After now spending a little more time with Kind of Blue and reading up on it some (not Wikipedia, of course) the album has gained some depth for sure. It has definitely begun to more resemble what I understand to be Miles Davis than I had first imagined too. Slate.com has a pretty interesting discussion of the importance of the album, not just historically, but as an expression of what was to turn jazz inside out. Modal compositions basically freed jazz from chords and strict arpeggios and gave it over to melodic possibilities that really messed with peoples’ heads. I understand this as a musician but sort of take it for granted. I didn’t pick up an instrument of any kind until around 25 years after this album. Not being a big jazz head though has somewhat stunted my ear for picking this kind of thing apart. When I began thinking it over, Miles Davis and others abandoning bebop for the stratosphere really constituted a revolution in the genre. This brought up a revelation of sorts in the way I listened as well.
I had considered this record to be a little confusing after I first heard it. Again, Miles’ Charlie Parker years yielded some pretty frenetic compositions that, while complex, are somewhat limiting in their own way. Instead of just cool jazz, the laid back feel of Kind of Blue feels a lot more like space for these people to stretch out in rather than just mellow. The next recordings I know at all following this record are some of the sessions of Miles’ quintet of the mid to late sixties. I can now draw a much clearer line from Kind of Blue to that time period. It seems like less of a disjointed stylistic skip than a real progression. Miles was definitely finding his feet with these tracks to certain extent. It sounds stupid because most think of Kind of Blue as a pinnacle. Personally, it now seems to me to be Miles wrapping his head around a concept that would seem heretical to jazz musicians, i.e. junking chord structure. What he did later was just to bring it further and further toward abstraction. “Circle in the Round” is a pretty good example of this. It’s a quintet piece from the mid sixties or so that really showcases how this approach could be made almost limitlessly linear, the entire version is over 30 minutes long. This also represents what was previously the extent that I went backwards with Miles’ output with any real attention.
Kind of Blue is not too far from this, it just still seems rooted in old jazz by comparison. As much of a revolution as it was, I guess it took a little while for this form to really bear its own fruit.
My respect for the album is definitely growing.
Rating 4.5 of 5 maybe.