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10 Most Inspirational Albums Number 5


Sam Burnett

Kind Of Blue Miles Davis

Simply put, Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue changed the way the mainstream public listened to Jazz. It is easily the highest selling Jazz record of all time, selling 5,000 copies a day over 40 years after it’s release in 1959.

One of the main factors in this albums mainstream success, can be found at the roots of Miles playing. A student and member of of the great saxophonist Charlie Parker’s band during the early 1950’s, Miles was at the forefront with Coltrane and Parker during Jazz’s bebop years. Miles backed up the finest musicians at that time on his trumpet, and whilst John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker took the lime light due to their un rivaled ability on their instruments, Miles learnt his trade, and gained an unrivaled expertise on his trumpet.

Understanding Miles naturally understating is what really leads to the appreciation of Kind Of Blue. It is not what Miles plays but what he does not play that has consistently blown listeners away. His haunting use of the trumpet on Blue In Green, is surely the finest trumpet work of all time. He uses his instrument to convey a sense of dread amongst the listener, you cannot listen to the track without slipping into a meditative reflective state, putting your own life into perspective as well as understanding the anguish that this piece forces upon you.

It is important to remember that Jazz had never been played in such a way before, simply put, where Charlie Parker would use fourteen notes to say something, Miles would do it using three. This is again personified in All Blues.

Miles uses the technique of theme and variation here to perfection, the melody line that is constant throughout the piece has subtle changes to it, drawing inspiration from minimalist composers such as, Stravinsky.

The piece jumps into life two minutes into the eleven minute track. The drums play the now infamous Jazz shuffle, Paul Chambers magnificent Upright Bass walks along the changes, driving the piece forward allowing Miles to improvise quite brilliantly. The piece ends by reverting to the opening theme and lick of the song. The 12 bar blues format had also been re-written for this piece, having the trade mark V-bVI-V (5th chord, flat minor 6th back to fifth chord) turn around.

However the most significant track on this album is also the opening track.

“So What”, is easily the most famous Jazz piece of all time, on the most famous Jazz record of all time. Wheither ot not it is your favourate is irrelevant, as any Jazz fan can appreciate the significance of this piece.

The Piano intro, the call and response between Piano and Bass, leading to the most famous Bass line in Jazz. Paul Chambers work on this album is undoubtly some of his finest. However in “So What”, you could argue that the inspirations for modern electric Bass Guitar playing were laid down. If you listen to any Motown record, especially any that involved the legendary James Jamerson, you will hear the significance of Chambers on their playing style.

These may be guys that are relatively unfamiliar amongst regular music fans. However with Jamerson having played on more number ones than; The Beatles, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Elvis and Michael Jackson combined, you would be a fool to dismiss his affect on music and in turn, the affect that Chambers playing had on Jamerson.

The chord progression of this track contributes to it’s genius. Many music fans claim that Jazz can be very hard to listen to. not this record. Miles uses two chords throughout the piece, only changing to change key half a step up, then back down to the original key. It is as simple as it comes and I believe that allows non Jazzers to listen to this album and understand what Miles is saying. However, if you believe this album has been watered down to appeal to the masses then you are wrong. In my opinion, Miles wanted to put the trumpet on centre stage. This involved standards that allowed him to express himself on the instrument, deliberately playing Modal Jazz as opposed to Bebop to allow him to be able to successfully create this masterpiece.

All the more impressive is the competition that this album faced in rising to the cream of the crop. In 1959; Dave Brubeck’s “Time Out”, John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, Charles Mingus “Mingus Ah Hum and Ornette Coleman “The Shape Of Jazz To Come”, were all released. These albums along with Kind Of Blue are considered the five great Jazz albums of all time, with Kind Of Blue sitting pretty on top.

For the younger readers of this blog, it is important to stress the musicianship that went into making an album in 1959. All these songs were recorded with every musician in a room all playing at the same time. If you made a mistake, tough, it as on the record forever for everyone to hear. This makes the technical ability and raw talent that each of these albums posses so much more impressive than “Dragon Force” playing the C major scale at 280 BPM.

These Jazz men and women of the 1940’s-1960’s were simply the finest contemporary musicians that we have ever heard.

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