Kind Of Blue
by George Luke
I’ll probably lose a million music journo credibility points for the confession I’m about to make, but here goes anyway. Until recently, I’d never listened to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album in its entirety before. And I probably still wouldn’t have, were it not for Ed Richmond, Head of Greenbelt’s music group. Last week, Ed sent me an email asking if I’d write something about Gary Crosby’s Nu Troop, who are performing the entire album at this year’s Greenbelt.
Gary’s no stranger to Greenbelt; he last graced the Mainstage in 2005 as leader of the Jazz Jamaica All-Stars, who closed that year’s festival with a rocking Motown ska party (Jazz Jamaica also played Mainstage a few years prior to that). Some of the other musicians in Nu Troop’s lineup have also played Greenbelt before in other guises. One of the most memorable was Soweto Kinch (Nu Troop’s current saxophonist), who made his solo Mainstage debut in 2007. Who could forget him making up a rap on the spot with photographs members of the audience had sent him from their mobile phones?
Anyway, back to Kind of Blue. According to Herbie Hancock, “It’s a cornerstone record not only for jazz. It’s a cornerstone record for music.” The first thing I did after receiving Ed’s email was hop on to Spotify and listen to the original, which Miles recorded back in 1959. Within the first five minutes, I was kicking myself for not having picked up on it earlier.
I was genuinely moved by what I heard. It’s always intrigued me how jazz can be its most subversive the more laid back it sounds. Kind of Blue is smooth in a way so-called ‘smooth jazz’ can only dream of being. It’s radical; it exudes excellence, and it’s several other things I just can’t bring myself to write, for fear of coming out with the sort of pretentious stuff music journalists often spout (hmm, just lost me a million more points there). It makes perfect sense that so many jazz artists are queuing up to pay tribute to this legendary record on the 50th anniversary of its release (Gary’s Greenbelt gig is one of several tribute shows taking place around the world).
Sunday afternoon on the Mainstage will be more than just a gig; it’ll be one of the coolest 50th birthday parties you’ve ever been invited to. And you are invited – so be there.
George Luke is a journalist, broadcaster and member of the group of people who book the music for Greenbelt.