Saturday, January 31, 2009

Miles Davis
Kind of Blue 50th Anniversary -- Almost

I'm always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning... Every day I find something creative to do with my life.
Miles Davis (1926–1991), jazz musician

I woke up the other morning and I heard on National Public Radio (NPR) that it was 50 years [not exactly] since the making of Miles Davis landmark recording of Kind of Blue. I was shocked, not that I recall when it came out. Heck, I didn’t learn about it until I was years out of college, I am sure. But, the more you learn about the record and the recording session the more impressive it all becomes. The shocking aspect is that this CD is still as important as it was the day it was released.

For starters the musicians included Miles Davis on trumpet, John Coltran on tenor saxaphone, Cannonball Adderly on alto saxaphone, Wynton Kelley and Bill Evans on piano, Jimmy Cobb on drums, and Paul Chambers on bass, just about everyone in this sextet was a star in their own right, if not at that time, they eventually became big. Today, Jimmy Cobb, who is in his 80s is the lone surviving member of that CD. On The Mark and I were trading e-mails a few weeks ago about how great the CD “Somethin’” by Cannonball Adderly was and is.

Kind of Blue was recorded in two sessions at Columbia Records' 30th Street Studio in New York City, on March 2 for the tracks "So What", "Freddie Freeloader", and "Blue in Green", composing side one of the original LP, and April 22 for the tracks "Flamenco Sketches", "All Blues", making up side two. (source: Wikipedia)

Still acknowledged as the height of hip four decades after it was recorded, Kind of Blue is the premier album of its era, jazz or otherwise. Its vapory piano- and- bass introduction is universally recognized. Classical buffs and rage rockers alike praise its subtlety, simplicity and emotional depth. Copies of the album are passed to friends and given to lovers. The album has sold millions of copies around the world, making it the best-selling recording in Miles Davis’ catalog and the best-selling classic jazz album ever. Significantly, a large number of those copies were purchased in the past five years, and undoubtedly not just by old-timers replacing worn vinyl: Kind of Blue is self-perpetuating, continuing to cast its spell on a younger audience more accustomed to the loud-and-fast aesthetic of rock and rap. (source “Kind of Blue, the Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece” by Ashley Kahn)

"Kind of Blue" is known as modal jazz. In a modal jazz song, improvisations are based on individual scales or modes rather than on the overall key of a piece. The result is a song that contains fewer chord changes and allows more time and freedom for melodic improvisation. In essence, it's about a return to melody. (source:

This is a CD worth having in your collection. Once you have listened to it a few times, you’ll soon recognize it in restaurants, stores and in the movies.


Jack Steiner said...

It is an amazing album. I have spent many hours listening to it.

The Misanthrope said...

Jack, it truly is because the music covers so many moods. It is a great "State of Mind" CD.

hepcat geezer said...

August 17, 2009 marks exactly fifty years from the day Columbia Records released the Miles Davis album, "Kind of Blue". "So What?" one might ask. Well, there are many great albums from the Age of Vinyl, but "All Blues" are not the same. Some music has the horsepower to affect and alter it's listeners, to move them mentally and emotionally, and to transform them.
One afternoon on the sidelines of the soccer pitch, at least fifteen years ago, I was talking to the son of a friend of mine. Though this young fellow was in college at the time, I had known him since he was in grade school. Beside refereeing youth soccer games, he had been in a garage rock band since high school. "My Dad told me you listened to jazz a lot," he says, "but I don't know much about it. People say it's pretty deep. What should I listen to so I can get into it?" "Get a copy of the CD "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis," I told him. "It's easy to find. They probably have it at Wal-Mart. Drink two glasses of wine and sit in the dark with headphones on, at one o'clock in the morning. Listen to Miles talk on trumpet, Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, John Coltrane on tenor sax, and Bill Evans on piano. Do this three times. You will be turned on to the music."
I knew this because that's how I got hooked on jazz. (Well...I didn't have the wine.) The Columbia Record Club sent me a copy of the "Kind of Blue" album when I was thirteen years old. As I lay in bed listening to it in 1960, the music transported my mind from suburban New Jersey to a smokey jazz club in Greenwich Village, where I could hang out with Maynard G. Krebs, and talk to girls with blonde ponytails, wearing black turtleneck sweaters. From that point on, I began to construct an aura, a shell, of iconoclastic coolness, or so I imagined.
Anyway, about six months after my conversation with this young guy, I ran into his father, Claude, who tells me a tale of woe about how their oldest son is driving both his wife and him nuts. (I knew this to be a very short ride.) "That crazy kid," he told me, "changed his major at the University, from Business Administration to Music. He says he wants to become a jazz musician!" Shaking his head and rolling his eyes, Claude went on to ask, "Do they still have those?? I thought they were all dead by now!! Where does he get these crazy ideas???
What could I say? I didn't tell him. Two years later I heard Claude Jr. was playing bass on weekends in a piano trio, in a bar just off the expressway. It wasn't me, or what I had said to him. It was Miles. Like the Pied Piper in the fairy tale, his recorded sound (particularly in his golden period from 1955 to 1965) kidnaps the listener's ear. Looking back from a fifty year view, the "Kind of Blue" album remains a masterpiece of the twentieth century.

The Misanthrope said...

Hepcat, great story. Thanks for sharing it.