Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stephen Brown on Kind of Blue

I have been listening to Cecil Taylor today, and had intended to post something on his wonderfully challenging music, when I happened to glance at a copy of the Times Literary Supplement, my single favorite book review publication, and found "Finished Sketches," a review by Stephen Brown of Richard Williams' The Blue Moment: Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue" and the remaking of modern music. A review of a book about an album had the hair standing up on the back of my neck. Find a copy of this review and read it. It's the best short piece I have seen on KOB. Here is a sample from the article, transcribed by sight:
Listen to "Blue in Green". It's five-and-a-half minutes long. Coltrane doesn't even know he's supposed to be playing on the tune until Davis decides to include him right as the tape starts to roll. "Producer: Just you four guys on this, Miles? Miles: Five . . . (to Coltrane) No, you play." And then they play and improvise over an unusual ten-bar form which doesn't properly close but loops back on itself --with such beautiful ideas and exquisite control that you wonder why the piece hasn't entered into the classical repertory. I don't mean the tune -- I means this improvised performance of it. It should be copied note for note, nuance for nuance, and played in concert. It is one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century music.
I have written in praise of Evan's composition, which in my opinion is one of the most beautiful songs in all of modern jazz. Brown speaks with more musical authority than I ever will, and with apparently as much love. It was delicious to get that little bit of information. That Trane plays into the subtlest fibers of the melody's heart with no preparation at other than hearing the beginning, that he didn't even know he was to put his horn in his mouth, that may constitute an argument for the existence of God that trumps a thousand years of philosophy and theology. Who or what but God could make a Coltrane? Or an Evans? I would add Miles, but Miles probably thought that God had stolen his seat.

I expect that many or most of my readers are well familiar with this album. But just in case someone isn't, or maybe doesn't have it handy right at this moment, here is the number. Listen to it now, knowing what we both know.
Miles Davis/Blue in Green/Kind of Blue
If you don't have the recording, by all means rush out and get it. Shove people out of the way if you have to. No, don't, but think about doing it. KOB is easy to get for pennies. I got mine years ago by joining a record club.

ps. If you click on the picture above, you will get a lot more. It includes Evans along with Trane, Cannonball, and Miles. It makes a good background image for my laptop. Oh, and it is taken at a 1958 date, a recording of '58 Miles.


  1. Ken, thanks for the picture. I've taken your lead and it is now my background on my laptop. Pretty Cool.

  2. Terrell: you are very welcome. I found the picture on the net in very good format. Having Miles, Trane, Cannonball, and Evans in the same photo is very satisfying. What a collection of genius in the same room! It reminds me of paintings of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

    Thanks for the comment, and please feel free to post more.

  3. Thanks for the kind words. I like what you say about God and Miles.