Monday, June 11, 2007

No. 12: Kind of Blue

Band: Miles Davis
Album: Kind of Blue
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Miles' masterpiece is one of the first truly modal records and is striking in its downtempo mastery.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: This brings up the question of where the list goes. Jazz is a strikingly different art form from rock and roll and the records that sandwich "Kind of Blue" ("The Sun Sessions" and "Velvet Underground & Nico") are nothing like it.
Best song: Pick it. I'll say "So What."
Worst song: They're all great. No worst songs.
Is it awesome?: Absolutely, but this list causes problems.

These type of records are hard to place. Don't get me wrong, "Kind of Blue" is considered by many to be the best jazz record ever. It's one of the 20 jazz records I actually own and that says a lot. It's clearly an amazing record.

But, one of the issues this list brings up is genre. Pop music spans a lot of genres (the big two right now being hip hop and rock and roll, with scores of subgenres), and to compare this record to "Revolver" or "Highway 61 Revisited" is comparing apples to oranges.

As well, Rolling Stone is a magazine born out of the late '60s hippy movement. This was a group of people who had little to do with jazz and now has little to do with current hip hop (outside of Enimen). Quite simply, Rolling Stone should write about rock and roll, not jazz, not hip hop. They don't know what they're talking about.

One final thing: Jazz was hugely important a while ago, but has become mostly a niche genre. I'm not saying that Miles Davis shouldn't get his due, but I'd venture to guess that if you asked a random sample of 100 music fans, 50 wouldn't know who Miles was. I'm not sure if that should matter; A lot of the music on this list isn't totally mainstream, but was important in one way or another. Popular doesn't mean "important" always. But, still. It's a jazz record. It's a great jazz record on par with any of the other 500 records on this list, but it's still a jazz record.

1 comment:

bob_vinyl said...

I actually think it's good that RS included things that are on the periphery of rock (and even outside the periphery), because it recognizes that rock doesn't stand alone. This isn't Miles Davis' best work, but probably his most accessible. For influence on rock (and influence by rock for that matter), I might have picked Bitches Brew instead. I like it less, but it is closer to rock.

As far as jazz goes, I might also consider Ornette Coleman's Shape of Jazz to Come or Free Jazz. The wild experimentation of those albums couldn't have been lost on the creative explosion of late 60s/early 70s rock music.