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October 12, 2008

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TheKid!

Mr. Myers, if that is your real name.... I just completed reading your article entitled "Kind of Blue Reloaded" and I wondered if I read this correctly or if I just stepped into the Matrix... As I read your article, several questions came to mind.
Before I get in to those, however, let me complement you on your website and blog. You are very Jazz informed and you've done many important interviews! I thought I was the only one out there still interested in Chris Connor. Moreover, you managed to get an interview with Sonny Rollins! That can be a feet in itself. You have cast a light on many all but forgotten Jazz artist and , by extension, given your fellow Jazz fans hope to perhaps see some of these perform again. For this I thank you.

Now back to Kind of Blue, I would like to address some of your suspicions 1 at a time.

First the Albums canonicity, if you will. You indicate in your article Miles is being less than truthful by claiming he wrote Kind of Blue in its entirety. To bolster this, you say Paul Chambers "lifted" his opening line from Oscar Pettiford's "Bohemia After Dark". Furthermore, you claim, if I listen to the "background horns" I'll hear what MILES was shooting for? Are you serious? Miles Davis was a self-possessed man and he played exactly what he wanted to play the way he wanted to play it on all albums. And borrowing a bass line here and there or coincidentally using a similar line does not justify your accusations which claim to musical plagiarism. DON'T YOU REALIZE THAT in Jazz lifting lines is one of the creative aspects of the medium? Not only do all the greats do it, all jazz artists do it. Do you go to live shows? Can you count the number of times you've heard "Take me Out to the Ball Game" lifted from Jack Norworth. Use of a "tag" in no way illegitimizes Miles as the writer.
Many artists borrow from 1 song to create another. James Brown comes to mind immediately.
Great jazz artists like Miles often don't write tunes, they sketch tunes. They are familiar with the styles of the artists they choose to work with and often leave the details of their solo's to them. Duke Ellington was also famous for this. Does this mean he did not write "A" train? :0).
Seriously, It is unfair to make these allegations and speculations when the artists involved are dead. Why would Miles and Evan's both lie about this. Miles was not vain in this manner. He was famous for sharing the limelight with others on albums, and this did not hurt the sales. Sketches of Spain come to mind immediately. According to what I read in your article Miles didn't write Kind of Blue Bill Evan's and Gill Evan's and Oscar Pettiford did. That's just ridiculous. So who is right? Miles or Jimmy Cobb. The actuality is they both are, THE NATURE OF HUMAN CREATIVITY IS COLLABORATION AND INFLUENCE (Hence the saying There is Nothing new Under the Sun). Apparently you are not a musician or artist or you would know that and you would also realize this - Miles Davis wrote Kind of Blue.
Kind of Muffled - This is the main reason why Kind of Blue has sonic issues -
You are apparently not aware that Columbia discovered that the side A of this legendary record had always been issued a quarter tone too sharp as a result of a faulty tape machine that was running slow at the sessions. Some of the reasons you site in your article probably also play a roll but the one I mention is the real issue. I thought everybody knew this by now.
Green in Blue - Look stop hate'n. Columbia was in business to make money not friends. They sold a ton of Kind of Blue records and thank goodness for this. I suspect you built in some controversy into your article to do the same, sell mags that is.
Look I can go on and on tearing down THE suppositions and premises in your article but I wont. I am just going to tell you a little story.
I at one time hated Jazz. HATED IT. My dad forced it on me and I wanted nothing to do with it. Then, in my 20's, I realized Chic's dug musicians. I met a young trumpet player (Kenneth Porter) and he started teaching me to blow. Very important, he would tell me, is who you listen to. He said listed to Clifford, Morgan, Gillespi and Armstrong (that's right Armstrong)... But start with Miles. So I did. I grabbed an Album from my dads collection and taped (remember those) it. Thank goodness it was Kind of Blue. I listened to it to learn it. The tune which first hooked me was All Blues. Eventually the entire album hooked me. I listened to it as I walked and worked. I grew to love it, from this album I spiraled out to other artists like Coltrane. Which led me to artists like Monk who in turn led me to appreciate Duke. So you see the great Power of KOB is ITS ABILITY TO BRING PEOPLE TO JAZZ.
It is often called an example of modal Jazz, it is not! It is an example of 1 mode and that "mode" is in every tune because it had 1 writer. Miles.
It is by no mistake great. It has brought more people to Jazz than any of it critics including, I'm afraid, even you. I know because I have turned so many people on to Jazz with this album. Including my children. My daughter Lauren listened to it while still in the womb. At 6 she could make sound come out of a trumpet. No easy feet. She can play piano, Cello, violin sing and perform "jazz dance". She started with KOB. That is why and how it is so influential. Each song has what all great Jazz has, a cool train like rhythm, a melody in blue, soul and a little bit of tragedy. I think you'll agree with me when I say only the black artists can combine these so successfully. Once again we are back to Miles.
The only other album I can think of that can rival it in the same ways is Time Out (Yes I realize the Irony of that statement) and maybe Giant Steps. The latter not being as well know, perhaps.
I think I've gone on long enough here, please I eagerly await your response and remember the next time you set out to discredit KOB, not only does the artist have a following: so does the album.

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  • Marc Myers writes frequently on music and the arts for the Wall Street Journal. He is author of "Why Jazz Happened" (University of California Press). In 2012, JazzWax was named the Jazz Journalists Association's "Blog of the Year."
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