DOUG & JEAN CARN / “Blue In Green”

Einstein’s theory (E=MCsquared) marks the beginning of modern science. The year 1959 marks the beginning of post-bop, modern jazz in terms of recordings. Read a previous BoL entry for the full 411.

In 1959 Miles Davis produced the best selling jazz record of all time, Kind Of Blue. The results of that session had profound and long lasting impact on world musical culture and not just on jazz.

In a move, some have derided as hubristic, if not outright crass commercialism, Columbia has issued an expensive 50th Anniversary Kind Of Blue that includes a DVD (a live performance of “So What” plus a making of Kind Of Blue documentary), plus all available recording material from the original session (mostly studio chatter as the majority of the tracks were one-takes) and a “blue vinyl” LP. Go here to read responses to the deluxe reissue.

This week we present the music of Kind Of Blue as interpreted by both vocalists and instrumentalists. We've done this once before but not as systematically as this go round. Only three of the ten tracks (Jon Hendricks, Doug & Jean Carn, and Eve Cornelious) are repeated from our September 30, 2007 posting, which was given over entirely to Kind Of Blue (original and covers).

There were five compositions on Kind Of Blue. All of them were instrumentals. None of them originally had lyrics. Indeed, I don’t think Miles ever gave any thought to adding lyrics to the songs—and yes, even though they were instrumentals, they truly were songs. Kind Of Blue is undoubtedly the most lyrical instrumental jazz album ever recorded and is particularly note worthy in that these were original compositions rather than instrumental versions of popular songs. These were songs that became popular without lyrics.

The lyricism is so obvious that over the years, lyrics have been added to each song. We start by recognizing that fact. Moving beyond the obvious lyricism, we also present five instrumentals, each with a distinctive flavor.

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1. "So What" – Eddie Jefferson – Body And Soul
Eddie Jefferson is one of the founders of vocalese, i.e. fitting lyrics to jazz solos. The backing band is Barry Harris – piano, James Moody – flute & tenor,  Dave Burns – trumpet, Billy Gene English – drums and Steve Davis – bass. Eddie is on the top of his game on this one.

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2. "So What" – Various Artists – Miles From India
Long story short: musicians in India were indelibly affected by Kind Of Blue. Yusuf Gandhi and Bob Belden came up with the idea of recording Indian musicians playing Miles' music. First the basic rhythm tracks were recorded in Mumbai, India, afterwards the American overlays were added in the United States.

Some of it works wonderfully, some of it tries to work…

Check out the rhythm complexity of this version of “So What.” The band is Louiz Banks: keyboards, Ron Carter: bass, Ndugu Chancler: drums, Chick Corea: piano, Selva Ganesh: khanjira /voice percussion, Sridhar Parthasarthy: mridangam/voice percussion, Taufiq Qureshi: world percussion/voice percussion.

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3. "Freddie Freeloader" – Jon Hendricks – Freddie Freeloader
Jon Hendricks is the other generally recognized founder of vocalese. Here he gathers an all-star vocal ensemble to take all the major solo parts of the song. BoL posted this before, here is the detailed write-up.

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4. "Freddie Freeloader" – String Trio of New York – Blues…?
An unusual jazz format of acoustic instruments: Regina Carter - violin, James Emery – guitar and John Lindberg - bass. It’s an atmospheric recital that invokes rather than connotes any particular feeling. An abstract audio painting.

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5. "Blue In Green" – Doug & Jean Carn – Spirit Of The New Land
I am so profoundly moved by this interpretation. Jean Carn is absolutely sublime in tone, texture, phrasing, and lyrical interpretation. This is from the seventies, the golden age of Black music. There is nothing to add, nothing more to say that your own ears won’t tell you when you listen.

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6. "Blue In Green" – World Saxophone Quartet – Selim Sivad
As always these guys deliver, big time. The overall project includes drummers and features Jack DeJohnette (who also plays piano and is a Miles alumnus). This particular incarnation of WSQ features John Purcell, Oliver Lake, David Murray and Hamiet Bluiett.

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7. "All Blues" – Kevin Mahogany – Double Rainbow
Mahogany’s first album is his most adventurous. The warm and reassuring presence of his voice is an enormous emotional embrace, as if to say, “I love you and will protect you from any and all harm.” The band is Kenny Barron – piano,
Ralph Moore – tenor sax,
Ray Drummond – bass, and
Lewis Nash – drums.

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8. "All Blues" – Mimi Fox – Standards
Guitarist and music educator Mimi Fox turns in a technically stunning display of guitar playing that is also replete with emotional outpourings as she softly hums along with her picking. She’s like a high wire, trapeze artist amusing herself by seeing if she can do different routines made up as she flips from wire to wire (and never once dropping the beat).

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9. "Flamenco Sketches" – Eve Cornelious & The Chip Crawford Group – I Feel Like Some Jazz Today
OMG, this is astounding. I’ve gushed over this particular track before, so I won’t embarrass myself by repeating my babblings, but if you just want to know how much I like this one, you can go here to read what I previously wrote.

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10. "Flamenco Sketches" – Joe Henderson – So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles)
“Joe Hen,” as this master saxophonist was known among the jazz cognoscenti, has produced the ultimate Miles Davis tribute album. With his tenor leading the way, and supported by a band of Miles alumni (guitarist John Scofield, bassist Dave Holland, and drummer Al Foster) there is a near mystical aura to this music. Every one of Joe’s solos is superb. His tonal control is superseded only by his sense of structure as he coolly blows intricate investigations of almost alarmingly direct emotional impact. Joe Henderson won two Grammys for this album.

The music is so relaxed and so relaxing; how can it simultaneously be so cool and easy sounding and yet so complex and erudite? Ah, this is the great mystery of all great jazz: how can one make up a masterpiece on the spot, just improvise it out of thin air, creating the road to nirvana as you grope through the mundane world, one beat, one note (occasionally several notes) at a time? How can they do it? What state of mind must one attain? Undoubtedly, you've got to be Kind Of Blue!

—Kalamu ya Salaam




This entry was posted on Monday, December 8th, 2008 at 1:05 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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