For a long time I have tried to ignore Miles Davis. In my ignorance I found his musical stylings shrill and unpleasant on the ear. My friend Jack sent me one of his most cutting edge experimental live albums, which I appreciated but this was 10/10 Miles and I could not handle it for more than 45 minutes. However, I have acquired the 2021 Edition of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and found myself compelled to listen to Miles’ early works. I heard three Miles albums in one morning and was quite astonished. Honestly, I do not feel worthy to review this album but I shall give it my utmost.
Long held as the jazz album that even non-jazz fans will own, Kind Of Blue not only changed the way people regarded Miles, it changed the very face of music itself. Consistently rated not just as one of the greatest jazz albums but as one of THE greatest musical statements of the 20th century, its 46 minutes of improvisation and sophistication remain peerless. BBC Music
Hitherto in the jazz world the focus was on fixed chord sequencing. Miles was ready to try the modal approach which sees playing within a certain scale. This was seen as freeing for Miles and indeed he pioneered the form to exquisite results. His first saxophonist, John Coltrane, pushed this improvisation even further. This was indeed a step up from the bebop of Miles’ previous recent work.
John Coltrane – Sax
Cannonball Adderley – Sax
Jimmy Cobb – Drums
Paul Chambers – Bass
Bill Evans – Piano (replacing regular Wynton Kelly on all but one track – “Freddy Freeloader”)
Aside from So What and All Blues, which had been played previously, Miles did not give any time for rehearsal to his musicians. He laid out the structure and then went straight to recording, which adds to the shocking result that is the album. This was recorded over 9 hours, in two sessions in Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York, and resulted in a mega hit, the best selling album of all time and a spearheading evolution of the jazz form.
So What is the mid tempo opener which goes through a variety of styles. Blues in Green was my favourite track on the album. This was haunting and Bill Evans’ piano, which I have been a fan of for some years, joined by the mournful trumpet from Davis combines to make quite an affecting combination. The Hispanic influences of Flamenco Sketches, the only track on the album which needed a second run through (all of the others were done in one take), would be continued in Miles 1960 album Sketches of Spain.
Overall this is a work of supreme beauty and genius. I cannot do it justice in a 500 word review but invite you to listen to it with the above in mind and recognise what a stellar achievement this album was in the world of jazz. I shall listen to it again today, along with Quincy Jones, who is said to play the album every single day.