Sunday Night Unwind, 09.04.05


That, my friend, is jazz!
-Bill the Bassist, Florida State University, 1978

A double-shot tonight! Listening to arguably the best jazz album ever made, and reading a pretty definitive account of the making of that album. Author Ashley Kahn writes about his introduction to Kind of Blue

My own discovery of the music came in the mid-seventies, when a high-school buddy yanked a dog-eared album out of my father’s record collection and explained: “This is a classic.” Between the scratches and the pops (Dad must play this one a lot, I recall thinking) a stark, moody world unveiled itself. Though the sound was far simpler and sadder than any of the peppy, big band music I then thought of as jazz, it was somehow immediately familiar.

If you are already a fan of the album, perhaps a “first time” story of your own comes to mind. Or ask the friend who turned you on to Kind of Blue. Bring that memory with you to the world we’re about to enter. Use this book as a primer, a listening guide, a way to understand that there is even more to these forty minutes of great jazz performance than meets the ear. Allow this book to show you that occasionally that which is the least outspoken has the most to say.

Get the picture…September 1978, first floor, Broward Hall, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Getting to know the guys who made up our own “unofficial fraternity” in the fire-exit isolated section of the dorm.

Next door on one side, Chris, in a custodian-closet-turned-dorm-room. (I’m not really sure after all these years whether Chris actually was a student or a squatter.)

Next door on the other side, James (a math geek) and Mark (an early computer geek, who once sailed with Jimmy Buffett).

Across the hall, Vince (straight out of The Godfather!) and Non-Descript John.

And next door to Vince and John, Rick (pre-med, Mr. Florida contestant, owner of two snakes) and Bill the Bassist. Bill the Bassist, who laughed at my alleged cool sophistication because I “liked jazz.” Bill the Bassist, who good-naturedly mocked Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson. Bill the Bassist, who brought out exotic albums by people named Coltrane, Shepp, Monk, Gordon, Mingus, and of course, Miles.

When he brought Kind of Blue over and put it on my turntable, my idea of jazz and the trumpet changed forever. And that album, long since worn out, now replaced by a CD, already old the first time I heard it, still holds a kind of magic like no other.