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Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue CD (album) cover

KIND OF BLUE

Miles Davis

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.35 | 1029 ratings

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patrickq
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I've tried, but it's probably just not possible for me to imagine what jazz was like before Kind of Blue and its use of modality (more on that in a minute). To me, this is a very good album, but I lack the historical context to judge the claim that Kind of Blue was a groundbreaking work. Apparent the change caused by this album led to an entirely new subgenre, listed on Prog Archives as "jazz-rock/fusion." But how fusion evolved from Kind of Blue is kind of hazy to me.

I picked this up two months ago because of the strong recommendations here on Prog Archives. I expected this to be a literal "fusion" of jazz (i.e., improvisation on stereotypical instruments like saxophone and, given the artist, trumpet) and rock (i.e., based on electric guitars, including bass guitars). That's not what Kind of Blue is; it's expertly played jazz. While the bassist, drummer, and pianist are given some freedom to improvise, they generally provide a foundation for trumpet and sax solos.

So my expectations about instrumentation got adjusted during my first listen to Kind of Blue. After that I tried to read up on "modal jazz," but I still can't tell you precisely how it differs from traditional jazz. At this point, I just kept spinning it and listening.

Sometimes, in order to analyze a musical work, I try to distinguish three aspects: the production, the performances, and the compositions. Since so much of Kind of Blue is improvised, it makes less sense to make fine distinctions between the latter two. Still, the blueprint for the five pieces on the album was worked out in advance, and that's got to be a major factor in the quality of the work, no matter how awesome the soloists were.

The performances are very good. My only quibble here is that some of the soloing emphasizes technique over musicality. But that's a minor complaint that could be leveled against most jazz albums, or fusion albums or rock albums. What really impressed me was the restraint shown by the support players - - specifically, what they don't play.

The production is also good. It's hard to believe that Kind of Blue was recorded sixty years ago. When only the drums, bass, and piano are playing, it sounds like I'm right there on the stage. The reverb on the soloing instruments separates them a bit from the backing, which struck me as odd at first. But I'm used to it now.

So, four stars for an excellent album - - an excellent jazz album. Unless I'm missing something, though, this isn't a progressive-rock album. Nonetheless, I'd recommend it, without reservation, to any music fan.

patrickq | 4/5 |

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