Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue   Leave a comment

Considered to be one of the Holy Trinity of Jazz (Armstrong & Ellington, since you asked), Davis had a pretty tough gig to continue inventing and innovating as a musician, in a music form that probably places a higher demand on inventiveness (in the form of improvisation) than any other.

Davis landed at Columbia (now Sony) records in 1955, with Kind of Blue being his sixth record for them. To rewind a bit, Davis dropped out of Juilliard, and started playing professionally at age 18. By 20, he’s recorded as a band leader. At 22, he helps invent Cool Jazz. By the time he’s cutting Kind of Blue, he’s 33 years of age, cut a few dozen LPs for three different labels, and kicked a heroin habit. What, exactly, is there left to do?

Go Modal. Bring in a mix of musicians that have great instincts. And get ready to improvise. Without going into some kind of track-by-track analysis, Kind of Blue is easy on the nerves, and a feast for the ears (more along that line later). If you are new to Jazz, Kind of Blue is The Jazz Record For People Who Don’t Like Jazz. If you are new to Davis’ music, this is the place to start.

While Kind of Blue is a perfect example of the Jazz form, it has taken Sony a few tries to get it right. Originally, the tapes for the first side ran a little fast. So, musicians in general, and trumpet players in particular who tried to play along with the record would get frustrated because while they could match the tempo, but they couldn’t figure out the pitch…

What follows is a very abbreviated history of digital releases.

The original CD release (tagged Jazz Masterpieces in the upper right-hand corner of the front cover) sounds like it was mastered for cassette playback, and does not have the speed correction for the first side. You don’t want that one.

Next is the Sony Mastersounds release. Using a gold disc and Super Bit Mapping helped sonically, and they did make the speed correction. Even so, it is sonically inferior to an LP release of the time, and way more expensive. You don’t want that one either.

In 1997, the original 3-track masters were used for the first time, and played back on the same kind of tape deck used to track the original sessions. This version is speed corrected, includes a bonus track (an alternate take of Flamenco Sketches), and is sonically superior to any previous CD release. The 1997 issue is dated as such, has a catalog number of CK64935, and a “matrix number” of DIDP089266 (found on the disc, near the spindle hole). This is the CD release you want. That said, please continue reading.

The next CD release was for the 50th Anniversary. The sound quality is a big step down from the 1997 release: Noticeable compression and plenty of distortion. I think Sony is now using the 50th Anniversary Edition master for the regular catalog issue. Sorry, I can’t remember what the year is on this release. In short, if you are going with a CD release, make sure it’s dated 1997 and you will be fine.

About the original Sony SACD release (I only listen to the two channel mix): It is considerably better sounding than the 1997 CD, and crushes all other CD releases into sonic dust. There are two other SACD releases I am aware of: A Japanese Stereo-only (speed-corrected, with the alternate Flamenco Sketches), and the MoFi hybrid disc (not sure about speed correction or multichannel. it does not have any extra tracks). I have not heard either of them, so, no comparison is offered.

If you are set up to do playback from a hard drive, the high-resolution downloads from HDtracks are not a bad way to go. While I think the Sony SACD sounds a little bit better than the stereo 24/192 release from HDtracks, the best sounding version of Kind of Blue I have ever heard is the HDtracks 24/192 transfer of the mono version. Your first listen to Kind of Blue in mono may have you thinking it sounds Kind of Flat. Part of what you are hearing is the absence of a number of phase problems, as you are no longer hearing Coltrane prominent in one channel, with Davis prominent in the other.


Posted 2017/07/26 by MG Nagy in Uncategorized

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