April 22nd, 1959: seven musicians gathered together for the second of two recording sessions at the Columbia studios in New York City. What emerged was the best-selling, and possibly the best known, jazz recording in history.
Kind of Blue mapped a new direction for the art that foreshadowed the artistic fluidity of the oncoming decade, and singlehandedly redefined Miles Davis own ‘sound’. Leaving behind the driving, edgy hard bop style that characterized the ’50s, the sextet moved into a modal approach that gave soloists a wide open landscape for exploration, and represented “a return to melody”, as Miles once described it. Can’t argue with that, think of “So What” and “All Blues”, just a couple of the great tunes (that really are tunes, not just licks and bridges) from the recording.
Today’s the 50th anniversary of the second Kind of Blue session.
If you have the recording, give it a spin or two today and listen to it with the perspective that only five decades can provide: it may have aggravated Miles that his masterpiece was upstaged by recordings that came out later that same year (like Ornette Coleman’s Shape of Jazz to Come), but both had their invaluable place in the swiftly shifting landscape of the late ’50s.
For all the excitement and unfettered innovation that free jazz offers, it still takes a focused and fully realized artistic vision like Kind of Blue to provide the solid foundation for the kind of wildly creative musical world that developed in the ’60s.
For further reading, I recommend Ashley Kahn’s excellent book, Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece
Vermont Public Radio’s tribute to Kind of Blue airs tonight at 8pm.
Miles Davis, trumpet … Julian “Cannonball” Adderly, alto sax … John Coltrane, tenor sax … Wynton Kelly, piano (on “Freddie Freeloader”) … Bill Evans, piano (on all but “Freddie Freeloader”) … Paul Chambers, bass … Jimmy Cobb, drums
Tags: 1959, Ashley Kahn, Bil Evans, Columbia, Jimmy Cobb, John Coltrane, Julius "Cannonball" Adderly, Kind of Blue, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Paul Chambers, The Shape of Jazz to Come, Wynton Kelly