Monday, 9 March 2009

Miles Davis: A Different Kind of Blue

Last night I watched a documentary about Miles Davis entitled "A Different Kind Of Blue." The title comes from two sources. First, a portrait Joni Mitchell painted of Miles after his death. This is also a reference to a 1959 album entitled, "A Kind of Blue." The documentary included the 38 minute performance of Miles at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970. (What a gig that would have been! Artists included Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Leonard Cohen, The Who and Free.)

I never really 'got' Jazz. The closest I came to developing an interest was while watching a scene in the film Collateral. Tom Cruise goes into a Jazz club to kill the owner. While having a drink, Cruise's character talks about listening behind the music. There is an emphasis here on live jazz and an existential attitude of improvision. It works well for the film but I thought that it was overstated.

How wrong I was! Miles' performance at this festival was really something else. In a clip, Joe Satriani talks about listening to the music and how it awakens 'multi-dimensional consciousness.'

There is no centre to jazz. This is not to say that it is just random noise. Little themes are developed here and there, while other bits of music are picked up and worked on before being dropped. There is great freedom in this way of playing.

As far as Miles' performance, there is a hint of ecstasy, a freeing of boundaries and an expressive joy in the combination of melodies.

I once read that Jack Kerouac aimed at developing a jazz style when writing "On The Road." Again, there was no centre to that work, just re-ocurring themes in a spiritual quest of expressivity.

It now makes sense.

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