by Steve Pick
This is the second in a series of 50 weekly posts as Steve Pick, Euclid Records clerk, KDHX dj, and music writer, explores the finest albums from each year of his life.
The first jazz album I ever bought came out in 1959. That was Mingus Ah Um, by Charles Mingus, and when I discovered it in my 23rd year, I thought it was the cat's pajamas. This was dance music, near as I could figure, though some of the songs were clearly meant for slow dancing.
My next jazz purchase was Kind of Blue, and it's the one I have to choose to represent the year, a year chock full of great jazz and even a handful of terrific rock'n'roll albums. There is a reason this is the most famous jazz record ever made - it's not necessarily the finest, though it's certainly up there, but it's accessible at every level of musical interest.
The fast songs don't blow by you, the slow songs melt into your soul. You can listen at a superficial level, or you can dig deep into the relationships between the melodic improvisations of Miles, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, or Bill Evans (Wynton Kelley on "Freddie Freeloader") and the astounding rhythm section of Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones.
I've listened to it probably as much or more than any record I've ever known, and it constantly surprises me. The tunes are simple, direct, and catchy. The solos are wistful, brutal, sensual, and shiny. On CD, there's a second take of the gently mesmerizing "Flamenco Sketches," and "So What" is played at the speed it was recorded, rather than the incorrect speed at which it was released for three decades. You can now buy a Legacy edition, with brief snippets of alternate takes and a live concert by the same band. But, for the most part, it is the five stunning masterpieces which Miles and his cohorts created for the original LP which retain their clarity and delight now almost forty years after their release.