Ned Heckling The Band #2

Column two – how exciting! For those of you that actually enjoy this column and wish to continue reading (if such a person actually exists) there will be a new column posted each week, usually on the weekend or Monday. Also, if anybody has any suggestions on anything, whether it be an idea for a column, a CD you want reviewed or for me to shut the **** up, please feel free to contact me at

Right then, I’ve been thinking. Now, I should just point out that I rarely think before I speak or act. However, since I’m now a university student (laa-di-daa) and my clumsy and often whole-heartedly inappropriate behaviour is regrettably becoming slowly less popular, I’ve decided to engage my brain and begin to think things over. Unfortunately though, when I do think, for the most part the only results are either bad ideas or regrettable offences. This is why for this week’s column I’ve decided to write about an idea which an old teacher of mine discussed with me. This idea stems from the fact that he, like myself, is a jazz fan.

Once again, I must use this forum as a means of complaining about nobody liking jazz. Only moments ago I told my friend I had to go and write this, to which he replied, “dude, jazz is dead. It’s the 21st century.” Interesting. The 21st century has been one of massive technological development, with the media as we know it being almost completely overhauled. This development of technology has been no more influential than in the music industry. The other day whilst driving with a friend of mine, I noticed a Natalie Imbruglia cassette sitting in his centre console. After I regained my breath post-contagious-laughing fit I began to analyse the appearance of this cassette. The presence of some of Imbruglia’s finest work (ahem) in the car of a person who I rely heavily on for new music deserved thorough investigation alone. However, the presence of a cassette of a 1997 album shows just how far technology has come in recent years. Other than this person’s collection I don’t think I’ve seen a cassette tape all through high-school. What I’m trying to illustrate here is just how significant the technological change in the music industry has been. Think about it, a little over ten years ago music was still being widely distributed on cassette tapes. Nowadays though you can buy entire back-catalogues of almost any artist at the touch of a button on the internet. Within minutes your iPod will have gone from the ginger beer equivalent to a teaming glass of New. Pretty convenient, huh.

Now, getting back to my jazz-hating friend. The 21st century is an age where anything can be acquired at the simple touch of a button. This incredible convenience means that the 21st century has the capabilities of bringing jazz out of the abyss and into popular culture. That’s right, I just used ‘popular culture’ and ‘jazz’ in the same sentence. During the 80s and 90s as the now mainstream music culture began to take hold, jazz slowly capitulated into the back of our minds. The Seattle-based grunge movement, coupled with the world’s news obsession with pop music, stole the majority of jazz’s advertising and exposure. As a result of this, youths of that era were never exposed to jazz. This has resulted in an entire generation missing out on the beautiful subtle complexities of a jazz song. Nowadays though, thanks to the ability to buy music online, listen to streaming music or online radio, or illegally download music using torrents or peer-to-peer downloading software, there is ample access to all forms of music. Excellent! Now everybody can enjoy the scintillating tones of some of jazz’s finest soloists.

What should you listen to though? The amount of top-quality and easily-accessible jazz out there is simply mind-blowing. Names like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk and Herbie Hancock spring to mind almost immediately. However if you want the pinnacle of all jazz albums – the CD that is widely credited as the start of modern jazz – one simply must get their hands on Miles Davis’ album Kind Of Blue. Released on August 17, 1959, this album completely re-shaped the way jazz was viewed. As the jazz world was swimming in a sea of hard-bop, Davis and co. produced this album; a triumph of soft, delicate melodic jazz. When I think of jazz; when I sit back and really consider what I feel jazz is, I think of a dimly-lit nightclub with cigarette haze blanketing the patrons. Well-dressed couples sit at tables sipping on high-class drinks whilst a small band plays soothing, melodic jazz. If that is how you feel jazz should be, then Davis’ Kind Of Blue is certainly the album for you. I don’t want to sit here and tell you about the way Davis revolutionized jazz with this album. Sure, he developed the modern use of ‘modes’ in his composition and soloing, creating songs that sounded like constant melody, rather than defined solos over limiting chords. Yeah, the solo work of trumpeter and band leader Davis, saxophonists Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane and pianists Bill Evans defies belief as they literally set the bar for all future jazz musicians. And, of course, the rhythm section’s unison throughout these songs that seem to memorize the listener is second to none, the bass line in So What standing tall amongst the never-ending excellence. I could also sit here and rave on about the various accolades which it has recieved, including being voted no.12 on Rolling Stone’s list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” and having sold in excess of 4 million albums in the United States alone. However these aren’t important, because they are obvious. The most important thing about this album is the way in which it makes the listener – you – feel. Honestly, each song feels fairly similar, but they float by in a sea of melody, transporting the listener to a place where the only thing that matters is what is coming out of the stereo. Such is the quality of this CD that it is all the more impressive that in the linear notes of the album sleeve, Evans writes, “Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances.” Hollywood director James Cameron once said, “People call me a perfectionist, but I’m not. I’m a rightist. I do something until it’s right, and then I move on to the next thing.” This quote perfectly captures what Kind Of Blue is all about. Jazz itself cannot be perfect, because if it were then there would be no way of improving it. Kind Of Blue however, is exactly how Cameron described his work to be – it is right. This is how jazz is meant to be played. This is as close to perfection as jazz will ever be. Buy it. Buy it now.

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