Stepping into Magic: an actor's journey…

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them" ~William Shakespeare

KIND OF BLUE: 57 years later & My Jazz SOLmate…

Just this afternoon a Facebook friend posted that the incredible Jazz Album “Kind of Blue,” by Miles Davis had been released on this day, August 17th 1959. This album is a huge part of the soundtrack of my life. I first heard it while in the womb, as my mother tells me. She had a lot of Jazz records (Billie Holiday, Wynton Marsalis, Chuck Mangione, Miles…) and I can remember really far back hearing the sounds of the trumpets, piano, bass… the voices… Jazz is my all time favorite genre. If I was stranded on a deserted beach, this is my album of choice. As I write this post I am tapping the keys to this recording…

kind of blue

Whenever I happen to catch a live Jazz group and there is a trumpet player I request my favorite track, #3: Blue in Green. I know it’s a tough request, and rarely is it possible to capture what Miles had laid down that day back in March of 1959. However,  I do remember a trumpet player in Long Beach who got the closest… Most Jazz groups jump at the chance to play track #1: So What or #2: Freddie Freeloader

I met my Jazz soulmate in the alley behind my downtown Albuquerque apartment back in the early 2000’s. He was a scrappy orange tomcat I rescued after his twin sister had died and animal control was about to take him away. He was a skinny little thing, scared with bright yellow eyes like the sun: I named him SOL. When ever I put on Jazz he would perk up and listen, but it was when I put on Miles Davis that he really dug it. He would meow along to Davis’ trumpet for as long as the song lasted. Coltrane’s sax and Montgomery’s guitar didn’t inspire him as much but sometime Billie’s voice could produce the same effect…

Only 4 short years after we found each other, Sol became extremely ill and I had to make the hard decision to put him to sleep. It was a late night in November, I called my dear friend Malika and asked if she could drive me and my gato to the vet. I was inconsolable, holding him in my arms, in his favorite towel and Malika said a blessing over me and my little family, which included Luna my other gato. (Malika later adopted Luna and they are still living happily together!) She asked if there was any music we should play while driving to the vet and I immediately grabbed my “Kind of Blue” album. We drove to the 24 hour pet hospital and were admitted into a small, dimly lit room. Every one was speaking in hushed voices, calming and reassuring. Sol was in my arms, relaxed as if he knew it was for the best. I held him close, talking to him, singing to him and petting his slender sick body… He slipped away peacefully, my tears wetting his orange fur… As we exited the vet’s office I glanced up at the muted television and low and behold a Miles Davis special was playing… As I watched the thin trumpeter in his iconic pose I knew Sol was telling me he was okay…

For the 50th anniversary of this album, in 2009, NPR released an interview on morning edition: Between Takes: The ‘Kind Of Blue’ Sessions. In this story you can hear Miles Davis talking with the artists to perfect a recording and learn more about the studio session that produced the masterpiece. Turns out Miles like to kiss the musicians on the ear!

The album was recorded in two sessions, the first on March 2 (Tracks 1-3) , 1959 and the second on April 22, 1959 (Tracks 4-5, an alternate track 6 was added later) The quintet included: tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb and, of course, trumpeter Miles Davis. In Bill Evan’s liner notes, Improvisation in Jazz by Bill Evans he addresses the improvisational element of the recording of this album: “Group improvisation is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking, there is the very human, even social need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result. This most difficult problem, I think, is beautifully met and solved on this recording.”

This album reminds me of a theatrical performance, the artists combining their individual skills to bring to life a story, a concept a complete work. It’s nothing short of magic…Just last year a 60 minute documentary was released about this album with various musicians talking about the profound impact of this work of art. It’s a great look into that influential time period in Jazz history and all of the elements that brought this record into our world: “Kind of Blue-Miles Davis Documentary”.

While living here in the Bay area I have been listening to KCSM 91.1 on my rental car radio. Jazz soothes and excites my soul, it speaks to something deep inside and continues to score my days as an artist. Just as we memorize lyrics to our favorite songs, quotes from our favorite movies, I have each note of this album memorized. Sometimes I tap out the piano, or scat the horns, or thump out the bass and drum solos. It is a perfect album from beginning to end, taking you through all the different qualities of emotion. During an acting exercise in grad school we were asked to bring in a song that captured our idea of love, mine was “Blue in Green.”

Happy Release day KIND OF BLUE, thank you for being my comfort soul food and a little slice of heaven on earth…

miles2miles3miles4milesdavis1

 

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One thought on “KIND OF BLUE: 57 years later & My Jazz SOLmate…

  1. My darling friend,
    Being your tour guide in New Orleans will be such an honor.
    Walking the streets of the birthplace of Jazz.
    The sights, the sounds, the aromas, the denizens….

    Much love to you,
    Lance

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