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Kind of Blue

For months, I’ve wondered what music I’d want to listen to once the long election march toward the post-Bush era was finally over. The always-reliable Carrie Brownstein had some great pre-election suggestions in her Monitor Mix blog —the Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today,” Al Green’s version of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”—but like me, she found that on election night the only real answer was to make your own music. From NYC’s Union Square, she reported “magically becoming tolerant” of “the Bacchanalia I usually associate with drum circles, Hemp Fests and Renaissance Fairs.” Fresh off the plane from two days of voter protection work in Nevada, I had a similar moment, banging on an assortment of random percussion instruments with my three year-old son Matthew like a giddy hippie who’d staggered through one too many Dead tours asking for a miracle.

By the next morning, though, I knew exactly what I wanted to hear. On his unlikely path to the Presidency, Barack Obama kept his cool very much like vintage late fifties/ early sixties Miles Davis. Like Obama, the Miles who recorded Kind of Blue was hardly a radical; his subtle power was less iconoclastic than Ornette Coleman’s similarly timed Shape of Jazz to Come and less dramatic than the Giant Steps of his sideman John Coltrane. Yet Miles too was a forward thinker who nailed his moment in history. Sensing that hard bop’s routine of riffing had become a bridge to nowhere, he dispensed with straight chord progressions in favor of modes and shaped sounds that still seem almost as fresh as they did nearly half a century ago. After enduring a parade of hotheads, blowhards, dimwits, and trigger-happy supermodels, I’ll spend today celebrating the simple virtues of the “cool”—not in the snarky sense of “hipper than thou,” but as a credo standing for resilient grace and poise in the face of chaos.

As an occasional hothead, I can’t help wondering whether the cool President-Elect Obama who channels mid-period Miles also has a little Bitches’ Brew bubbling under the surface. Before I could even complete this thought, I discovered that someone has already done a mash-up of Obama’s speeches and electric Miles, notably “Feio” from the Bitches’ Brew sessions. There’s a new deal in town, and I can’t wait to listen.

Miles Davis, “So What” (featuring John Coltrane)

From → Diatribes

  1. shacker permalink

    Carrie is right on with “Time Has Come Today.” The track is relevant every day, but now more than ever.

    As for electorate map graphics, I prefer variants modified to reflect population distributions. Though the smeary, surreal results they render are perhaps better accompaniment to Pangaea than to Bitches Brew.

  2. shacker permalink

    LOL – Showing Miles (my 6yr old son) this video so he could see/hear music by his namesake, his first question was “Is that Obama playing trumpet?”

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