One of the most universally loved albums ever released, Kind of Blue is most likely the classic jazz album that people who only have one classic jazz album own. Or have at least heard.
And while it’s not my favorite Miles Davis album — we’ll get to that tomorrow! — I did go through a phase where I listened to Kind of Blue a lot, and while I don’t really have the musical chops to fully understand what modal jazz is all about, I could certainly appreciate the calm, unhurried brilliance of the music on this record.
It’s a cliche, of course, that rockers who dabble in J-A-Z-Z usually start (and often stop) with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and I was a absolute embodiment of that cliche. So was a period in the mid-80s where I bought a lot of Miles Davis & John Coltrane albums at thrift stores and — in the case of Kind of Blue, at least — Tower Records.
Famously recorded on two separate days with almost no rehearsal and the musicians often flying, Kind of Blue was a triumph of pure and utter seat-of-their-pants musicianship. Of course, when those musicians included Davis, Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans, it makes it easier to put everybody into a room and see what the hell happens.
And one of the things that happened was the bluesy “Freddy Freeloader,” a song that I often mistook for its predecessor, “So What,” thanks to the two-note horn motif that opened it. With successive solos by pianist Kelly, Davis, Coltrane and Adderly, “Freddy Freeloader” was just about perfect late-night music.
Which was often when I listened to it: my most vivid memories of “Freedy Freeloader” was how it jumped out after the calm of “So What” as my girlfriend at the time and I would put side one of Kind of Blue on as we were getting ready to go to sleep in that tiny loft apartment in Clovis that featured a couch bed with a bar in an inconvenient place and the all-night antics of two lease-breaking kittens.
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