Jazz of the Week: So What
This is some important sh*t.
Most people know Miles Davis as one of the few great jazz crooners to have survived the evolution of music that the latter half of the 20th Century brought along.
What most people don't know is that Miles is responsible for jazz as we know it today.
The 1959 release Kind of Blue, by Miles and his band, introduced the concept of modal jazz to the popular music scene. In lay terms, this meant that, instead of following a regimented chord progression that was typical of the bebop music of the time, jazz instrumentalists would string together layers of improvisation using musical modes that didn't rely on an underlying score.
This is a musical concept that would cement itself forever not only in future jazz music, but in music of all kinds.
The 1950's was an incredible time for jazz music. Alongside Davis's release, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and other greats of the time put out their own music, as well. The decade also saw many collaborative efforts between the era's biggest names.
The opening track to Kind of Blue, "So What," is signature in its very existence. The opening bass line and piano chords are instantly recognizable to any moderate fan of the genre. Then the A-section kicks in and it's all upwards from there.
Each instrument takes a turn, layering improvisation over the recording's simple foundation. Each take you hear was the first and only take by each artist; the mindset going in was "The first idea is the best idea."
So, next time you hear your favorite song on the radio, know that modal jazz had nothing to do with it because today's popular music is terrible.
But, perhaps thank the music that inspired it.