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Kind of Blue wins the "best jazz album" contest almost by default.

While hardly anyone with a decent jazz collection would

call it their favourite jazz album (everyone seems to have a different favourite), almost everyone will agree that it is one of the best jazz albums. While only very few people can get really excited about it, there seems to be a universal agreement, even among non jazz aficionados, that it!s extremely good. "till, while hailed by many as a masterpiece, the typical first reaction of many listeners is an underwhelmed "so what", not because of the title of the first song, but because on a first listen, there seems to be nothing even remotely special about it. #his is perhaps because as far as jazz goes, Kind of Blue is both understated and not really all that representative. $t is a strangely subdued, low %ey album in a persistently slow or mid tempo. #he solos are deceptively simple throughout, no acrobatics whatsoever. #he pieces themselves offer only minimal variation, so little in fact that &uite a few people thin% that ""o What" and "'reddie 'reeloader" are really the same trac% rather than two different tunes. With the solos based on modes rather than scales, it!s an impressionist rather than expressionist album, one that creates a persistent mood rather than showing off in terms of virtuosity. $t ma%es sense that (avis pic%ed )ill *vans, one of the most impressionist pianists in jazz, for this date, and that it features +immy ,obb, one of the straightest drummers he ever had in his ensemble. +ohn ,oltrane was also in a "straight" mode- he had just shed his "sheets of sound" and had not yet ta%en his ".iant "teps" forward yet. ,annonball /dderley was... well, ,annonball /dderley, and 0aul ,hambers as reliable as ever. #ogether they recorded one of the most consistent albums in jazz, consistently good, but also not very varied. $t ta%es the album a while and a few listens to catch on1 it will probably never excite, but it creates an atmosphere of warmth, of familiarity, of expert low %ey craftsmanship. $t would be very wrong to judge 2iles (avis! wor% on the strength of this album because as far as his musical evolution goes, this is his most unrepresentative album, sounding li%e none of his earlier or later wor%s, and yet it!s good because it totally captures a certain mood consistently over 34 minutes, without a moment of slac%, which is remar%able for an album as slow and thoughtful as this. 5bvious highlights are ""o What" with its iconic, particularly atmospheric opening, so typical and recognizable that it has become the signature tune of the album1 "/ll )lues", a similarly uni&ue tune with a particularly brooding undercurrent, and the low %ey "'lamenco "%etches", which explores the modal changes to their fullest. #he 6778 remaster (,olumbia ,9 :37;<) provides a very crisp, clear sound. While there is very audible tape noise at the beginning of ""o What", the refusal to use (olby or =o=oise technology greatly enhances the overall sound of the performance, particularly the piano and the cymbals. #his version also corrects a problem with the master tape, restoring the first three trac%s to the correct speed and pitch. $t is definitely the version to go for

#his is simply the warmest and most li%eable album you are li%ely to ever hear. "o What is an absolute masterpiece, and $ still thin% it!s one of the most thrilling uses of modality $!ve ever heard. #he soloists on here have mastered the simple progression to the point where it sounds li%e the most natural thing in existence. $ could go on for days about the solos on this piece, but special mention needs to be made of 2iles, who plays the most understated, and note for note perfect solos in his entire career. *very musician should %now this solo by heart. ,annonball steals the show however. >is solo is as gorgeous as an impressionistic painting, and his impeccable phrasing and sense of melody transcends the simple framewor% he is wor%ing in. (,ompared to 2iles, who deliberately stays well within the framewor%) ,oltrane does his usual thing, but he!s merely awesome on this piece. /s he usually is. 'reddie 'reeloader is a much more straightforward )lues piece, but it!s a stunner, and you can really hear how much pianist Wynton 9elly is enjoying it, providing some excellent comping to all the soloists. /gain, ,annonball ma%es the most of the changes, with some phrases coming out in a growling sputter. )ill *vans is the star of )lue in .reen, and anchored by an authoritative bassline, he produces a devastatingly subtle sound, which 2iles and ,oltrane solo over in a whisper. #he album!s longest piece, /ll )lues, begins with a sublime tremolo on piano from *vans, and the rest of the players come in softly with one of my favourite melodies on the album. /s soon as the solos start, the song ta%es a turn for the groovy than%s to 0aul ,hamber!s excellent basslines. ,oltrane, ever the master of the :?@ time signature, lays out a very avant garde solo compared to the more traditional ,annonball, but it provides the perfect contrast for *vans to come in with his much more understated sound. >e too, pushes the song out to its limits, but the whole band brings it bac% again as if nothing out of the usual had occurred. 0erhaps the purest, most fully realized manifestation of 2iles! vision is the legendary closer, 'lamenco "%etches. )ased on *vans! "ome 5ther #ime ($n turn based on the single chord 0eace 0iece), the piece is so centred, so at peace with itself, that you cannot help but be affected. 0ure magic from every single performer. #he absurd popularity of this album, and the sheer amount of writing done on it (of the sort you have just read) can sometimes ta%e away from the fact that this is one of the most enjoyable records ever made. $t is great, significant, groundbrea%ing, all of that, but what $ want to to ta%e away from this is just how happy it will ma%e you feel.

$t!s important to realise that there is so much more to jazz than what is expressed here on this record, and that if you!ve dipped your toes into this and found it a bit too sparse or laid bac% there is still hope for you in finding your way in the genre. )ut don!t buy 9ind of )lue, hear it as bac%ground noise and dismiss it immediately. Aet it sin% in. Aet the solos

have time to weave their melodic magic into your ears. Feel the music these guys are playing. "witch this record on, pic% an instrument at a time and just hear every intricacy in what is played. What you are hearing is the absolute pinnacle of the genre in its most basic form. #here is none of #ony Williams forward leaning swing or *lvin +ones! thunderous, washy explosions in the drumming. #here are no spidery melodic runs of the variety exploited by ,ecil #aylor and *ric (olphy. #here are no post modern harmonic structures of the %ind Wayne "horter became so masterful at controlling. #here is only pure swing, pure groove, pure melody and pure atmosphere. $t!s an album that bro%e so much ground and changed jazz completely in a way that seems so effortless, and, %nowing the attitude and ultimate badassery of 2iles (avis, probably was. 5nce you understand just how awesome an achievement this thing actually is, and really start to wrap your ears around what!s going on within it, you!ll never regret listening to this unforgivably !boring! wor% of un&uestionable beauty. $ can!t recommend this album enough1 don!t waste another second of your life having not heard this masterpiece.