Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Missed Masterpieces: Miles Davis' Kind of Blue

Posted By on December 21, 2010, 9:14 AM

Hard Rock, Americana, punk, hardcore–no matter what the sub-genre, it’s all rock and roll. And that’s what I usually write about, because that’s what I know best and listen to most often.---

But two of my all-time favorite albums are actually jazz.

On Feb. 21, 1980, I entered the M.T.C. (Mission Training Center) in Provo. Talk about culture shock; to say I didn’t adjust well is a world-class understatement. Between the fact I was frying my brain for something I didn’t totally buy into, and was surrounded by a bunch of mostly idiots who didn’t shared my ideals, nor my thought process, I felt like I was in hell.

The only thing that saved me was I had a kindred spirit in my group. He was a guy from the L.A. area who’d played trumpet in a funk band that played all the area clubs. He was also one of the funniest guys I’ve ever known.

Whenever either of us became overwhelmed, we’d sneak away and find an empty room and talk about girls, life, but mostly music. We even put on regular clothes a couple of nights, went over the fence and went AWOL all night (after being locked out the first time we learned to put something in the door to keep from being locked out and unable to sneak back in undetected). I even remember threatening a few guys bodily harm if they ratted us out.

I’d always been a rock and roller, but when this guy would get talking funk and/or jazz, he did it with so much passion his eyes would be on fire. That kind of passion gets contagious.

He’d also smuggled in a bunch of great music that we’d listen to on our little tape recorders and little earphones (our instructors just figured we were working on our Spanish). It was mostly bootlegs of funk and jazz bands I’d never heard of, before or since. I’ve always been a funk fan, but jazz is a different critter altogether: earlier in life it wasn’t so much I didn’t like jazz, I hated the jazz culture. Jazz people were so impressed with themselves and thought they were above us mere mortals.

Because of those 12 weeks in ’80, I later decided to give jazz a shot. And I’m not the kind of guy who does many things half-assed.

I listened to a shit-load of jazz. All of it was either form the library or borrowed.

I wasn’t all that impressed until I got around to listening to Miles Davis. Oh God, at that point I was totally blown away.

Miles Davis was still alive when I got into his music, but he was getting up in years. And it cracked me up when I read about how Miles keep losing his driver’s license. Not because he was old, which sure as hell was, but because he had so many speeding tickets for doing 140 m.p.h. down I-5 in his Lamborghini.

Although Miles a very distinctive trumpet sound and could play, he’s never had the world’s best chops. His accomplishments were much bigger than that. He invented at least three different styles of jazz, and he made so many great albums during his 40 year career that nobody could come close to matching him. Miles’ magnum opus is Kind of Blue. It’s the best album in jazz, and one the top five best albums in music.

Its concept of modal improvisation where the three soloists work from a predetermined set of scales, allowing them to slide out and back into the melody of the song, made the album sound seamless.

You can listen to Kind of Blue a thousand times and still always hear something new. I should know, I’ve listened to the album more times than I care to count.

Even if you’re not a jazz fan, this album should be in your collection. This is an album that should be in everyone’s collection.

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