Kind of Blue is going to be a bit of a challenge. I have to write on five different songs and the album only has five songs total. At least I won’t waste any time choosing I suppose. In any case, track one is called “So What” and it is a definite exercise in linear composition. The first 30 or so seconds make it seem like you may be in for some really abstract noodling. Luckily the bass comes in and gives the track some order with a very simple line producing a call and response, first with the piano and then with the horns as well. This then makes you feel like you are maybe stuck with that theme for a while. Luckily it doesn’t get too drawn out, it only goes on for a minute or so. At this point everything loosens up and the soloing begins, each in turn, which I still find a little retro. It is 1959 though so retro is what it is. It strikes me that while the order drops out once the bass abandons that simple line and the rest of the instruments abandon their response, there is no real change in what the underlying structures are. That simple call and response could continue endlessly on top of everything and not be either rhythmically or tonally out of place. Thus you get the feeling of linearity without the boredom of it. At a little over two minutes left in the song the horns return to their response to the bass line earlier in the song. The bass however continues walking around in the background. Forty or so seconds later, the piano comes back in line and soon after the bass follows suit. The song then sort of lilts to a close. This really makes for a nice arc.
When dissected, the concept of modal composition really becomes glaring. I have always been loath to dissect music because it sometimes really ruins any special qualities a song may have. Sometimes removing the mystery of something takes away its best quality. It’s interesting that jazz is sometimes the opposite. I’m still not sure whether I like that concept or not.
One bit that is very interesting to me is that you catch John Coltrane using a distinct snippet of soloing that would crop up again in his solo work. At about 4:28 in “So What” you can hear a tiny bit that definitely prefigures a bit from “Resolution” off of A Love Supreme, that part begins at approximately 4:30, here it repeats and isn’t identical but was enough to aurally remind me that it was John Coltrane playing with Miles.
This track, probably a 4.5 out of 5