Friday, August 31, 2018

A Window Above: Blue Train

Piece: "Blue Train"
Writer: John Coltrane
Original Release: 1958
Album: Blue Train

While my era of choice for rock music hovers around the late 1960s/early '70s, the jazz I favor generally came out of the late 1950s.  Charlie Parker, the Beethoven-esque idol of nearly everyone who came after him, died in 1955.  The trouble with bebop, the style championed by Parker, was that it was so darn fast most people couldn't play it.  It was the jazz equivalent of break dancing: undeniably dazzling but unsustainable as a dominant cultural force due to the high degree of difficulty.  So jazz's evolution after his passing, while maintaining much of bop's harmonic thinking, slowed significantly in tempo.  Miles Davis was the lead voice of the new trend and playing with Miles was a sure path to stardom.  Without a doubt, the most important musician to pass through Miles Davis's band was saxophonist John Coltrane.

There's still a lot of Miles's sound in Blue Train.  Coltrane would develop his own voice more fully with Giant Steps, released in 1960.  Most jazz seems esoteric to 21st century ears but I have found the title track to be relatively accessible for my students.  The opening hook is strong, evoking a spy movie or some such.

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?


  1. Love Miles Davis - Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain (not sure I've remembered the title right though) are my favourites.

  2. I don't dislike jazz, but I've also never really gotten into it.

    1. I came to jazz relatively late in my life. I played in the jazz band in high school and studied it academically in college but never fell in love with it. The first year after college changed that and it started with Miles and Coltrane. These days, I listen all the time. My relationship with the music is still very different from the ones I have with rock, soul or even classical music but I do love it.

  3. I love jazz. The beginning of the song does totally sound like the music from a spy movie. :)

  4. I like old school jazz, this stuff, but some of the smooth jazz just doesn't do it for me. My mom loves it, but it either puts me to sleep or makes me anxious.

    1. I can't stomach smooth jazz. Why listen to that when you could listen to this?

      It's all Kenny G's fault, of course. What's frustrating is that he came up as a serious jazz musician, then crossed over to the dark side. While I certainly understand the economics of that decision, the sacrifice in artistic adventure seems a shame.