Richard Williams - The Blue Moment (4 stars)

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Richard Williams - The Blue Moment

It’s the only jazz album that legions of non-jazz fans possess. It helped define a cultural era and raked out a path for much of what followed. When Miles Davis marched his merry band into a converted Manhattan church in the spring of 1959, even the super-confident leader couldn’t have fully predicted that the relatively short recording session they were set to undertake would have such reverberations round the world. In Richard Williams’ easy-reading biography of a timeless classic, he notes that Kind of Blue emerged as almost an anti-jazz artefact, wilfully introspective and gloriously spacious when the genre to that point had been moulded by shiny happy people, albeit ones with a uniformly tough back-story.

As well as annotating the sessions that produced the album and dissecting the five tracks within, he careers forward to analyse the long-term impact of the moment fashioned by Davis and his Italian-suited long-term collaborator Gil Evans, seeing echoes of the music and its spirit in the whole ethos of everything from ECM records to Velvet Underground and through to Talking Heads. Pink Floyd’s keyboardist Richard Wright said that the chord progressions on the album influenced the structure of ‘Breathe’ on The Dark Side of the Moon, while rapper Q-Tip stated that ‘it’s like the Bible; you will have one in your house.’ Quincy Jones plays it every day: ‘it’s my orange juice.’ However you sample the album, it’s a must-have in any collection, and this book makes a fine accompaniment to a rebirth of the cool.

(Faber)

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