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Music Review: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue

The jazz album that shaped popular culture

Music Review: Miles Davis’ <em>Kind of Blue</em>

What does one get when seven musical geniuses assemble and record an album at the wrong speed? You get a cornerstone of modern music: Kind of Blue.

In 1959, seven jazz giants gathered in a New York studio with only a philosophical jazz sketch in mind. Trumpet master Miles Davis captained the musical dream team, with Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly playing piano, Paul Chambers providing the bass lines, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. The soon-to-be deified John Coltrane provided a tenor sax thread which, for many, put the finishing strokes on this quadruple platinum masterpiece Kind of Blue. Yes, quadruple platinum — it’s one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time.

The brilliance of the album is enhanced by the backstory of just how it was concieved. Davis only came up with the concept hours before the recording session. The group sketched some musical modes, with no obvious chord progressions, and then took turns leading the melodies in directions that resulted in sheer brilliance. What’s even more interesting is the fact that the first three tracks “So What,” “Freddie Freeloader,” and “Blue in Green” were accidentally recorded slower than they were played, resulting in a slightly faster playback. This error was fixed in the 90s, but it sheds light on what an anomaly the album is: a freak occurrence that contributed to an enigmatic work of artistry.

When you relax with your favourite mood-altering substance — I’d suggest a glass of red paired with a clean hybrid — to Davis’ cool trumpet lines, Coltrane’s seraphic tenor solo, and Evans’ finesse on “Blue in Green,” you will simply melt into the music. 

Davis’ modal approach to composition is exercised in “Blue in Green,” where his trumpet and Evans’ piano sketch a string of ethereal scales and beautiful interpretations. No strict chord progressions here. 

While listening, I have never ceased to be amazed by the fact that these geniuses were not playing from sheets. The result is — all at once — visionary, smooth, sad, and historically influential. It’s why the album’s title fits so perfectly; the music is kind of “blue.” It evokes smoldering sensuality, foot-tapping to the R&B bass lines, overarching melancholy, and an unrestricted joy. How is that possible? Listen carefully and your soul will agree.

For both music aficionados and jazz lovers, this album is a prolific touch point. But the contemporary music lover often overlooks this timeless work of genius. Yet if one listens to traditional hip hop, rap, R&B, and rock, they are sure to be listening to an artist that on one level or another has been influenced by Kind of Blue. This album is a true masterpiece and has revolutionized music since the first sound of Paul Chambers’ eerie baseline partnered with Evans’ virtuoso that preluded Davis’ trumpet on the introductory and most popular track “So What.”  

Kind of Blue is touted as the greatest work of jazz, hands down. People of younger generations should never overlook the influence of this album. Don’t let the word “jazz” scare you. It is not elevator music; I’ll gladly pass on that cacophony style of “jazz” too. 

Kind of Blue is timeless and relevant. The list of artists that openly shout their gratitude for its influence is as long as it is varied. Mos Def, Blonde Redhead, John Mayer, David Banner, Miho Hatori, the Allman Brothers Band, and Quincy Jones all cite the album as a major influence on their musical journey. 

Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright notes that the chord progressions on Kind of Blue can be heard throughout the band’s greatest selling album, Dark Side of the Moon. John Legend religiously played   the album throughout college, and celebrates its incredible impact on his music. 

With Kanye West, a frequent collaborator with John Legend, Kind of Blue is “Bound 2” appear. Even as you watch your favourite films, don’t be surprised if Kind of Blue echoes throughout the score. Robert De Niro’s A Bronx Tale, Clint Eastwood’s In the Line of Fire, and even the television series The Wire all borrowed from Kind of Blue. 

Kind of Blue is as historic as it is sensational and timeless. It should not be overlooked by any generation that considers itself musically savvy. Listen to this album and it will open up a whole new language of music you may never have knowingly experienced. To immerse oneself in Kind of Blue is to be enlightened.  

Concert Review: MadeinTYO’s Sincerely, Tokyo tour

Small venue, big voice

Concert  Review: MadeinTYO’s <I>Sincerely, Tokyo</I> tour

After the release of the critically acclaimed album Sincerely, Tokyo, MadeinTYO hosted his tour of the same name and made a stop at Toronto’s very own Mod Club on February 25. 

The intimate venue in Little Italy proved to be an excellent choice, with the crowd in an utter trance for the entire show. The stage put the artist within arm’s reach of many fans as he jumped, screamed, and spoke in a mesmerizing melodic cadence. MadeinTYO matched the crowd’s high energy, perfectly fulfilling what a musician should set out to accomplish at a show.

MadeinTYO’s set began roughly 30 minutes late according to his set times, but this is a forgivable deed considering the numerous openers — Pilla B, Bankrol Hayden, and most impressively, Thutmose — who captivated the crowd’s attention. It was interesting to see the styles of the different openers in conjunction and the synergy within these acts. MadeinTYO made a good choice picking these artists to support his tour. 

The show carried a good mix of both smash hits for casual fans and fan favourites for his core following, adequately addressing the entire crowd at his show. For instance, MadeinTYO went from “I Want,” one of his biggest smash hits, to “Outstanding,” a distorted trap and bass-heavy record meant to cultivate mosh pits, to “Ned Flanders,” another smash hit with a notable feature from A$AP Ferg. 

After teasing a surprise Toronto guest for several days, fans were anxious to see who the young rapper would bring out. The chatter among fans camping in the line for several hours prior to the show — despite the recent wind storm — was largely centred around this topic. When the time finally came, and the lights dimmed halfway through MadeinTYO’s set, the crowd trembled in excitement. When OVO Sound’s Brampton-born R&B singer Roy Woods came out, it would be an understatement to say that fans were pleased. The crowd went wild, not giving security a chance to rest as numerous fans jumped on each others’ shoulders and rushed to the front of the stage to see the OVO crooner. 

Roy Woods, beginning his set with debut single “Get You Good” and following with his and MadeinTYO’s “Instinct,” exemplified the recurring theme of synergy that was present at this show. Something about the integration of Roy Woods into MadeinTYO’s set — the way their voices bounced off of each other in their joint ballad and the genuine friendship between them — made his appearance such an integral part of the show. MadeinTYO took the time to pause the show and speak about the bond that he and Roy Woods share. While Roy Woods did not steal the spotlight in any way, his presence brought something that definitely could not have been achieved otherwise. 

MadeinTYO’s fans don’t come to the self-proclaimed mumble rapper expecting dense and introspective lyricism — they come to have fun. MadeinTYO’s appearance at the Mod Club provided fans with this and more. This performance was intimate, had several great openers, appealed to both his casual and core fanbase, and brought out a special guest who completely changed the atmosphere of the night. Growing as a musician, it is inevitable that MadeinTYO’s next Toronto show will be at a larger venue. 

The intimate experience at this small venue was one to truly cherish. 

Music Review: Girlpool’s What Chaos Is Imaginary

What you should be listening to this week

Music Review: Girlpool’s <i>What Chaos Is Imaginary</i>

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

In an age of indie music defined by laid-back, reverb-soaked crooning, it’s easy to get lost in the deafening whirlwind of Mac Demarco and Rex Orange County wannabes. On their third album as Girlpool, Los Angeles natives Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad manage to cut through the noise, putting their own quirky spin on the indie rock sound.

Compared to the duo’s previous two albums, What Chaos Is Imaginary departs from their usual sound somewhat. The cute, jangly tunes that had defined the band up until this point have been replaced with heavier, noisier, and more experimental cuts. The album kicks off with the track “Lucy’s,” packed full of droning guitars, a punchy kick drum, and some deadpan vocal harmonies.

Tucker and Tividad share vocal duties equally across the album, playing off each other naturally. Another highlight on the album is the upbeat “Hire,” which combines some sticky guitar riffs with one of Tucker’s best performances on the album. However, perhaps the best song on the entire album is the brooding and experimental “Chemical Freeze.” The track mixes a sombre lead guitar and a glitchy electronic beat with ambient style sampling and hushed lyrics about a breakup to create a meditative masterpiece. Some other highlights in the second half of the album are the groovy and upbeat “Lucky Joke,” and the closing track “Roses,” an expansive shoegaze opus.

Overall, What Chaos Is Imaginary is a strong effort from two young artists who have potential in spades. The duo does a good job of delivering several dreamy guitar-focused tracks that are a pleasure to get lost in. What Chaos Is Imaginary primarily falls short in its length and its tendency toward uniformity. Songs like the title track and acoustic ballad “Hoax and the Shrine” could have been paired back or cut all together. For a somewhat lengthy album, What Chaos Is Imaginary sticks closely to its left-field indie rock aesthetic for most of its 45-minute runtime, making the last leg of the album a bit of a slog.