Friday, October 18, 2019

Kind of Blue

As we got started on the 100 greatest albums of all time (not a collection, rather 100 albums that are each the greatest album of all time) I found myself, if not exactly on the far fringes, at least traveling the edge of town. But as I did so I intimated that this was not by philosophy or design. I warned you that we would find ourselves in the very heart of town as well, where no surprise awaits anyone, and the heralding trumpets have worn out all the speakers.

Which leaves me...

kind of blue.

You can read a million things about Kind of Blue. It is minutely covered. It is religiously heralded. If you type in "What is the greatest jazz album ever" in your local search engine it comes up first. Yes, one can find top ten jazz lists that leave it out, but, it's a device. "Look at me." It says. "I left out the best Jazz album ever." And more power to them. Why waste space on something so obvious. One might be able to turn some neophyte on with Charles Mingus, or Cannonball Adderley, but Kind of Blue? Forget about it. It's already been taken care of.

And anyway, what are we supposed to say about perfection.

There are a million things written about Kind of Blue. You might as well read this one:

Kind of Blue is perfect. What do you do with perfection?

What if Jazz itself sets out and says "We shall strive for perfection, but perfection is unattainable. It is this journey to the impossible that makes us great. It is a pursuit of the unachievable that marks our endless quest and journey, giving us a quixotic beauty and ineffable purpose." What if Jazz says all that and then one day Miles Davis takes half a dozen legendary geniuses into a studio with barely any preparation and achieves the unachievable- perfection?

I guess jazz dies.

Not fast, no. Think of it like a mountain then. Things rise and fall towards the peak. New highs are reached. But then...

Kind of Blue.

Some ultimate top is reached. Perfection. Everest. It's all downhill from there. Oh a decade or so on and albums are still near this mighty height, even very near. There are other greatest albums. But it's all downhill. The shadow grows larger. Some ingredient in the great wind has been removed and slowly jazz begins to just... hold on, become a magnificent museum piece, like classical, maybe even like Rock N Roll. I'm not saying great things can't still happen. I'm not saying daring experimentation is done. But look around you. These are the foothills. We burn through everything now as a culture. The trees, the oil, the water, the gold, the cool air, jazz.

So yes, what do we do with perfection?

Listen to it.

Blue in Green


  1. Yes, I think also that Kind of Blue is (as was the case for me) the first jazz album that a lot of people listened to, that taught neophytes that jazz could be sublime, earthy, ethereal, deep river-ish. Probably the case for a lot of people who grew up listening to the varieties of rock and pop. It was like the book in Scholastic magazine that somehow you ordered by accident, maybe checked the wrong box, and a whole new genre and sound came with it. I have mixed metaphors, but that's kind of jazzy so I won't change my comment.

    Hey, I love your list. When I have some time, is it okay if I write about some of my own greatest albums of all time? In the comments section? I mean, there's one I just really want to write about. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    1. I'm glad you're enjoying it.

      You are always welcome to run wild in my comments section. I'm most very interested to hear.


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