dissing a classic

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Over at PopMatters, Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn have a long-running feature called Counterbalance that examines discs from the rock-and-roll canon; for their latest outing, they venture into the jazz realm to take on the 1959 Miles Davis/John Coltrane classic Kind of Blue. Mendelsohn gets in the piece's best lines:

I think my copy of Kind of Blue is broken--no matter how loud I play it, this record still makes me want to take a nap. Am I doing something wrong? Should I try turning the volume up even higher? [...]

I have a healthy respect for the genre and the talents required to play it properly [but] I've never been able to hear it. I don't dislike it and I don't find it intimidating, but there is still a disconnect in my brain that is unable to push my appreciation for jazz into anything more than just that.

Likening Kind of Blue to the proverbial Bible in everyone's house, Mendelsohn then calls the disc "boring:"

It's well-respected, immediately identifiable, everyone has a copy, everyone says they love it, but no one ever really listens to it. It's on your shelf to make you look good and because you want to represent yourself as a pious music fan with wide-ranging tastes.

Klinger responds that "even if you're right that most people are only pretending to like Kind of Blue because it makes them look suave and sophisticated, that still doesn't detract from the brilliance of this album:"

Miles brought together some of the best players in the business, and their styles meshed together perfectly. Pianist Bill Evans' more impressionistic touch works surprisingly well with Coltrane's more aggressive approach. And through it all there's Miles, cool, never flashy, and always pursuing a vision that defies what's expected of him. Kind of Blue wasn't the first time Davis changed jazz, and it wasn't the last, but it provides a perfect entry point into this music. And even if only a percentage of people dig deeper as a result of Kind of Blue, I'm calling that a victory.

The piece dealt more with jazz as a whole than with Kind of Blue in particular, a flaw which I hope is remedied in their upcoming discussions of Coltrane's A Love Supreme and Davis' Bitches Brew.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on June 24, 2011 4:51 PM.

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