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Last Song for Valentine Part 3-4: Blue in Green

Jakob Baekgaard By

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When Cory came home to his apartment, he could see lights shining in many of the windows. He felt good knowing that he was not the only one awake, and as he walked up the stairs, he heard people pacing, a baby crying and the sound of muffled voices. He could smell garlic and spices and remembered that he was still hungry.

Inside his apartment, he started cooking noodles with a broth from the deli around the corner. He added frozen vegetables, mushroom and chopped onions. He took a bowl with the noodle broth and sat down in his sofa with a cold beer. He liked the contrast between the hot soup and the chilly beer and immersed himself in the taste, feeling a welcoming warmth in his body. After finishing the meal, he wanted to hear a record before going to sleep.

He flipped through the many albums in his bookshelf. He liked to take them out and look at the covers. The dark saxophone shadow on a blue background. A cool man with a sixpence and sunglasses sitting in a cart. A clown with a big red nose and melancholy eyes. A smiling blue cat playing with a chandelier. Big letters with exclamation marks and abstract art. Beautiful people in sharp suits. Every record was a world waiting to be discovered.

There was one world he returned to again and again. An album that he couldn't finish playing. It would be a part of him until he died or lost the ability to remember. The cover was nice, but not spectacular. A man playing the trumpet with closed eyes and only the mouthpiece clearly visible. Dressed in a blue suit and elegant tie with an orange pattern. Black background. The title spelled with blue letters in the top of the corner. Kind of Blue. In the other corner, the name of the artist. Miles Davis.

This was his masterpiece. Above all his other great albums. When he thought about it, the cover made perfect sense. Miles seemed to disappear into the music with his eyes closed. Into a world that only existed on the record. Miles had talked about reconnecting himself with a feeling of walking down the dark Arkansas road with his cousin, listening to gospel, but when he got together with the group, it had become something else.

The group. What a group! The gentle touch of pianist Bill Evans. Paul Chambers whose bass was so calm and cool. Miles Davis with the flickering light of his trumpet. The hushed, swinging rhythms of drummer Jimmy Cobb, and then the saxophones. The preaching saxophones. Julian Cannonball Adderley, the funky prankster, talking hip with his horn and John Coltrane, silent, introvert, searching. The wonder of the horns taking color from one another. Darkness and light, joy and sorrow. Lifting lines at once so heavy and light, so sad and serene.

The piano at the beginning of "So What," like a bell tolling at midnight. Not the loud chime of bells in the morning, telling the world to wake up, but the soft song of the night watchman lulling the city into sleep. Then the bass walking, not fast or slow, just strolling with a beat, and the horns punctuating the riff. The smoke rising from the trumpet, the perfect splash on the cymbals.

"Freddie Freeloader" walking around the city searching for kicks. Swinging through the doors of the bars in the neon light. Coming home late at night. Bummed, broken and lonely. The strange waters of emotion, "Blue in Green," the endless shades of sadness and the green color of hope.

Cory closed his eyes and disappeared into the mood. It was music to live in. Music to inhabit. An emotional space that was much needed in jazz today. He remembered how he had bought an anniversary edition of Kind of Blue with a book filled with scholarly essays talking about the time, context and musical theory of the album, including the often-mentioned approach of modal jazz that had begun with Milestones.

Somehow all these words missed the most important aspect of the album. Its ability to create a coherent emotional statement that was blue in green and kind of blue. Not just blue, but also green. Not just blue, but kind of blue. Davis dipped into the rich reservoir of human emotions and came out with the night song of the soul, equally tender and desperate. Meditation in movement.

It was not just the ordinary blend of ballads, up-tempo pieces and medium grooves, but a way of conceiving the album as a whole, a stained-glass window where every part illuminated the work, describing the state of being kind of blue.

"I'm lonely Cory," Valentine had said, but her words had failed to communicate the state of her mind to him, her best friend. Here was Miles Davis, a total stranger, and he understood everything. In fact, he needed this language because it was not only Miles' language, but his language as well. Davis might have thought of the music as a response to his memory of walking down the Arkansas road, but that road had been split into many branches. First by the group and later by the listeners. The memory had become an image and the image a mirror.

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