MEMOS FROM A MUSIC FIEND

BY ALEJANDRO MAGAÑA

Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" Cover

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue

Columbia, 1959

Comfort food for the ears.

If you like jazz, then you probably like this record. I don’t care how often I’ve played it in my life but this is one of those records that gets me every time. The sextet put together here is legendary: Miles, Trane, Cannonball, Bill Evans, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers with Wynton Kelly playing piano on one song that Evans wasn’t there to record.

This is what I think most people think of when they think of Jazz: Bluesy atmosphere, amazing solos radiating with feeling and emotion, Cobb’s drumming and Chambers’ double-bass creating a tidal, oceanic bed for all the players to float in and out on.

Grace, power, and some “bad motherfuckers,” Miles’d call them.

I’ve listened to this record intermittently for about two-thirds of my life now, in every city or town I’ve lived in, always returning to it eventually, even when weeks go by where I hardly throw on any records. When I need silence…

It might sound pretentious but it’s music that helps me to think, and for chris’sakes do I need it now! The world and this country of mine, America, my home, is as divided as I can ever remember; nobody listens to one another, we simply wait for our turn to speak when others are speaking; context means nothing; everybody wants simple fast answers for extremely complicated matters; everybody exists in a bubble online where they simply re-ify their beliefs and have their beliefs and personal codes approved of and echoed back at them without any dissent; there is a global pandemic that has been turned into a hot-button political issue; millions have finally had enough racial and social injustice and are attempting sweeping changes in order to shift the balance of power to something commensurate with the promises of the founding documents of these “United States.” Those afraid of the future, and the hope for inclusion that it brings, dig in their heels, and the youth say, ‘fuck you we’ve got receipts..’ and phones and cameras and laptops are the tools of the revolution that is less a political ploy than an inevitable natural uncomfortable fissure, evolutionary, a time that has come as assuredly as the weather changing, as the sun rises and sets.

This record withstands all that and perseveres. It is timeless and will still matter long after I’m gone or whoever chooses to read this is gone. By the time we arrive at the second song of side two, the final song of the album, “Flamenco Sketches,” which I’m fairly sure is based off a Bill Evans tune, a favorite of mine called “Peace Piece,” the feeling is elegiac, celebratory, like something great and definitive has come and passed, and we are left as witnesses, who will believe us? How can we ever convey the beauty of something monumental willed into existence simply out of the hope that the present is not all that there is, that we can turn the “dream deferred” into reality, that as we have always strived for something greater than the sum of our meager existence and we have come this far, what or who is there to say that the journey is over, that what is now needs to be forever, why not continue and let the story take a wild turn, produce beauty equal to the multitudes who have finally found a common voice but just need to learn to use it? Great art often makes the impossible seem possible. “Kind of Blue” is great art.

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