Ballads & Blues Album Review
Ballads & Blues is a compilation album that consists of many well-known musicians, however features Miles Davis in every song. Even though it was originally released in 1996, the dates for when these songs were originally recorded date back to as early as March 9th, 1950 to March 9th, 1958 and the record label is Blue Note. Stated in the title, you can expect to hear the jazz ballads, and blues when you listen to Ballads & Blues. I decided to go with an artist that I was familiar with, like Miles Davis. When I saw all the different musicians that were on the album, I figured this would help me a get feel for the genre, since I don’t listen to much jazz. This way I could hear Miles Davis at different times of his life and be able to observe the different musicians.
Since Ballads & Blues is a compilation, featuring over ten different musicians. Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, and Max Roach are the drummers, and Gil Coggins, Hank Jones, and Horace Silver are on the piano. Also, you have Percy Heath, Oscar Pettiford, Sam Jones, and Al McKibbon on the bass. Throughout Ballads & Blues, musicians such as J.J. Johnson, Cannonball Adderley, Jimmy Heath and others solo for one or two songs. The unique thing about jazz is that there is so much room for improvisation. Once you learn the basics, you can take if anywhere. These songs show just that, consisting of songs that are pretty much one solo after another.
One of my favorite songs on the album would have to be “One For Daddy-O”. When I first listened to it, I could tell that this was one of those finger-snapping, head bopping kinds of tunes. Art Blakey starts off the piece very soft and gentle, without any ride cymbal. After the introduction he keeps a steady swing beat, and is very consistent with his comps. The fact that he is so consistent makes for very noticeable changes, allowing you to hear the dynamics very clearly, and how he switches up his comps, and the slight changes in the way his sticking alters the sound of the swing beat on his ride cymbal. Also this eight-minute song includes Miles Davis on the trumpet, Cannonball Adderley on the alto saxophone, Hank Jones on the piano and Sam Jones on the bass. I noticed that in the entire song, Art Blakey had only one short fill and didn’t solo at all. Then again, drum solos rarely occurred on the entire album.
I’ve never been a fan of slow songs, but “It Never Entered My Mind” was another song that I enjoyed listening to. I particularly loved Horace Silver on the piano. In between Miles Davis’s pauses in his solos, Horace Silver plays notes in the rhythm “one and two” that compliment his solo so well. This is my favorite part in the entire piece. Also, Art Blakey kept it simple like he has in all his other songs. However a major difference in his style was that he wasn’t as consistent as he was in his other song. That isn’t a bad thing since he played very lightly, and the cymbal was very distinctive. As the song went along, he started to add more to his rhythm on the ride cymbal with extra hit, and added a couple snare hits towards the end. All in all, his variations complimented the soloists and his style of starting off simple and gradually adding more gave me something to look forward to.
Overall, I felt that this was a great arrangement of songs. I would give this album a 5 out of 5. I loved the way the album alternated between slow songs, and the upbeat songs. I enjoyed listening to the solos that seemed to tell a story, and couldn’t help but notice how they seemed to go a long so well. In all of these songs, the solos are very different, but seem to follow the same flow. This album isn’t one of Miles Davis’s masterpieces, however it’s mellow tone really allows you to unwind and get lost in the beautiful solos. I would recommend Ballads & Blues to anyone that is just starting to listen to jazz. It is perfect to help someone understand that way jazz works, and would help them get a general feel for the genre.