Friday Evening Jazz: Kind of Blue

KINDA blueA few months ago, Hale took an eclectic look at some of the lesser known works of Miles Davis. Tonite, I want to go in the opposite direction, and simply focus on one disc: Kind of Blue.

Why? Not only is Kind of Blue Davis’ best-selling album, it may very well be the best-selling jazz record of any artist, of all time. Even though it was released almost 50 years ago, it still sells over 5,000 copies per week today. In addition to its commercial success, it has come to be described by many Jazz critics as the greatest jazz album of all time.

Writing in AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted: “Kind of Blue isn’t merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it’s an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album, a universally acknowledged standard of excellence. Why does Kind of Blue posses such a mystique? Perhaps because this music never flaunts its genius. It lures listeners in with the slow, luxurious bassline and gentle piano chords of “So What.” From that moment on, the record never really changes pace — each tune has a similar relaxed feel, as the music flows easily. Yet Kind of Blue is more than easy listening. It’s the pinnacle of modal jazz — tonality and solos build from the overall key, not chord changes, giving the music a subtly shifting quality.”

The one jazz record to own even if you don’t listen to jazz — the band is extraordinary: John Coltrane,  Julian “Cannonball” Adderley on saxophones, Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. I recently received a remastered CD of kind the album, thus retiring my scratchy hiss and pop laden vinyl version.  (And another intelligent CD pricing: $7.47 at Amazon)

For those of you looking for some , check out NPR:  Kind of Blue (54 minutes)

videos after the jump . . .

Blue in Green

So What


Miles Davis: ‘Kind of Blue’

Kind of Blue

All Music Review: Kind of Blue
All Music

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Michael commented on Apr 11

    One of the few albums I’d call perfect. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Rob Dawg commented on Apr 11

    At the risk of being stoned, “Kind of Blue” is 5/6 very good but long songs.

    Give me twice as many half as long. “Miles Ahead” and “Plugged Nickel” are far more accessible and IMO don’t suffer from a lack of depth due to time. And let’s face it. Even Miles at his best for 10+ minutes is more effort than enjoyment.

  3. RW commented on Apr 11

    Even more amazing that this was followed by Sketches of Spain which was actually my first introduction to Davis and the possibility that jazz was accessible: Davis’s deceptively ‘easy’ style tricked me into listening more closely because close listening didn’t seem necessary and that (finally) allowed my ear to begin hearing what it hadn’t been hearing before; gifts like that are not forgotten.

  4. fish commented on Apr 11

    After your recommendation of JJ Grey and Mofro, which I bought and love. I’m taking your advice and will pick up this cd tomorrow.
    Love the Friday night music posts.

  5. Barry Ritholtz commented on Apr 11

    Glad you liked — that was a fun one.

    This one has a slightly different flavor . . .

  6. Mark commented on Apr 11

    You may already have it, but a nice companion piece to “Kind of Blue” is Cannonball Adderley’s “Somethin’ Else”.

    Similar feel and mood, and the most brilliant version of “Autumn Leaves” you’ll ever hear. Only down side? No Trane.

    You do a great job – keep up the good work and have a great weekend.

  7. Rick Schaut commented on Apr 11

    Ah, but you can’t talk about “Kind of Blue” without talking about the way it was recorded. No written pieces of music, just basic sketches. Other than “Flamenco Sketches,” each song is a first take and is the first time the group had played the songs straight through from beginning to end. (And, if you get the remastered version, the alternate take of “Flamenco Sketches” is the first time that one had been played through.)

    In short, this is improvisational jazz in its purest form; stripped bare and devoid of any pretense. It’s freedom of expression within a shared framework of rules about the boundaries within which that freedom of expression needed to play.

    And, what made all that work was the modal form. Not being constrained to playing within the harmonic structure of a few chords left room for wandering in ways that more traditional forms of jazz had not allowed.

    It was both evolutionary and revolutionary. For years, jazz musicians, led by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, had been pushing at the boundaries of chord-based harmonic structures, making effective use of things like the tritone substitution. “Kind of Blue,” broke through the boundaries of chord-based harmonic structure by disregarding the chords almost entirely; favoring, instead, a focus on the key signatures and the scales permitted by those key signatures.

    As with most brilliant works of art, “Kind of Blue” broke the rules, and, in the process, created a whole new set of rules for making jazz.

  8. Wayne Sarchett commented on Apr 12


    I suspect that you had the first release Columbia CS 8163 recorded in 1959 in which side one of the original record was running 1 1/4% too slow during the recording session. Find the newer release on two 180 gram LPs with improved vinyl composition in which side one is remastered as we have always known it. side 3 presents the first 3 songs at the correct pitch for the first time. Side 4 presents Flanenco Sketches transfered at 45 rpm which increases playback fidelity. This release on Classic Records is Columbia (Classic) CS 8163. This set also blows the CD away (and the original release) in terms of fidelity, resolution, presence, etc.

  9. Tina Sokol commented on Apr 12

    well, I also really like Relaxing – Miles Quintet, and Miles’ Round About Midnight.

    One of my all time favorites is Volume I of The Jazz Messengers At The Cafe Bohemia (which later became a “wise guy” after hours joint after its jazz days ended).

  10. Equalizer commented on Apr 12

    My SACD disc just finished last track 10 minutes ago. The SACD version is very clean for 1959 recording, couldn’t tell it was old without better audio hardware. The surround mix is very subtle, almost no surround. Yes, Rob Dawg, agree about the depth/length.

  11. bluestatedon commented on Apr 12

    Great stuff, Barry.

    A nice precursor to “Kind of Blue” is “Milestones,” which was released a year earlier in 1958. It’s not as moody as the later record, and in general is a bit more uptempo. The personnel includes Davis, Adderly, and Coltrane along with Paul Chambers on base, Red Garland on piana, and Philly Joe Jones on drums.

    I’d also suggest taking a listen to any one of the recordings by the late-60s Davis ensembles with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. This group was with Davis during the transition from all-acoustic instruments to the incorporation of electric versions that was so notable on “Bitches Brew.” “Miles Smiles” is an example of the all-acoustic lineup; “Filles de Kilimanjaro” includes some electric work on a couple of tracks, with Chick Corea and Dave Holland on electric piano and electric bass replacing Hancock and Carter on a couple of tracks on “Filles.”

  12. catman commented on Apr 12

    Hitting a lot of high notes here. Miles, the somewhat overlooked Cannonball Adderley, and the Jazz Messengers – I was a big Jackie McLean fan back in those days. Im sure Bill Evans never forgot working on this album.

  13. Tina Sokol commented on Apr 12

    Jackie McLean, Kenny Dorham, the Turrentine brothers (in their earlier days) were all great favorites of mine. I remember sitting in Slugs, nursing a skunky beer while listening to Kenny and friends “woodshedding”, before it became a bona fide music venue.

  14. zackattack commented on Apr 12

    I’ll always have a fond place in my heart for “Kind of Blue.” I had the nurses queue it up for me after my heart surgery. It was what I woke up to.

  15. astroflash commented on Apr 12

    Hi Barry,
    I appreciate your comments about a great album and was motivated to listen to “Kind of Blue” after reading your review.

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