Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – Our A++++ Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Shootout Champion and Hall Of Fame pressing has TWO AMAZING SIDES. Side one was so mindblowingly good that we awarded it our extra-special Four Plus (A++++)rating, and side two was almost as good, earning our standard top grade of A+++! This is one of the very best copies we’ve ever heard, and we have literally played more than a HUNDRED copies of this album over just the last five years.

If you want to hear what a top pressing of Kind Of Blue can do on an audiophile system, this baby right here is your ticket to ride.

You get striking clarity, astonishing transparency, correct tonality, and startling immediacy on this KILLER side one! We dropped the needle on a ton of these this week, and we didn’t hear better sound for either side anywhere else. Scores of copies have been pressed over the years, but it’s not easy to find one that’s lively and dynamic yet still communicates the relaxed nature of this music.

When the band really starts cutting loose on So What, you’re going to lose your mind! The sound is open and spacious with a wonderful three-dimensional quality that gives each musician a defined space. You can easily tune in to one member and follow their contributions as the band stretches out.

We were armed with a big stack of copies, but nothing knocked us out like this side one did. It’s sweeter up top and more solid down low than anything else we played. The brass is lovely with lots of breath and the right amount of bite. The overall sound is lively and dynamic with the kind of presence that helps carries the music out of the speakers and throughout your listening to room. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling Kind Of Blue sound? You better believe it!

Side two is nearly as amazing. It’s big and present with amazing sound to the brass. You will not believe the energy, clarity and immediacy on this side. My notes read “WOW!” and I bet you’ll feel the same way. In fact, I guarantee it!

Hard To Beat!

In my opinion, the best sound for this album is found on standard domestic Red Label pressings from the ’70s. I’m fully aware of how outrageous a statement that may sound. But I’ve long known of amazing sounding Kind Of Blue reissues.

Having played scores of different pressings of this record over the years, I think I know this recording about as well as anyone. The tube mastered original Six Eye Stereo copies have wonderful, lush, sweet sound. I’ve heard many of them. The 360s from the ’60s often split the difference — less tubey magical, but cleaner and more correct. The Red Labels are all over the map, ranging from smeary and dull to out of this world. And this copy, my friends, is one of the good ones.

My point here is simply this: you can cut this record DIFFERENTLY, but I don’t think you can’t cut it any BETTER.

So what do you get on this copy? Zero distortion. Zero compression. 100% transparency. Amazing transients. The sense that you are hearing every instrument sound exactly the way it really does sound. No earlier pressing had the kind of high-resolution sound that more modern cutting equipment allows for. The clarity is simply stunning.

What About The Earlier Pressings?

If you cut it with tubes it will bring out some qualities not as evident on this pressing. But there will be drawbacks as well. It’s a matter of trade-offs. There is no copy that will satisfy everyone, just as there is no speaker or amplifier that will satisfy everyone.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love tubey colorations. I say so all over this site. But there is no way that the qualities of this record exist on those early, tubey cuttings. They simply didn’t have the technology. The technology they did have is wonderful in its own way. And this record is wonderful in its own, very different, way.

Unimpeachable Audiophile Credentials

We know we’re asking a lot of money for a record that any jazz record dealer would be embarrassed to charge more than $25 for. (Actually, these are starting to sell for $40+ pretty regularly on eBay and elsewhere. Apparently the word got out that these can sound incredible. Blame us!) But jazz record dealers don’t know anything about sound. They know about collectibility. They know about price guides. They know their market — jazz collectors — and I know mine: audiophiles. This record has unimpeachable audiophile credentials. It has the sound in the grooves like you have never heard before. And who else but your friends at Better Records are going to be able to tell you that?

Overall Sonic Grade:

Side One – A++++ 
Side Two – A+++

Vinyl Grade:

1) mostly Mint Minus (seven moderate ticks at the end of the side)
2) mostly Mint Minus (two pops at the edge)

Cover Grade: 8 out of 10

TRACK LISTING

Side One

So What 
Freddie Freeloader 
Blue in Green

Side Two

All Blues 
Flamenco Sketches

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Kind of Blue isn’t merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it’s an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album, a universally acknowledged standard of excellence. Why does Kind of Blue posses such a mystique? Perhaps because this music never flaunts its genius. It lures listeners in with the slow, luxurious bassline and gentle piano chords of “So What.” From that moment on, the record never really changes pace — each tune has a similar relaxed feel, as the music flows easily. Yet Kind of Blue is more than easy listening. It’s the pinnacle of modal jazz — tonality and solos build from the overall key, not chord changes, giving the music a subtly shifting quality. All of this doesn’t quite explain why seasoned jazz fans return to this record even after they’ve memorized every nuance. They return because this is an exceptional band — Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb — one of the greatest in history, playing at the peak of its power. As Evans said in the original liner notes for the record, the band did not play through any of these pieces prior to recording. Davis laid out the themes before the tape rolled, and then the band improvised. The end results were wondrous and still crackle with vitality. Kind of Blue works on many different levels. It can be played as background music, yet it amply rewards close listening. It is advanced music that is extraordinarily enjoyable. It may be a stretch to say that if you don’t like Kind of Blue, you don’t like jazz — but it’s hard to imagine it as anything other than a cornerstone of any jazz collection. 

Jazziz Rave Review

As the painter needs his framework of parchment, the improvising musical group needs its framework in time,” says Bill Evans in the liner notes to Kind of Blue. “Miles Davis presents here frameworks which are exquisite in their simplicity and yet contain all that is necessary to stimulate performance with a sure reference to the primary conception.” Amen. During the past 40 years, the performances Davis’ stimulated from Evans, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, and Wynton Kelly have become some of the most storied in jazz, and all of them – classics such as “Freddie the Freeloader,” “All Blues,” “Blue in Green,” and, of course, “So What” (featured) – are featured on the Columbia/Legacy reissue.

– JAZZIZ Magazine Copyright © 2000, Milor Entertainment, Inc.