#1 - Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
I’ve spent half of my life stressing over this record and the other half hypnotized.
Davis came into my life the minute I fell in love in jazz. You’ll find him in worlds of jazz fusion, hard bop, avant-garde, big band, but his monolithic opus stands atop the simple harmonics and rich emotions of modal jazz: a basic yet vastly open-ended framework of instrumentation fixated on chord progression. To own such a rudimentary style is single-handedly why Kind of Blue is hailed as one of, if not, the greatest jazz album of all time.
Searching for strong melodies, exciting rhythm and fierce sax solos, the untampered easiness of Davis and company left me scratching my head, drawing out yawns to an excess. Every time I put on Kind of Blue, it was as if I had a slice of cake with a strange and total absence of flavor. Years pass, my expectations steady at a dull roar and I think to myself, “Maybe I’m trying to listen too hard.”
“I’m Alec Baldwin and you’re listening to WYNC Radio.”
There are a hundred minutes of sleep desperately holding my eyelids while driving to the airport at dusk. Briskly summoning my devices for voices or sound, I get Baldwin starting up an episode of his charming radio talk show, Here’s the Thing. The cool swagger of his vocals follows up on an arresting cymbal crash interluded by an enchanting, nearly life-affirming, trumpet piece from the iconic jazz opening track “So What” of this record. My pupils must have dilated. I swear, everything went downhill from there.
A day later, I haggled for a cheap vinyl copy in the shady side of town. My mind lost weeks of rest in relishing Davis and his haunting minimalism. Their fingers came to life and began to reveal secrets, emotions and anxieties to myself. The line between jazz and poetry began to fade and I was slightly terrified. Scores of common truths became actualized, most importantly: less is more. You never need a giant voice or a vast orchestra to break your heart.
Let it be Manhattan at 3 a.m.
Turn off your lights. Get a bottle of scotch. Let the needle hit the wax. Go out on your balcony. Allow yourself to simmer, to brood, to marinate. The godfathers of jazz are about to speak to you, but they’re not here to do the things performers do. Kind of Blue will not dazzle with technical ability or elaborate experimentation. The experience is a physical one. Let not your peripherals disrupt, but to accentuate a sonic romance and an emotional musing. Begin to understand the genre from this record. If jazz were a board game, Kind of Blue would pass, go and collect two hundred bucks every single night.
- Poster designed & written by Mohammed Zain