Kind of Blue is a studio album by American jazz musician Miles Davis, released on August 17, 1959, by Columbia Records. It was recorded earlier that year on March 2 and April 22 at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York City. The recording sessions featured Davis’s ensemble sextet, consisting of pianist Bill Evans, drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers, and saxophonists John Coltrane and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, together with pianist Wynton Kelly on one track.
After the entry of Evans into his sextet, Davis followed up on the modal experimentations of Milestones (1958) by basing Kind of Blue entirely on modality, in contrast to his earlier work with the hard bop style of jazz.
Though precise figures have been disputed, Kind of Blue has been described by many music writers not only as Davis’s best-selling album, but as the best-selling jazz record of all time. On October 7, 2008, it was certified quadruple platinum in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Kind of Blue has been regarded by many critics as jazz’s greatest record, Davis’s masterpiece, and one of the best albums of all time. Its influence on music, including jazz, rock, and classical genres, has led writers to also deem it one of the most influential albums ever recorded. Kind of Blue was one of fifty recordings chosen in 2002 by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry, and in 2003, it was ranked number 12 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
By late 1958, Davis employed one of the best and most profitable working bands pursuing the hard bop style. His personnel had become stable: alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Bill Evans, long-serving bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb. His band played a mixture of pop standards and bebop originals by Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Tadd Dameron. As with all bebop-based jazz, Davis’s groups improvised on the chord changes of a given song. Davis was one of many jazz musicians growing dissatisfied with bebop, and saw its increasingly complex chord changes as hindering creativity.
In 1953, the pianist George Russell published his Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, which offered an alternative to the practice of improvisation based on chords and chord changes. Abandoning the traditional major and minor key relationships, the Lydian Chromatic Concept introduced the idea of chord/scale unity and was the first theory to explore the vertical relationship between chords and scales, as well as the only original theory to come from jazz. This approach led the way to “modal” in jazz. Influenced by Russell’s ideas, Davis implemented his first modal composition with the title track of his studio album Milestones (1958). Satisfied with the results, Davis prepared an entire album based on modality. Pianist Bill Evans, who had studied with Russell but recently departed from Davis’s sextet to pursue his own career, was drafted back into the new recording project, the sessions that would become Kind of Blue.
Kind of Blue was recorded on three-track tape in two sessions at Columbia Records’ 30th Street Studio in New York City. On March 2, 1959, the tracks “So What”, “Freddie Freeloader”, and “Blue in Green” were recorded for side one of the original LP, and on April 22 the tracks “All Blues” and “Flamenco Sketches” were recorded, making up side two. Production was handled by Teo Macero, who had produced Davis’s previous two LPs, and Irving Townsend.
As was Davis’s penchant, he called for almost no rehearsal and the musicians had little idea what they were to record. As described in the original liner notes by pianist Bill Evans, Davis had only given the band sketches of scales and melody lines on which to improvise. Once the musicians were assembled, Davis gave brief instructions for each piece and then set to taping the sextet in studio. While the results were impressive with so little preparation, the persistent legend that the entire album was recorded in one pass is untrue. (by wikipedia)
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. To be reductive, it’s the Citizen Kane of jazz — an accepted work of greatness that’s innovative and entertaining. That may not mean it’s the greatest jazz album ever made, but it certainly is a universally acknowledged standard of excellence. Why does Kind of Blue posses such a mystique? Perhaps it’s that 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 chords, not the overall key, giving the music a subtly shifting quality. All of this doesn’t quite explain why seasoned jazz fans return to this record even after they’ve memorized every nuance.
They return because this is an exceptional band – Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderly, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, and Wynton Kelly — one of the greatest in history, playing at the peak of its power. As Evans said in the original liner notes for the record, the band did not play through any of these pieces prior to recording. Davis laid out the themes and chords before the tape rolled, and then the band improvised. The end results were wondrous, filled with performances that still crackle with vitality. Few albums of any genre manage to work on so many different levels, but Kind of Blue does. It can be played as background music, yet it amply rewards close listening. It is advanced music that is extraordinarily enjoyable. It may be a stretch to say that if you don’t like Kind of Blue, you don’t like jazz — but it’s hard to imagine it as anything other than a cornerstone of any jazz collection. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
In other words: A masterpiece of jazz, a masterpiece of music ! One of the most important albums from the last century !
Julian “Cannonball” Adderley (saxophone)
Paul Chambers (bass)
Jimmy Cobb (drums)
John Coltrane (saxophone)
Miles Davis (trumpet)
Bill Evans (piano)
Wynton Kelly — piano (on 02.)
01. So What (Davis) 9.04
02. Freddie Freeloader (Davis) 9.34
03. Blue In Green (Davis/Evans) 5.27
04. All Blues (Davis) 11.33
05. Flamenco Sketches (Davis/Evans) 9.26
06. Flamenco Sketches (alternate take) (Davis/Evans) 9.34
07. Freddie Freeloader (studio sequence 1) (Davis) 0.53
08. Freddie Freeloader (false start) (Davis) 1.27
09. Freddie Freeloader (studio sequence 2) (Davis) 1.30
10. So What (studio sequence 1) (Davis) 1.55
11. So What (studio sequence 2) (Davis) 0.13
12. Blue In Green (studio sequence) (Davis/Evans) 1.58
13. Flamenco Sketches (studio sequence 1) (Davis/Evans) 0.45
14. Flamenco Sketches (studio sequence 2) (Davis/Evans) 1.12
15. All Blues (studio sequence) (Davis) 0.18
16. On Green Dolphin Street (Kaper/Washington) 9.50
17. Fran-Dance (Davis) 5.49
18. Stella By Starlight (Young/Washington) 4.46
19. Love For Sale (Porter) 11.49
20. Fran-Dance (alternate take) (Davis) 5.53
21. So What (recorded at Kurhaus, The Hague, April 9, 1960) (Davis) 17.29