Every week, we tell you about a new album we think you should spend time with. This week’s album is Mile Davis' Kind of Blue.
All due apologies to all the albums that came out last Friday, and all due respect to albums that are coming out this Friday. Sure, there are some post-rock titans with albums out (Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky). Sure, I could go back a week to cover another OVO signee whose album is sure to underperform. I’m sure the Charles Bradley album totally slaps. I could have done an experiment where I listen to the Deftones for the first time in my life. But sometimes the album of the week is an album that is 57 years old, and one that I only really listened to for the first time four days ago.
I made two New Year’s Resolutions this year. One was #beachbod2k16. The other, was to #ListentoMoreJazz (peace to Barry Schwartz). For most of my life, I’ve considered jazz like a lot of people born after rock (and now hip-hop) became the defining music of youth culture: music for brunch, and music for travelling in elevators in fancy hotels. I know that that’s not true—I own a copy of Love Supreme I’ve listened to like six times, and I ride for Kamasi Washington and Bad Bad Not Good—but I haven’t really put in the work to understanding jazz like I have for basically every other musical genre I’m interested in. I own 12 Waylon Jennings records solely because I wanted to chart how Outlaw Country evolved, but I haven’t given Thelonious Monk a fair shake. I’ve listened to every Wu-Tang Clan solo album to definitively say which member is the worst (Masta Killa), but I can’t tell the musical difference between Miles Davis and the group of dudes playing at the Easter Buffet I went to last week.
So, like most resolutions, this one fell by the wayside. I didn’t really dive into listening to more jazz until last week, when I decided to buy at least one jazz record every time I go to the record store. I feel like if I physically buy the albums they’ll become more than just Spotify soundtrack to playing videogames or reading, or whatever. And then my folks came through with an Amazon gift card for Easter (shout out Carol and Wayne), so I blew that on buying three Miles Davis albums. Of the three I bought, the only one that knocked me out was Kind of Blue. And when I say “knocked me out” I mean that I have listened to only Kind of Blue for music the last four days. I’ve listened to the whole thing 20 times. I can’t think of listening to anything else.
So here’s where people who actually listen to jazz come in and tell me how basic I am for falling head over heels for the Miles album that is considered by many to be the best jazz album ever made. But I didn’t know that before I listened to Kind of Blue. All I know is that most jazz is easy to ignore, and this had me standing in front of my receiver, staring at the speakers, deep in my feelings. I thought about when I used to be lonely, and I felt sadder than I’ve felt listening to any other music.
With Kind of Blue, Jazz went from something I was forcing myself to listen to, to now being something I’m trying to chase the dragon of. I will spend a bunch of time this year listening to old jazz albums that I hope make me feel like Kind of Blue made me feel these last four days. I might not replicate that feeling, but I think we all as music fans are trying to replicate how the first rush of any genre, artist, or song made us feel. And now I’m doing that for real with jazz.
Andrew Winistorfer is Director of Music at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard and The Story of Willie Nelson. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
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