Musings from the brothers………
A quick introduction: Olive was started about 12 years ago by Simon who, after training as a professional musician, ended up in the world of high-end hi-fi. Since then he has been helping others experience great music and video in their own homes through building Olive into a provider of Custom Installation products. Some 20 years after leaving The Royal College of Music he still loves music and it plays a key part of his life. But he also loves film and manages time (middle of the night) to watch 10 or so films a month. About four years ago Simon was joined by his brother Mark (the old one); Mark too had trained as a professional musician, but ended up for 30+ years in the world of financial services. Mark now devotes most of his time to Olive as well as sitting on the board of one of the leading London based orchestras. He doesn’t spend as much time watching movies, but does listen to a huge amount of music both live and recorded and from classical to jazz. So with their trained ears we thought it would be fun to ask them from time-to-time to write a few short pieces about what they have been listening to and watching.
We asked Mark to kick off:
The huge joy of the technological transformation we have enjoyed in the last 30 years is that today it is so easy to hear great music from whomever and whenever you want merely for the cost of a subscription to a streaming service and some good kit. You can also read about the music itself and the musicians with tremendous ease from academic journals to blogs and other social media. You could argue that this can sometime seem as if one is lost in a jungle without a map! Too much information everywhere I hear some cry. For me it has meant that my rather blinkered view of the classical canon has fortunately been opened up to all kinds of influences and my musical interests are so much broader than I could ever have imagined.
I remember for the first time hearing Miles Davis So what from the album Kind of Blue and being completely amazed. Why was it so good? I was hit by an immediate “wow factor”, but I needed to dig deeper to discover how this remarkable man and his band created such a timeless “masterpiece”. Like all such works whether from the hands of Bach or Brahms or the Beetles the musicians didn’t set out to write a ‘hit’, rather the alchemy of their creative skills and the musicians involved produced something very special for the rest of us to enjoy.
The stories that surround the recording of Kind of Blue tell how seemingly there was almost no rehearsal time and that Davis had only given the others very rough sketches of scales and melody on which to improvise. Unlike much of the music Davis had been writing Kind of Blue moves away from a strict chordal progression and is much more modal. Indeed So what is based on two modal themes the first is 16 bars long and the second 8. This free form gives the music its wandering or exploratory nature, really free improvisation and yet the regular bass line as well as the very simple and gentle piano chords underpin the track. It is wonderfully relaxed and thoughtful, all the tempi are on are slow paced and in So What you get the constant call and reply between the bass and the three horns. Magical.
Ironically Davis himself was to deride Kind of Blue late in his life in an interview with the Jazz pianist Ben Sidram in 1986 when he said:
“What I used to play with Bill Evans, all those different modes, and substitute chords, we had the energy then and we liked it. But I have no feel for it anymore—it's more like warmed-over turkey.”
Fortunately, for all of us music lovers we can take a different view and revel in the consummate creative and performing skills of Miles and his band.
You can find Kind of Blue on Spotify: