Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Left Can’t Stop Lying About The Tea Party

August 28, 2019

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In the late summer of 2009, as the recession-ravaged economy bled half a million jobs a month, the country seemed to lose its mind,” The New York Times says, kicking off its tenth anniversary retrospective of the Tea Party movement. As you can imagine, the rest of the article continues in this vein, portraying conservatives who organized against Obamacare as a bunch of vulgar radicals.
Yet even this revisionism wasn’t enough for most contemporary leftists, who see everything through the prism of race.
“A fundamental flaw in this analysis is there is no mention of race and how much racism drove the Tea Party movement,” ABC’s Matthew Dowd claimed. “You can’t talk about the rage politics and leave out race.”
“This @jwpetersNYT retrospective on the Tea Party’s ‘summer of rage’ ten years ago makes not a single, solitary reference to race or racism,” Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith said. “Nor does it acknowledge the reality that a good deal of it involved opposing President Obama because he was black.”
“How do you write a 10 years later piece on the Tea Party and not mention – not once, not even in passing – the fact that it was essentially a hysterical grassroots tantrum about the fact that a black guy was president?” asked non-biased Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery, calling it journalistic “malpractice.”
In the first draft of this piece, I joked that The New York Times might add a line about Tea Party “racism” before the day was over to placate the Twitter mob. They did it before I could even publish. But it doesn’t change the fact that there’s no evidence that a “good deal”—or any substantial deal, for that matter—of the Tea Party’s popularity was propelled by racism.
The wealthy white leader of Congress at the time was just as unpopular among Tea Partiers as the black president. And, as we’ve seen, if Hillary Clinton had won the 2008 election, she would have generated no less anger among conservatives.
It was Barack Obama’s leftist rhetoric and unprecedented unilateralism—he had, after all, promised “fundamental change”—that ignited what amounts to a renewed Reaganism; a fusing of idealistic constitutionalism and economic libertarianism. (These days, there’s an excellent chance that progs see both those -isms as inherently racist, as well.)
Tea Party protesters not only felt like they were under assault from Democrats but that they had been abandoned by the GOP establishment. That is why so many primaried white Republicans. If you really wanted to hear them “rage,” you could always bring up the former Caucasian and Republican president, George W. Bush, who had “abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.”
As with any spontaneous political movement, some bad actors glommed onto protests. The New York Times article, for instance, informs us that “one demonstrator at a rally in Maryland hanged a member of Congress in effigy” and that a “popular bumper sticker was ‘Honk if I’m Paying Your Mortgage’” – as if we’re supposed to be offended by the latter.
Most accusations of Tea Party racism are based on John Lewis’s accusation—dutifully repeated by most of the media without any skepticism—that someone had called him ugly names and spit on him when he and Nancy Pelosi strolled through protesters in front of the Capitol. Although there were cameras everywhere that historic day, no one was ever able to find any evidence to back up his claim.
None of this stopped Frank Rich, then a New York Times columnist, from boring into the collective soul of the movement, accusing it of engaging in “small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht.” Joe Biden reportedly accused them of acting “like terrorists.” Tom Friedman referred to them as the “Hezbollah faction” of the GOP. It was, as one Democratic Party memo explained, “not really all about average citizens,” but an astroturf movement paid for by corporate lobbyists and populated by “neo-Nazis, militias, secessionists and racists.”
All of this rhetoric sounds very familiar.
Left-wing protesters, no matter how puerile, hateful, or bigoted, are typically depicted as righteous agents of change. Conservatives and libertarians, on the other hand, “rage.” The “summer of rage” typically refers to the riots that swept a number of American cities in 1967. The Tea Party protests never turned violent. There were no riots. No broken Starbucks windows. It was the most peaceful “rage” you’re ever going to see.
I reported on the first of numerous Tea Party protests on April 16, 2010. What I saw were some silly people, and many others who were idealistic neophytes peacefully organizing around founding principles. Most had very specific policy goals in mind. None of them were about race. Most of them supported free markets. Many of them were still quite mainstream.
A CBS/New York Times poll at time found that the average Tea Party activist was more educated than the average American, and their concerns mirrored the mainstream. Although a majority were more socially conservative than the average voter—particularly on abortion—8 in 10 of them wanted their burgeoning movement to focus on economic issues rather than social ones.
Hardly the anarchists depicted in the media, the poll found that a majority of Tea Partiers wanted to reduce the size of government rather than focus on cutting budget deficits or even lowering taxes. A majority, in fact, believed that Social Security and Medicare were worthy taxpayer burdens. Not even clamping down on illegal immigration, often the impetus for charges of racism these days, was a big topic among these activists.
The Tea Party had three main grievances: Obamacare, government spending, and “a feeling that their opinions are not represented in Washington.” The protests were fueled by Democrats’ unprecedented action on a health care policy. A decade later, the Tea Party’s suspicion that the health-care law was merely an incremental way to move towards more socialistic policies turned out to be correct, as most of the Democratic Party presidential field can attest.
The Tea Party, whether some of their champions later turned out to be hypocrites or not, didn’t want to change the Republican Party as much as they wanted to force conservative politicians to keep their promises. The movement initially backed a number of terrible candidates, but it learned.
In the end, the Tea Party successfully re-energized Republicans, who went on to win two wave elections and stifle Obama’s presidency for six years.  Whether the movement was a long-term failure, as the Times argues, is a debatable contention.
One things is true, though: the majority of Tea Partiers were white. You know what that means, right? And, as those of us who covered the Obama administration remember, no matter how historically detailed or ideologically anchored your position might be, the very act of opposing a black president was going to be depicted as act of bigotry.
This cheap and destructive rhetoric now dominates virtually every contemporary debate, most of which have absolutely nothing, even tangentially, to do with race. It’s a kind of rhetoric, in fact, that now retroactively dominates our debates, as well.
David Harsanyi is a Senior Editor at The Federalist. He is the author of First Freedom: A Ride Through America's Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today. Follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Myth of Ecocide

By Brendan O'Neill
August 27, 2019

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(Bruno Kelly/Reuters)

So now we know: the idea that the Amazon rainforest is burning on an unprecedented scale and that these fires will rob humanity of one of its key sources of oxygen is fake news. It is hard to think of any other global event this year that has been as awash with misinformation as the rainforest fires. We’ve been told these fires are a calamity, an act of ‘ecocide’; they’re proof of humanity’s contempt for the environment; they will blacken and possibly even destroy ‘the lungs of the world’, as the rainforests are referred to, given they produce 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen. It’s all untrue. We are being misled.
Everything – from the photos of fires being shared by heartbroken celebs to the wild claims about these fires harming the whole of humanity – is false. Some of the photos of the fires being tearfully shared on social media are 10 or 20 years old. Many are not pictures of the Amazon at all. Some are from south Brazil, others from India and Sweden. The idea that millions of glorious, oxygen-producing trees are been burnt to a cinder by evil humans is nonsense, too. To the extent that there has been an increase in fires in the Amazon – and this itself is a deceptive claim – many of this year’s new fires are of dry scrubland, where trees have already been felled.
It is untrue that the fires are historically huge or unprecedented. NASA says the Amazon fires are ‘slightly below average this year’. Many are pointing out that we are witnessing the highest number of fires in the Amazon for seven years. But as meteorologist Jesse Ferrellreports, prior to 2012 there were many years in which the Amazon had worse fires than this year’s: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010. As Ferrell says, there are always fires on Earth: ‘Thousands of fires are continually burning across the Earth every day of every year, and they always have.’ The idea that what is currently happening in the Amazon is shockingly unusual or apocalyptic or proof of man’s fascistic disdain for his environment is an entirely politicised interpretation of a perfectly normal event.
The claim that the Amazon rainforest is the ‘lungs of the world’, producing 20 per cent of the Earth’s oxygen, is also bunkum. It has been cited everywhere, by people who want us to believe that these fires will have a dire impact on all of humanity and perhaps on the very survival of our species. But as even the Guardian felt moved to report, ‘it is not clear where this figure originated’. Climate expert Michael Mann says ‘the true figure is likely to be no more than six per cent’. The Guardian also points out that the crops being planted in place of felled trees in the Amazon – by farmers who are talked about as pure evil by Western greens – will also produce oxygen, and ‘quite likely at higher levels’ than the trees they replace. So the ‘oxygen crisis’ is complete fantasy.
More broadly, it simply isn’t true that mankind is at war with forestland. As made clear by a substantial report in Nature, published last year, the world’s tree cover has increased over the past 35 years. In three decades, 2.24million square kilometres of trees – an area the size of Texas and Alaska combined – have been added to the world’s already existing tree-covered land. The study, involving satellite analysis of the Earth from 1982 to 2016, found that while there has been some tree loss in subtropical areas, this has been ‘outweighed by tree-cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions’. Part of this vast expansion is down to China’s historic tree-planting programme. The UN refers to it as mankind’s largest ‘tree-planting crusade’, in which China’s forest coverage has increased from 8.6 per cent in 1949 to 21 per cent in 2017. So much for the Chinese being evil polluters. All these new trees to have swarmed the Earth since 1982 will be producing oxygen, so the apocalyptic Western middle-classes can calm down about not being able to breathe.
In the words of Michael Shellenberger, one of the critical voices on the increasingly hysterical discussion of the rainforest fires, ‘Everything they say about the Amazon… is wrong’. Out-of-control fires, trees disappearing, oxygen in crisis, the climate being pushed to the edge – it is all wrong, all based in fear, not facts.
Perhaps the most destructive myth is that Brazilians and others are engaged in ‘ecocide’. This emotive word, cynically designed to invoke thoughts of the evil of genocide, is designed to demonise human activity that impacts on the environment. It is motored by an arrogant, intolerant view among Western greens in particular that says people in the developing world who do what we have already done – fell forests, clear land for agriculture, elevate human needs over a sanctified view of nature – are guilty of a crime and deserve to be punished.
There is a neo-colonial instinct behind this accusation. It is a slur wielded by privileged Westerners who have already benefited from industrial revolutions and decades of modernisation against emergent economic powerhouses who want to do likewise: Brazil, China, India. Worse, it sets these nations up for outside intervention. The G7 has already agreed to send resources to resolve the rainforest fires, and some Western greens are fantasising about armed forces – ‘green helmets’ – going around the world to save nature from the destructive activity of the developing world’s inhabitants. What an ugly, borderline imperialist notion. The global condescension of the modern environmentalist movement is captured perfectly in this suggestion that we should treat foreigners as criminals simply because they want what we already have.
Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast,The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The unbearable wokeness of Tarantino’s critics

by Andrew Doyle
August 27, 2019

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72nd Cannes Film Festival – Screening of the film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” in competition – Red Carpet Arrivals – Cannes, France, May 21, 2019. Director Quentin Tarantino and cast members Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie pose. Photo: Reuters
If anybody is still uncertain about the extent to which woke identity politics has corroded the arts, one need look no further than the mainstream critical response to Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I have argued elsewhere on spiked that good criticism is characterised by a balance of individuality and objectivity. Of course, we expect critics’ interpretations to be informed by their own temperaments and tastes. But we also need them to stop their ideological leanings from overwhelming their critical faculties.
I am always most attracted to work that divides audiences and reviewers, and I would be keen to read an intelligent critique of Tarantino’s latest tour de force. But for all my efforts, I have yet to find a single negative review that doesn’t favour tedious moralising over meaningful analysis. Richard Brody in the New Yorker complains that the film is ‘obscenely regressive’, ‘ridiculously white’, and ‘celebrates white-male stardom’. Matthew Rozsa in Salon dismisses it as ‘sexist historical revisionism’. Writing for the Observer, Wendy Ide mars an otherwise insightful review by expressing frustration at ‘the positioning of middle-aged white males as the real victims’.
Those critics who have become subsumed into the cult of wokeness can rarely lay claim to individuality in their analysis. The cumulative effect feels like the product of a hive mind, one that is less concerned with artistic merit than with matters of diversity, inclusivity and representation. Just as the BBC rated Game of Thrones episodes based on the proportion of dialogue assigned to female characters, Time magazine published an article entitled ‘We Counted Every Line in Every Quentin Tarantino Film to See How Often Women Talk’. And yes, the exercise is as fatuous as it sounds.
Brody’s New Yorker review is particularly egregious. It’s a well-written piece that is rendered incompetent by a myopic devotion toidentity politics. ‘It’s far more revealing about Tarantino than about Hollywood itself,’ Brody remarks. One would hope so, given that Tarantino is an auteur rather than documentary filmmaker. Needless to say, Brody’s criticism would be best levelled elsewhere. His review says far more about him than the movie it purports to assess.
One of Brody’s many bugbears is the representation of Bruce Lee, played by Mike Moh, who is humiliated in a scuffle with stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) on the set of The Green Hornet. Shannon Lee (Bruce Lee’s daughter) has described the portrayal as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘belittling’. Former basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbarconsiders it ‘somewhat racist’. Lee biographer Matthew Polly calls it ‘inaccurate’. In reality, the scene in question is a strong comedic set piece with an impressive performance from Moh, which also happens to serve an important function in the narrative. A screen idol like Bruce Lee hardly needs to be protected from caricature, and it is surely demeaning to his legacy to suggest otherwise.

As to the question of whether or not Cliff could have bested Lee in a fight, Tarantino has this to say: ‘If you ask me the question, “Who would win in a fight: Bruce Lee or Dracula?”, it’s the same question. It’s a fictional character. If I say Cliff can beat Bruce Lee up, he’s a fictional character so he could beat Bruce Lee up.’ Unlike his woke critics, Tarantino understands the difference between art and reality.
It’s not a distinction that troubles film critic Larushka Ivan-Zadeh. Writing for The Times, she attacks Tarantino’s ‘sadistically violent, casually racist and misogynistic fantasies, which, he insists, are just movies, not real life’. She identifies a number of supposedly offensive instances of violence against women in Tarantino’s back catalogue, which not only reveals her ongoing struggle with the concept of fiction, but also conveniently neglects the fact that his male characters tend to fare even worse.
The most ludicrous response to the film has come, perhaps predictably, from the Guardian. Indulging in the most spurious cod-psychoanalysis, Caspar Salmon claims that ‘Tarantino’s filmography reveals a director in search of increasingly gruesome settings to validate his revenge fantasies and confer legitimacy on his bloodthirst’. Again, the charge of misogyny is made on the grounds that Tarantino depicts ‘morally repellent’ violence against women. Identity politics has turned contemporary film critics into prissy, sermonising Mary Whitehouses, determined to see artists as moral educators for those poor, suggestible plebeians who might be exposed to dangerous work.
Much of the opprobrium in the press has centred around Tarantino’s depiction of Sharon Tate (played by the brilliant Margot Robbie). Tate was an actress and the wife of director Roman Polanski. Her murder at the hands of members of the Charles Manson ‘family’, along with her three houseguests and her unborn child, provides the backdrop to the fictional story of TV and film actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stuntman Cliff. Dalton lives on Cielo Drive in the Hollywood Hills, next door to Polanski and Tate’s residence where the murders took place on 8 August 1969. Many have since romanticised this date as marking the sunset of the ‘golden age’ of Hollywood, and there is little doubt that Tarantino’s affection for this era is the film’s driving force.
Sharon Tate was on the cusp of stardom when Tex Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel – acting on the instructions of their cult leader Manson – invaded her home and butchered the occupants. Tate had appeared in Polanski’s film The Fearless Vampire Killers(1967) and had been nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in Valley of the Dolls (1967). Young, talented and beautiful, she had all the makings of a screen icon. Her death looms large throughout Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Much like the audience in a Greek tragedy, we know what is coming. Tarantino allows us glimpses of her day-to-day life. She dances to Paul Revere records in her home, goes to a party at the Playboy Mansion, buys her husband a copy of Tess of the d’Urbervilles (another woman whose life is unjustly cut short). The inevitability of her murder adds potency to these snapshots. As Tarantino himself put it, ‘She has been defined by the tragedy of her ending. So I thought there was something special about just seeing her live life.’
So when New York Times reporter at the Cannes Film Festival asked Tarantino why Tate wasn’t assigned more dialogue in the film, he was right to point out the stupidity of the question. The moments when Tate is alone, and therefore unlikely to be speaking, are some of the most powerful in the film. In one key scene, we see Tate attend a screening of The Wrecking Crew (1968), in which she played a minor role. She spends much of the time enjoying the responses of the audience, who laugh along at her performance. Anyone in the creative arts will appreciate the harmless vanity of seeing one’s work appreciated by strangers. It is a simple conceit, made poignant by our knowledge of the future she was to be denied. Ivan-Zadeh dismisses the scene as mere ‘masturbatory fantasy’ because, like all critics with an intersectionalist bent, she is more interested is passing moral judgements on the filmmaker than assessing the merits of his work.
For those who understand that cinema is a quintessentially visual art, and who reject the idea that a character’s impact can be measured by a quick word-count, it is clear that Tarantino’s depiction of Tate is a gesture towards the iconic onscreen status that, in reality, was thwarted by her premature death. The effect is accentuated by her relative silence. We can admire her, catch brief moments of her life and speculate about her private thoughts, but there our relationship ends. So when the Guardian’s Caspar Salmon insists that Tarantino should have spent more time ‘fleshing out the character’, he is spectacularly missing the point. Icons cease to be icons once we know them too well.
The success of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood neither stands nor falls on its putative morality. But if the woke critics are right, and movies ought to be morally pure, there is certainly a case to be made in Tarantino’s favour. In his version of events, Sharon Tate lives on, while her would-be murderers are gruesomely dispatched. For all Salmon’s handwringing about how ‘it’s rancid to stage these killings as entertainment’, the sheer extremity of the violence in the final act pivots the film into laugh-out-loud absurdist territory. It’s a tradition that goes back at least as far as Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, whose excessive brutality is far funnier than many critics have been willing to admit. That the moralists have taken umbrage at a film that punishes the guilty shows the incoherence of their position. In Tarantino’s Hollywood, the golden age does not draw to a close with the screams of the innocent. Instead, Sharon Tate emerges victorious, and Charles Manson’s devotees are degraded to mere stooges of high farce. It’s surely no less than they deserve.
Andrew Doyle is a stand-up comedian and spiked columnist. His book Woke: A Guide to Social Justice (written by his alter-ego Titania McGrath) is available on Amazon.

The 60th Anniversary of 'Kind of Blue': Miles Davis' Masterpiece

August 26, 2019

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In an article published on Sunday, the British edition of GQ listed Miles Davis' Kind of Blue as the number one title on its list of "The 100 best jazz albums you need in your collection," and noted:
Miles’ soft, muted trumpet sound (dry as a martini) has become synonymous with “cool” jazz, and there is no better example of the genre, or of his art, than this album. Kind Of Blue is the best-selling recording in his catalogue and the best-selling classic jazz album ever. It regularly tops All Time Favourite lists, and had become a template for what a jazz record is meant to be. It is also perhaps the most influential jazz record ever released. Musically, it’s where modal jazz really hit paydirt, and where linear improvisation came to the fore (Davis playing Samuel Beckett to John Coltrane’s James Joyce), and its tunes have been covered by everyone from Larry Carlton to Ronny Jordan. Influence is far-reaching; “Breathe” from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon was based on a chord sequence from this album. From its vapoury piano-and-bass introduction to the full-flight sophistication of “Flamenco Sketches”, Kind Of Blue is the very personification of modern cool. And, according to Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, it is also something else far more important: “Sexual wallpaper”.
Heh, indeed, as Glenn Reynolds would say over at PJ Media's sister website,Instapundit. Earlier this month, the online music retailer Sweetwater looked back atKind of Blue on its 60th anniversary, and explored how that "modal jazz hit paydirt" in detail:

In 2002, during the very early days of the now moribund Blogcritics website, I reviewed music historian Ashley Kahn's then-recent book,  Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis MasterpieceSince that article is no longer online, here's a lightly-edited reprise:
Very, very few artists can be said to have changed the course of their medium even once. Miles Davis (1926-1991) changed the direction of jazz three times.

First with 1949's The Birth of the Cool, Davis, early in his career as a bandleader, slowed the frantic tempo of bebop down, and introduced the world to cool jazz. This would be the dominant form of jazz, especially as played by west coast musicians, for the next decade.

In 1969, Davis released Bitches Brew, a double album of what would eventually be described as jazz-rock fusion. Fusion, of course, would be the dominant form of jazz (for better or worse) for the next decade, and the players on Bitches Brew(which include John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, and Chick Corea) would be its chief proponents.

In between those two extremes, in 1959, Davis introduced modal jazz to the world. Modes are scales of musical notes, some of which date back thousands of years. The appeal of modes for jazz musicians was to get away from playing constant chord changes, which were felt to hamstring the soloist, and provide a sparse, less cluttered background for solos, providing maximum flexibility and expressiveness. In the hands of an amateur, who needs the chord changes to influence his selection of notes when soloing, the result is cliched scale after scale (this would become the curse of the jazz/rock fusion genre). But in the hands of master musicians such as Davis and his bands, the results were obvious: a new composition style instead of relying of old standards, a greater freedom of expression, and a unique new sound that would be jazz's dominant form for the next 30 years, and remains one of its most important elements. The album that introduced this sea change was, of course, 1960's Kind of Blue.

Along with John Coltrane's A Love Supreme and Giant StepsKind of Blue is one of those albums that even non-jazz fans own — they are definitive recordings from the 1960s. And yet, no album emerges in a vacuum. There's rarely a moment of divine inspiration behind an artwork — it's almost always a combination of talent and hard work, combined with an enormous amount of thought.

Kind of Blue is no exception. It was a logical progression in Davis' career, and in his ability to choose excellent sidemen. Davis had the core of a crack band at the time of Kind of Blue's two 1959 recording sessions, with Jimmy Cobb on drums, Paul Chambers on bass, and the dueling saxes of the avant-garde John Coltrane (soon to leave for a solo career that would rival Davis' in its stature and influence) and the more conventional, but playful technique of Cannonball Adderly.

Davis toured with pianist Wynton Kelly, who plays on Kind of Blue's bluesy "Freddie Freeloader," but a few months prior to the recording session Davis recruited Bill Evans, who was quietly earning a reputation as the pianist in jazz, with the chops to handle any material, and an innovator in his own right.

This was the group that walked in Columbia Record' 30th Street studios in Manhattan to record Kind of Blue. Ashley Kahn, in Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece covers this session, the events leading up to it, such as Davis' then rapidly rising stature, his 1955 signing to Columbia, which provided the budgets and studios to allow Davis to produce "concept albums," often with a small orchestra behind him, a decade before the Beatles made both concepts popular in rock music.

Kind of Blue would not exist in its current form but for Davis' astute hiring of Bill Evans. Kahn sketches Evans' career up to Kind of Blue, and briefly, but effectively covers the "Crow Jim" reverse racism that Evans occasionally received from black audiences when performing as the only white member of an otherwise black group.

(He also mentions the hilarious request of Davis before he allowed Evans into the band: "You got to make it with everybody, you know what I mean? You got to f**k the band." The straitlaced Evans stuttered in reply, "I'd like to please everyone...but I just can't do that". Davis's sardonic humor, and attempts to mess with the minds of his musicians would eventually become the stuff of legend among his band members.)

All of these anecdotes demonstrate Kahn's most important writing skill: the ability to describe, (in fairly short, and splendidly illustrated chapters) the history of the recording sessions, Davis's career, his  meteoric rise prior to Kind of Blue, and that album's impact on the jazz world as a whole, both in the 1960s, and today, as it sold an astonishing 5000 copies a week 40 years after its release.

Kahn's effortless style belays the intense research and reporting that makes it possible. To describe the actual recording session, Kahn uses a remarkable collection of skills that combine his simultaneous role as historian, detective, and musicologist. He assembles material gleaned from existing interviews with Davis and his band members and the album's producer, Irving Townsend, new interviews with Jimmy Cobb, the last surviving member of that session, photographs of the session (ironically, Cobb was never clearly photographed, since he spent most of the session behind his kit), and numerous quotes transcribed from the band's own comments recorded onto the studio session tapes. His best detective work is determining, with a fairly high degree of certitude, that Gil Evans (no relation to Bill Evans) wrote the introduction to the first track of the album, "So What," perhaps the most beautiful 30 seconds or so in all of jazz.

Kahn also describes the careers of Davis and his band members immediately after Kind of Blue, including Davis' epochal 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall, with his five-piece band, and the Gil Evans Orchestra backing him on one of the greatest live recordings in all of jazz.

Kind of Blue is an album that simultaneously evokes an era, while remaining timeless. Ashley Kahn does a masterful job of both explaining that era, and why Davis' music from it remains astonishingly popular today.

2019 Update: Enjoy Miles' best music (before he became entranced with jazz/rock fusion and '80s pop) while you can. It's only a matter of time before he's memory-holed by #metoo, as this 2013 article in the Onion's A/V Club section portends: “Miles Davis beat his wives and made beautiful music.”