Listen-Along: Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

kindofblue

1) So What



Michael Frett: Pianos.

Tucker Phillips: I’m glad we’re listening to this at night. This’d be an odd 1PM LA.

MF: Hi there bass. What are you doing back there?

Matt Bertram: It’s brooding, Michael. But now, it’s cool as fuck.

TP: Don’t stare at it. This album is raining.

MB: God, that’s an awesome job by Jimmy Cobb on the drums. Creates the perfect ambiance. OH GOD THIS SOLO.

TP: MATT, I’M GONNA TRY TO KEEP UP. BUT DON’T LET ME BOG YOU DOWN.

MB: OKAY. That crash, that hit was actually a mistake by Jimmy Cobb.

TP: That’s a hell of a mistake right there. Like chocolate chip cookies.

MF: Man, that’s my favorite kind of mistake.

MB: Yeah, Miles told him to do “something” right before his solo. He meant to hit one of the toms, but he hit the crash instead.

TP: I’ve been there. Matt, you probably know this so I’m gonna ask you. Was this album from a single set of sessions? Or was this recorded by different groups?

MB: This was all recorded in two sessions. The first four songs off this album were recorded in not only one session, but one take.

TP: Jesus.

MB: “Flamenco Sketches,” the odd duck out, was recorded in only two takes. To quote Jimmy Cobb: “It must have been made in heaven.”

TP: Don’t worry “Flamenco Sketches,” it’s nothing to do with you. You’re still my fave. “So What” is all about its intro to me. Obviously the whole song is fantastic, but that intro is something even more special.

MB: How about that sax from Cannonball Adderly? Really knows how to wail some spirit into there.

MF: How does one go about writing this? I feel like it’s a framed jam session.

TP: I believe it is. As is most jazz? I’m in over my head here.

MB: It’s completely improvised over a loosely-set melody by the bass.

TP: I was in marching band 🙁

MB: I wasn’t! 😀

TP: 🙁

MF: I didn’t music in high school. 🙁

MB: I did music in high school. 3rd chair cello. I was pretty good.

TP: “The Miles Davis of cello” they called you.

MB: Pretty much.

MF: Word on the street… is that you dabble in guitars, too…

TP: Your electric period was my favorite.

MB: Thank you, based Tucker.

TP: Also hey this song is fantastic though.

MB: That piano is giving me vibes I didn’t even know I had.

TP: Bill Evans is my spirit animal.

MF: Man, I just had a conversation about Bill Evans the other day. Friend’s friend came over, said he was getting way into jazz piano.

TP: Seems like as good a place as any to start.

MF: Said Bill Evans was the best white jazz pianist he could name.

TP: Take that, George Winston. You hack.

MB: It’s a great way to start. The way the drums take off the dress here is fantastic.

MF: I like this outro.

MB: Seduce her by the fireside, Cobb.

MF: Them light tappy taps. Them subtle groovy grooves.


2) Freddie Freeloader



MF: Freddie needs to get a job.

TP: God this is the coolest album.

MF: Should probably move out of the house.

TP: I’M WORKING ON IT, OK? I’VE GOT LEADS.

MF: NEEDS TO QUIT HIS FREELOADIN’, IS WHAT I’M TRYIN’ TO SAY.

MB: That sax and trumpet combo is made of pure dreams.

TP: I’VE PAID MY DUES.

MF: THEN WHO IS THIS FELLA AT THE DOOR SAYIN’ YOU OWE HIM MONEY?

MB: Really evokes the sort of “5:00 PM, walking home from work as the sun sets over the New York horizon.”

TP: I think jazz piano is the thing that keeps me tethered. It’s the element I always connect with.

MF: This is Bill Evans, right?

MB: No, “Freddie Freeloader” has Wynton Kelly on piano.

MF: Huh. What’s your take on Wynton Kelly, Matt?

MB: I think he’s great. Really plays a meaningful but light piano track on this song.

TP: Man, that trumpet though.

MB: OH GOD THE TRUMPET.

TP: Hard to argue.

MB: So simple, but it hits you every step.

MF: Where does he rank on the Mattlist of “Great Ass Jazz Pianists”?

MB: In the top 20.

TP: That’s more than I know total! I have much to learn.

MF: I know… um… Bill Evans… um… Herbie Hancock! Um…

TP: How’s Vince Guaraldi stack up?

MF: Wynton Kelly now!

MB: The bass line is basically the glue between Wynton Kelly’s macaroni and Jimmy Cobb’s paper.

TP: Man, I’d love to LA Time Out by Dave Brubeck.

MB: That’d be a great one to LA.

TP: Matt, since you mentioned the bass I’ve been noticing it a lot more than usual.

MB: Played by none other than Paul Chambers. Fantastic bassist.

TP: Dude can walk it.

MB: That Cannonball Adderly sax solo though. So uplifting, charismatic. What do you think of Kind of Blue so far, Michael?

TP: He’s still recovering.

MB: I would assume so. This album can really put you back in your seat.

TP: I have a hard time putting it on in the background. It demands attention.

MB: Fun fact: foobar2000 shows that this is my 675th time playing this album.

TP: We foobros.

MB: It doesn’t keep track of me playing it in my car or record player either. This album has consumed me.

TP: There is no Matt, only Blue.

MF: This is the classiest shade of cool I’ve heard.

MB: It’s literally the one movement in art that will never fail to keep my interest. So you like it then, Michael?

MF: I’m enjoying the crap out of it. But then again, I’ve never actually been opposed to jazz.

TP: It’s the albums you don’t not listen to.

MF: Always been a thing I liked but never dived into.

MB: Wait wait. Let’s just listen to this bass solo quick.

TP: Can do.

MB: You barely even notice it’s there, but it massages your eardrums.

MB: It’s like being seduced through music. Also, this outro. The piano gets lighter, the horns get tired, the drums wrap everything up.

MF: I think the outros have been my favorite part of this album.

MB: And the bass just melts.


3) Blue in Green



TP: Starting from here, all the songs are my favorite.

MB: Michael, you have no idea. How much you will love it. When the trumpet enters.

MF: NIGHT FALLS ON NEW YORK.

TP: That trumpet just had its HEART BROKEN. ITS SOUL.

MB: DEAR GOD IT’S A FUCKING ORGASM.

TP: The drums. Oh lord, the drums.

MB: EVERY GOD DAMN TIME I EVER HEAR THIS SONG MY BACK SHIVERS WHENEVER DAVIS’ TRUMPET KICKS IN. The drums are actually in this song.

TP: I know, they’re so just barely there.

MB: Jimmy Cobb is playing them VERY VERY lightly with brushes.

MF: THE LIGHTS OF A LATE NIGHT TAXI SHINE IN THE DISTANCE. ROARING PAST BEFORE FADING ONCE AGAIN INTO THE CITY’S ABYSS. A MAN SITS AT A COUNTER IN A BAR, WAVING OFF THE BARTENDER AS HE FINISHES HIS DRINK IN SILENCE. THE STREET LIGHT FLICKERS.

TP: SOMETHING ABOUT DAMES. Ok Matt, question. So you said the bass player kinda laid down the structure for the rest of the band to play off of. Did jazz bassists usually put out a lot of albums? Or were they usually part of a flashier instrument’s band? Obviously the trumpet/sax was more vocal.

MB: If anything, I would say bassists lead a wide spectrum of albums. Look at Charles Mingus, for example.

TP: Oh, sure.

MB: And you have Paul Chambers, Jaco Pastorious, Dave Holland, Michael Henderson, and so on.

MF: How does this album go about being a Miles Davis album? Is he leading the group?

MB: He is leading the group, yes.

MF: And, if so, how do you lead a jam session like this? Seems more of a natural kind of thing. Something that just happens when you bring a group of talented players together.

MB: He wrote every song, too. “Blue in Green” and “Flamenco Sketches” were co-written with Bill Evans.

MF: How do you write instrumental jazz like this, though?

MB: It’s like a sandwich.

TP: Mmmm. You have my attention.

MB: The most distinctive part of any sandwich is the bread. That’s where the composition lies. Whatever goes into it is purely up to the man making the sandwich.

MF: Bread is my favorite part of a sandwich.

TP: What a wry description.

MB: But you wouldn’t eat just bread, right? It wouldn’t be a sandwich then. You’ve gotta add some flavor and spice. Also, that outro.

TP: That outro indeed!

MF: As of now, “Blue in Green” is my favorite song on the album.

MB: Mine as well.

TP: I like the whole second half a ton.

MB: Before the song completely ends, Bill Evans plays this alluding chord, while Paul Chambers improvises and pulls out his bow instead of plucking the strings of his bass. Simply incredible.

TP: Is that what the hum at the end is?

MB: Yes.

MF: How does this fit into my sandwich, though?

MB: It’s the last bite.

TP: The most important bite of all.

MB: Is that what you were asking, Michael?

MF: I mean, kind of.

TP: KIND OF BLUE.

MF: Miles sets the frame and turns it to the band to fill in the sandwich?

MB: Exactly.

MF: COMMUNAL SANDWICH MAKING 101.

MB: The improv, the rhythm, the jive, all of that is inside the bread. Just waiting to be eaten. By your ears.


4) All Blues



MB: That piano right there is using something special: TWO HAND TRILLS.

MF: Who, might I ask, is on the keys this time around?

MB: Bill Evans.

TP: Bill “TWO HAND TRILLS” Evans. This song is so sexy. Knows how to saunter.

MF: BILL THE TRILL.

MB: The trumpet is so soft, yet it pierces.

TP: Oh man.

MB: And when the piano, bass, and drums stop with the usual verse, and the drums break down.

TP: That changeup kills me.

MB: With that trumpet solo from Davis. It transcends into a whole different realm of class.

MF: Mr. Drummer, you have my attention. Those snare taps are something else.

MB: You feel like it’s 2PM in a local Los Angeles bar.

TP: Not being able to see Miles live is something that will haunt me forever. Especially at this point in his career. Man.

MB: I think it’s a good thing actually.

MF: They only have kilometers signs where you come from? [Ed. note: Michael was cursed to a life of suffering and unhappiness from which there is no escape because of this comment]

MB: If I would have seen him live, he might have sucked. I don’t want to live in a world where Miles Davis sucks.

TP: You don’t have to! It’s a wonderful thing.

MF: Aren’t Miles live albums considered some of his best, though?

MB: It is. And Miles’ live albums are some of his best. I’m saying if he were alive NOW. He has the possibility of sucking. Like any artist does.

MF: I’m sure he would have kept things interesting. I mean, it’s Miles Davis we’re talking about here.

MB: But now that it’s impossible to see him live, I can rest easy knowing that I’ll never hear Miles Davis suck. Also, that Coltrane sax. Coltrane was a master at sax.

MF: So that’s Coltrane?

MB: That is.

MF: How large was Miles’ ensemble? I feel like he’s got big names dropping in left and right all over this thing.

MB: Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Jimmy Cobb, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, and Paul Chambers. Wynton Kelly on “Freddie Freeloader.”

TP: This song is incredible.

MB: You can tell Coltrane and Cannonball apart very easily, though.

TP: Coltrane’s a little more skronky, no? Or do I have that backwards?

MB: Coltrane is very dark, mysterious, and brooding. Cannonball is very uplifting, whimsical, and joyous.

TP: This is Cannonball now, right?

MB: Correct.

TP: This just feels like the perfect representation of this style to me. Very urban, very cool.

MB: That’s because it is.

TP: SCIENCE TELLS US IT IS SO.

MB: This is the epitome of modal jazz. Some would say it’s the epitome of jazz as a whole. I would say that.

TP: PEER REVIEWED LA.

MB: This album is the perfect jazz album.

TP: Oh gosh, piano solos. They go straight to my heart.

MB: Bill Evans really did a great job on this song.

MF: FAVORITE PIANO PLAYER, GO!

MB: Art Tatum.

TP: …Bill Evans :3

MB: Bill Evans is my #2. Rachmaninoff is 3rd.

MF: Right now, I’ll have to go with Bill Evans in the jazz department.

TP: I adore Dave Brubeck but not so much for his piano playing.

MB: Oh this groove right here. You can hear the fuzz coming off of Davis’ horn. He tried to play it as deep as he could. Everything just starts melting away. It’s wonderful.

TP: Side note: I bet we won’t ever LA an older album than this. OH MAN MILES. BRINGING IT BACK HOME. YOU THOUGHT IT WAS OVER.

MB: That trumpet outro just shoots me in the most comfortable way. Dat fadeout.


5) Flamenco Sketches



TP: I love this song.

MB: I do too. This song is very very calming.

TP: This is my favorite jazz song. I want to live in this song.

MB: It’s my 2nd favorite jazz song ever. Right behind “Kind of Blue.”

MF: Wait, since when was Tucker a conductor on the jazz hype train?

TP: I DABBLE. This song sold me on jazz though. When I was trying to get into it.

MB: This is the song you listen to with your feet on a footstool at 11PM right by a fireside, reading a book. Interesting thing about this song: there are only 5 chords throughout the whole song.

MF: I don’t think you’ve ever really talked about it.

TP: There’s not really anybody else on staff to talk about jazz with. Kinda sucks.

MB: YOU HAVE ME YOU DICK.

TP: If only we had a jazz guy. Somebody who liked jazz a lot.

MB: Also, that Coltrane solo. The way it develops into the second set of chords is magical. It’s like Christmas night, when it’s all winding down.

TP: Matt, thank you. Because that’s exactly how I feel about it. But I didn’t know if that was weird.

MB: That’s not weird at all. It’s not how either you or I feel about it. That’s simply what it is.

TP: Universal law.

MF: THE FIRST OBJECTIVE TRUTH OF MILES DAVIS.

MB: God, the sound on that sax is just universally commanding. Not really sure if that made sense, BUT! I mean every word of it. And now we have Cannonball.

TP: I’ll stand by it.

MF: This would’ve been a cool recording session to overlook. And by that, I mean look over. And by that, I mean watch.

TP: You lost me.

MF: THIS WOULD’VE BEEN FUN TO WATCH UNFOLD.

MB: Putting a reminiscently reflective solo over the ambient timbre of the piano, bass, and drums.

TP: Ambijazz.

MF: WATCHING HOW THESE GUYS LED INTO EACH OTHER’S SOLOS AND PLAYED OFF ONE ANOTHER.

MB: Supposedly, after the first session, it took the members a few days to remember everything in that session.

TP: God, the pressure in that room must’ve been unbearable.

MB: It was.

MF: Explain.

MB: You could hear a marshmallow drop on a carpet floor. It was just perfect.

TP: You don’t go into a room with Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and John Coltrane and make mistakes. YOU PLAY THE BEST JAZZ EVER OR YOU GO HOME.

MB: Everything was the right volume, everyone was on tempo. As I quoted earlier from Jimmy Cobb, “It must have been made in heaven.”

MF: Hey. So. Piano solos.

MB: Yes, piano solos indeed. The way it escalated right there, and how it descends to fall lightly on those chords, is ethereal.

MF: This was the song recorded in a separate session, right?

MB: Yes.

TP: Kinda feels like it.

MF: That have any discernible effect on the recording?

MB: Not to me, no.

MF: Same cast, right?

MB: Yes.

MF: *snaps finger* Cool.

TP: Outta sight.

MB: The way that piano leads out leaves a silence that cannot be described by words.

TP: Too true.

MF: Who was the drummer here? Man owned “subtle perfection” like no other.

MB: Jimmy Cobb. So it was amazing, jaja Scoops?

MF: I enjoyed it, man. YOU’VE SOLD ME ON YOUR MILES DAVIS LOVE.

MB: “11/11 best album I’ve ever heard in my life” – Michael “Scoops” Frett