The Rewind Button is a group blogging project instigated by Rachel Tynan. As part of her New Years’ Resolutions for 2012, she set out to listen to Rolling Stone’s top 50 albums of all time. I thought it would be fun if a group of bloggers listened to the same albums at the same time, then posted their reactions. We’re going through the Top 40 and will be continuing with a new album every Thursday. Want to join in? We’d love to have you. Email me if you have a blog, or just offer up your two cents in my comments area below.
This week: Kind of Blue (1959)
In high school, I was a bit of a band nerd.
(No band camp, though. And I didn’t play flute so reserve the American Pie jokes.)
Without band, grades 6 – 12 would have been even worse than the standard “unbearable.” Band didn’t just provide musical education, it was a social experience. Sure, I resented the 7:15am start and the unparalleled static cling of the “Ballenas Band Sweater,” but much joy was had within the spitty-smelling band portable.
Concert Band was all about military marches and John Willams scores. Stage Band was the jazzier group. I participated in both, but Stage Band was far cooler. Because even within band there was a coolness scale. Ah, sweet high school.
In Stage Band, the songs were upbeat and challenging – sometimes even conjuring a euphoria that hardcore jocks could never comprehend.
The one thing I disliked more than the trumpeters emptying their spit valves onto the floor, however, was the solos. If you don’t know a lot about jazz, you may not realize that solos are basically musicians totally winging it based on a chord progression. And you can just imagine the dog’s breakfast that could emanate from a sax that was operated by a bumbling 15-year-old who was playing on the fly.
This brings us to Miles Davis.
This album is a professional version of that same concept. I know, I know – I’m comparing a legend to my high school jazz band. But what I’m talking about is the general idea of making up music on the spot.
The musicians who showed up to the Kind of Blue recording session had no idea what they were about to play. And – at the risk of sounding like an uncultured buffoon who should shut up and crawl back to her trailer – I can’t get into that.
In fact, let’s just be frank: I hate improvised music.
Sure, I respect the immense musical talent it takes to go from silence to song in seconds, but to my ears, improvisation is lacking the very heart of music: melody. When you’re meandering all over the place like Miles, there is no melody to cling to, no chance in hell of an earworm.
I am so much more fond of a song that someone has painstakingly written, tested and perfected. Would I rather read 300 pages of stream of consciousness or an edited novel? I feel like Miles Davis is saying: “here, listen to my draft.”
And that brings me to another, perhaps controversial, thought. I think people force the jazz because they think they should like it, much like a used maxi pad that is stuck to the wall of a gallery and branded “art” (I’ve actually witnessed this, unfortunately). Oooh. Aaah. I am so cultured now.
Academics can go ahead and call it one of the most influential albums of all time. For me, at best it’s background music for dinner.
Who else rewound Kind of Blue?