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Welcome to Issue No. 58

SATURDAY  /  JANUARY 08, 2022
 
The Greatest Jazz Album Ever Made

WORDS AND PHOTO BY DAVID J. REARDON

While I’m in no way an expert on jazz, I’ve been listening to the genre for over two decades, ever since my godfather gifted me “Kind of Blue”, Miles Davis’ infamous album, for my thirteenth birthday.  And, 23 years later, that album still stands as my favorite jazz album ever made, one of the greatest in the world as a Google search quickly proves.

Beginning with the rhythmically stirring masterpiece in “So What”, the entire album is like an ocean of sound, washing over you with something at once powerful but incredibly pleasing, containing melodic ebbs and flows that stir you deep in your core. And, unlike some jazz music that’s an acquired taste, falling in love with “Kind of Blue” is as easy as Sunday morning.

The opening notes of “So What” set the scene for greatness, starting with the softest hint of a tinkling piano interwoven with a rich thumping bass that’s then joined by the crisp tin of symbols as Coltrane and the saxophones enter… all setting up the sublime, cosmic crescendo that hits around the 1 minute 30 second mark when – as if from the gods – Miles’ trumpet comes in so sharp, so swift, so clear, and with so much swagger. Thinking about it now – listening to it now – gives me goosebumps.

The upbeat tempo in “So What” is offset by the moody, molasses-like sound of “Flamenco Sketches” with the slow, meandering escape of Miles’ trumpet lazily charting the course of the track like rich smoke wafting from a Robusto cigar on a sultry, humid night in Buenos Aires. The track reaches greatness when Davis’ trumpet is followed by Coltrane’s soulful tenor sax, taking the melody even lower, all but demanding the music wash over you in relaxation and reflection.

And then there’s “Blue in Green”: a beautiful juxtaposition of sounds both bright yet quiet at the same time.  A great friend of mine once described a scene in which a couple in a high-rise toast with champagne together on July 4th (America’s Independence Day) while this track plays softly on the turntable and fireworks burst in the distance.  To me, that scene will forever capture the magic that is this special song.

Years and years after countless plays, I still don’t know the background of the album nor the underlying meaning of the songs.  But what matters more to me is the way the music makes me feel which is to say alive in so many different ways – optimistic, reflective, impassioned, compassionate, free, capable, and a host of other emotions that, like a kaleidoscope, change based on my mood.

And while I’m certain the way this album makes me feel is different than the way it would make you feel, I’m equally certain that – if given the chance and listened to in the right way (perhaps after a long, fulfilling day in a dim room with a nightcap in hand) – it will stir you as well.
 
Living Standards

WORDS AND PHOTO BY GARY HARRISON

I seem to drink more and more Scotch and soda these days. Since young adulthood, there has been a part of me (for a long time considered wisdom) that reproaches the rest for wasting Scotch by diluting it with soda. Despite that voice, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to do so quite happily – my regular pour being one part Johnnie Walker Black Label, one part soda water, and then going the extra step towards the gallows of adding a large, cracked cube of ice as well.

Whilst I’m far from any illusions that this is the best Scotch available, and despite that tell-tale voice telling me that I could do better, any demons on my shoulder are quickly toppled however as I sit down, relax, and raise a full glass to my lips. The familiar scent comes first, closely followed by the barely perceptible fizz from the soda and the high notes of the ice rattling off each other and against the chilled glass itself.

There’s that initial burst of flavour piercing your tongue like the first bite of an Autumn plough, followed by the cold warmth of a hearth in Winter. Life seems to slow down as the ice melts, offering a mellow refill if I take too much time between each sip. When the glass is emptied of Scotch, any negative thoughts I may have had will have lost their edges like any ice that might remain. By then I will have put on some music; be engaged in friendly conversation, watching a film, or reading a book happily until bedtime.

If that unwanted voice returns at his loudest the following evening it is on those times whenever I open a new bottle. The crack of the seal on the bottle cap sounding out with a reproach that if I didn’t drink Johnnie Walker Black so often, perhaps I could drink Blue Label (or even grander perhaps), something that might banish any thoughts of soda as well. I think we all have similar thoughts inside of us, that well-known voice that tells us to drink less, but better. If you’ve heard him too, I’m here to tell you that I’ve come to realise that that guy is a flashy fraud and a phoney.
A youthful, modern malaise that is most commonly seen cutting his teeth in men’s magazines consumed by young impressionable adults. He’s often heard peddling a premium drink he’s sampled – probably without paying for the privilege. This time of year, he gets more print space than ever too. There’s something that sells magazines that tell us to aspire for something much more than we have; around new year we’re more susceptible to it as well. Despite what young men might report however, it’s not by seeking out extraordinary moments that we elevate our day-to-day lives.

The good life isn’t found in grand unsustainable flourishes. You don’t find a better life on holiday, sure you might have a great time and impress a few people along the way, but the life you come back is the same one that you left. If you want a good life you need to seek out the everyday things you take pleasure in already and just go about the very simple, day-to-day act of doing them as well and as often as you can.

Don’t believe me, that’s fine. But after a glass of cheap blended Scotch and soda, or whatever your own good value drink of choice is, both of us would be less inclined to disagree.

Enjoy Our New Playlist

MUSIC CURATED BY ANDRONIKKI
LISTEN ON SPOTIFY →
 
Shoe Contact Before Eye Contact

WORDS AND PHOTO BY CASPER LUNDMOSE

During the initial contact with a person, we probably all have our own personal checkpoints that we consciously or unconsciously run through. I read a quote: “I make shoe contact before eye contact” – and couldn’t help smiling, because this is exactly me; for me, it’s the shoes (and watch). I find the shoes being probably the most important piece in an outfit, but sadly I must admit, often also the piece that is the most neglected.

My father taught me the importance of caring for your shoes. I remember the first time he pulled me aside and dug out the box with his shoe-shining gear and guided me through the process. I remember asking him why, and his reply being something along the line with “a man should always appear in properly kept shoes”. Ever since I have often caught myself in “making shoe contact before eye contact”.

Many within the field of menswear preach that a dirty and/or poorly kept shoe can ruin an otherwise spotless outfit – and I agree. But another detail, and to me at least just as important, is taking care of your shoes, making them stay with you in your wardrobe year after year – a good investment. And as time goes by, your shoes will continue to evolve and develop your patina, your history.

To me there is something therapeutic about the process; I like to make sure that this is the task that needs to be done, and time is not an issue. I dig out the appliances that, like many other things in my various tool-boxes for various tasks, contain heirlooms in form of multiple brushes, cloths and even shoe polish and wax handed down from my Grandfather. I put on tunes from Sinatra, as I have done so many times in this case, swing by the home-bar in the corner and pour myself something brown (some drinks are just more appropriate than others at specific times), and I immerse myself in the task at hand, under the dimmed lights in my living room.

To me, this is a time of leisure – a father’s leisure hours, you could say…
 
An Ode to the iPod

WORDS AND PHOTO BY BRETT F. BRALEY-PALKO
 
Recently I was opening what I assumed was a box of Christmas decorations, but was really a memory box of sorts from my high school and university years. Here, a pendant from school; there, a ticket to an amusement park. I felt like an archeologist, digging up remnants of the Lost Civilization of the Aughts. And below the candy wrappers and movie ticket stubs laid the Rosetta Stone of this excavation: my iPod.

What better way to remember my teenage angst than by scrolling through the playlists I had so eagerly curated in my youth? I was transported back to car rides and first dates and drunken, debauched evenings. To feel the tiny chirps of the iPod’s clickwheel was to read a form of braille I’d forgotten I had mastered at one time.

Why did playlists mean so much to us then? The natural successor to mixtapes, the playlist played a major role in my courtships, friendships, and drinking rituals a decade ago. I would send song lists to crushes. Or, before a long car ride, I would have an entire aural moodboard queued up, ready to hit send whenever my friend put her seatbelt on. I seemed to have believed it was all a bit cinematic then, and I was creating the score to the movie of my own youth.

Now, I’m a bit more spoiled. I let the algorithms do all the hard work. Whatever is on Daily Mix 1 (the automatic playlist that’s a feature of Spotify) is what I’m listening to. No complaints. I hit shuffle and get on with my day.

But it wasn’t always so passive. There was a ritual to it all. The intentionality of those moments is gone, isn’t it, when we let our apps do the thinking for us? A bit of myself - whoever he was - went into those iPod playlists. The music was never good, but the memories most definitely were.

A Rosetta Stone? Is that what I called the iPod? Why, yes, I do stand by that sentiment. Because, otherwise, so much of the meaning in those playlists had been lost over the years.
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This month's Issue was brought to you by Alessandro Coltro, Casper Lundmose, Gary Harrison, Brett F. Braley-Palko, David J. Reardon and Andronikki Ximeri.

As always, I love hearing your thoughts, whatever they may be.
Drop me a line anytime!

Cheers,
Alessandro - Gents Cafe Founder
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