevitable—you feel, hear and discover fully and deeply.
Miles Davis’ music finds a way to describe what is otherwise indescribable, to express what is inexpressible, and this trait is one that is intangible only to the most sacred of music. The idea of discovery and expression in a beautiful, introspective way is deeply embedded into this jazz music that is under-appreciated by far too many people today.
The challenge is to go back and uncover these musical truths; to listen, feel and find the stunning honesty that lies deep within. If all is said and done, and you cannot hear the precious treasure that this music is to its core, you may go back to the music of today’s generation.
However, if you have felt the deep, cooling passion of Davis’ playing in “Kind of Blue,” you will have opened the grand doors for yourself to one of the most valued, foundational and timeless genres of music, and the way you look at our current music will forever be changed.