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Monday, March 23, 2009

Miles Davis

Kind of Blue: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

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The pop music of 50 years ago sounds so last century. For that matter, most jazz and art music from 1959 wears the patina of its time and place. Somehow, Kind of Blue sounds different. Everything on Miles Davis' 1959 album works as well today as back then. The thoughtful compositions are performed with irresistible coolness and insistently pulled along on arresting riffs. The playing was quietly stellar and the players were in synch. So much contemporary jazz is a dog-and-pony show of flashy soloists taking turns in the spotlight. The soloists on Kind of Blue got their turns all right, but their contributions seem to build on one another with perfect dynamism.

The 50th anniversary edition offers a handy way to own virtually everything recorded by the Kind of Blue combo, including the familiar session from 1958 resulting in "On Green Dolphin Street," a concert recording and two fistfuls of unreleased takes from the Kind of Blue session. The main attraction, however, is the classic contents of that 1959 LP, which some have tracked as the best-selling jazz album ever.

Many reasons have been offered for Kind of Blue's impact. The music made no compromises, yet was as smooth and agreeable as a well-shaken cocktail. The interracial combo led by an assertive black man struck the right note as the civil rights movement rose. Much of it may have resulted from the unique chemistry of the band members, including such estimable artists as John Coltrane and Bill Evans. The musicians worked together so well, finding harmony in the quiet spaces between notes. Music is seldom timeless, but Kind of Blue comes close.


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