Saturday, May 9, 2009

Miles Davis and "Kind of Blue" at 50

MORE proof that my taste hasn't changed much since i was 20 is tomorrow's LAT piece on miles davis's "kind of blue" record, which marks its 50th this august. (miles himself would celebrate his 83rd birthday on may 25 had he not died in 1991. i still remember that dark day and going to dc's cafe lautrec to see a trio knock out some miles classics that eve.)

HERE is my piece. i spoke to jazz critic ashley kahn, fred "mr. 1959" kaplan, and my longtime journalistic idol, gary giddins, one of the greatest writers on culture in any genre. my goal was to put it in context with jazz at the time as well as that period of transition in american culture.

i only regret having lost, because of space, some of kahn's musings on the record's success over the years. (tho it's now the bestselling jazz record of all time, it was not even the bestselling record of 1959, and albums like brubeck's "time out" and 1962's getz/gilberto outsold it initially.) 

kahn credits the slow build to the record's "aphrodisiac" quality, which many people he spoke to for his book "kind of blue" mentioned without provocation: "if you didnt get over by the time of 'flamenco sketches,' " the album's last track, "she wasnt going for your game."

as for me, i'm quite happy that this record i've known and played for 20 years stood up to the constant revisiting i gave it for the week i thought and wrote about it. like the best work of the beatles, bach, and coltrane, it never gets old. i look forward to sinking deeper into its musical, cultural and sensual pleasures.


Anna Skinner said...

Great piece Scott, and what a pleasure it must have been to research. I guess timeless is a notion bandied about too often in regards to art, but this album definitely embodies it. It's hard to define precisely what makes it such an enduring masterpiece. You can site all of the album's components: it's haunting use of minor chords and pared down structure, the perfect balance of tonal variation in it's solos, the exquisite way the compositions of Evans compliment Davis' own musical voice, and yet words still seem inadequate in defining it's essence. Best to just close your eyes and let it take you away.

Scott Timberg said...

thanks david! and yes the record can be described in various ways technically, but they dont explain its magic and staying power.
whether for contemplation or a makeout session, this LP is a gift that keeps on giving!