Friday Night Jazz: 50th Anniversary of Kind of Blue

KINDA blueThe long awaited return of Friday Night Jazz!

Last year, we took an eclectic look at some of the lesser known works of Miles Davis.

Tonight, I want to go in the opposite direction, and simply focus on one disc: Kind of Blue.

Why? Well, it is the 50th anniversary of the recording of Kind of Blue.

If that is not reason enough, then consider the simple fact that it is Davis’ best-selling album. Indeed, it may very well be the best known 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.”

And Charles Gans of the Associated Press takes a look behind Davis’ masterpiece:

Today, the five tunes on “Kind of Blue” — particularly “So What” and “All Blues” — have become deeply embedded in the musical landscape. But at the March 2 and April 22, 1959, recording sessions, nearly all the tunes were new to the band members, who didn’t even have a chance to rehearse them. Davis gave the musicians written sketches of the scales and melodies, offering brief verbal instructions about the feeling he wanted on a particular tune.

Davis was moving away from bebop with its complex harmonies and improvisations structured around chord changes. The trumpeter asked his musicians to play in a modal style — a concept developed by pianist-composer George Russell — in which the musicians improvised on scales, with the soloists having more freedom to explore long melodic lines.”

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: $6.99 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

Sources:
Miles Davis Official Site
http://www.milesdavis.com

Miles Davis: ‘Kind of Blue’
NPR
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10862796

Kind of Blue
Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kind_of_Blue

All Music Review: Kind of Blue
All Music
http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:hx68mpnd9f8o~T1

CHARLES J.GANS, Associated Press
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