One Finger Snapping
Browsing in a Tower Records about a dozen years ago, I heard a piece of music I knew but couldn't immediately place. It wasn't a ballad, exactly; the tempo wasn't slow so much as suspended. Over a two-note figure, repeated ad infinitum by bass and piano, a tenor saxophonist with a prayerful tone like John Coltrane's worried the notes of a scale as though they were beads on a rosary. There was a noticeable echo to the sound of his horn, and though it was clearly intended to lend his playing greater presence, it had the opposite effect of drawing the ear to the surrounding hush—even the drummer sounded contemplative, no more than hinting at a beat with wire brushes on his cymbals. My first guess was that this had to be something on ECM, a label that once advertised its releases as presenting "the most beautiful sound except for silence" and whose recording technique left so much space between instruments that you felt invited to make your own comparison. I almost smacked myself when it dawned on me that the saxophonist sounded so much like Coltrane because it was Coltrane. The piece was "Flamenço Sketches," from the best-selling jazz album of all time, Miles Davis's Kind of Blue— a recording I had prided myself on knowing note for note.
What fooled me was that echo, which is present on no other edition of the album. Its appearance on this, the first digitally remastered CD of Kind of Blue, was, I suppose, a bid to put a contemporary gloss on a classic from another era. Befitting an album that not only elicits a subjective