The holidays have dawned upon us again and it seems as if the unveiling of them gets sooner and sooner each year. In a world that has seen one of its toughest and tragic years in 2015, the beauty of the holidays is more than a traditional, religious bent, but more about the communion of people and the act of humanity that seems to crawl from the cobwebs only during this time for some people. Regardless of the volume rate, whenever something can collectively bond people together with a sense of energy that runs placid and empathetic, there’s something to be said about the perennial emotion that gets reserved for this time of year. And of course with this year, comes the giving and receiving of gifts and good cheer. And as is my wont for the past few years now, I too have been rather perennial in my choices for key music items to bestow upon good friends and loved ones this time of year. So here’s some picks for this some of this years A-list offerings in music. As usual, this list goes to eleven.
Here’s the Holiday Geek Gift Guide 2015 for Music…
Today is the birthday of the late jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, who almost singlehandedly shaped, changed, influenced, and pioneered much of that genre with expansive and highly memorable musical works that were released (mainly on Columbia Records) during the mid-20th century.
Davis, born May 26, 1926, remains one of the great musicians of the jazz age and American music age. A true original in every sense of the term, Davis wasn’t the first to excel at the trumpet — Louis Armstrong paved the cobblestoned musical roads that hundreds and hundreds of trumpeters in his wake tread upon after him, and people like Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry also drafted the blueprints at the jazz architects table — but Davis took all that came before him and he molded and shaped it into a sound that stemmed from him and created scores of albums that challenged basic jazz tenets and set the world on its ear. He (like contemporaries Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and a slight few others) broke it through to the mainstream, and then once the mainstream listened, he socked it in its collective face with an absolutely dazzling array of sounds and musicians who played with him, churning out records at a breathless clip, all with a standard that ran as high as stars in the galaxy. His playing seemed to also rest on that level as well, he almost played hovering over the stage he tread upon, the music seemed to lift one out of the their physical being, it’s raw urgency and soulful complexity even was evident in the most heartfelt soft ballads he manifested, and it could be downright forcefully intimidating and ferocious when he played with the fervor and intensity when he stepped the jazz up a few notches.
Kind of Blue, the Miles Davis recording which is considered by many to be one of the 20th century’s most popular, innovative, and influential jazz records ever released, is now available on MP3 format from Amazon this month for only $5.
Jazz music sometimes seems like it is wholly improvisational for the most part to the casual listener, but the approaches Miles Davis employed on 1959’s Kind of Blue really explored those sonic tenets of the jazz idiom and language. Davis mapped out loose, skeletal frameworks, and basically gave them to the musicians, who turned out to be one of the most stellar back up bands in jazz history: Paul Chambers on bass, who in his short life was a highly rhythmically and original stand up player, whose punchy bass lines accented the other musicians; Jimmy Cobb on drums; the wonderful Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly on piano; and the saxophone tandem of Julian “Cannonball” Adderly and the spiritual, always sonically reaching sax master, John Coltrane. Davis, however, keeps a firm center throughout, his presence is felt even when he isn’t playing his instantly recognizable trebly trumpet. Bits and pieces of the album have been heard in countless other forms of medium, films, commercials, TV shows and consciously and unconsciously have been nicked by other musicians, and not only just in the jazz genre either. Songs like “All Blues,” “Blue in Green,” “So What,” and the others ring like a watercolor painting in a summer rain and grab one’s emotions and soul with full aplomb. Words can’t do it justice here, what lies here in its grooves tell the tale indeed. A true authentic American classic, Kind of Blue is the on-ramp to one’s discovery of all the world of jazz has to offer.
Browse all 100 albums on sale this month for only $5 each.
Jazz as a whole is still the most misunderstood and easily dismissed of any music in any genre. Most folks patiently let jazz zealots play their endless amounts of records for them (the jazz genre has multitudes upon multitudes of releases) and quickly denounce them as background soundtrack noise, jumbled notes, and arrangements better heard during shopping at convenience stores or waiting to be whisked up in elevators, than to give it the proper attention it deserves. For the most part, it’s one of the few musical genres that is decidedly rooted in American roots, and that’s not a statement of jingoism, simply pride. Jazz divides people like no other. Other than the rare popular jazz release or its usage in another forms of medium, (Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” Herbie Hancock’s electronic “Rockit” or hip hop artists that liberally sample jazz sounds for example) ultimately, it seems like either one likes jazz music or they don’t.
To cap, as Frank Zappa so eloquently and hilariously put it as only he could on his 1974 Roxy and Elsewhere album, “Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.”
As part of Amazon’s monthly $5 MP3 Album Deal for May 2012, there’s a great deal on three classic jazz albums in MP3 format right now for only $5 each, and all are encouraged to check them out before the sales ends.