Looking for the one record which is substantial to music history of last century, for the recording of best quality of music and perfect in performing, creative and enough modern to affect next generations but still clear and readable to almost every listener, the only choice should be Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. This album belongs to the group of rare events giving modern jazz the position of artistic music. And it is strained with creative intensity, exactly the same way the most important works in human history always been. No wonder this record occupies highest position in every ranking, receiving complete collection of stars and hundred percent grades in any serious critical set. With more than four million copies sold, what means quadruple platinum, this is best selling album in Miles Davis discography and in history of the jazz. Many listeners believe it was also the first jazz recording exceeding limitations of harmonic progressions and initiated era of modality opening the way to free jazz and avant-garde of the sixties and beyond. And in fact they are almost right, it was not very first modal jazz recording because it really opened a new chapter in history of jazz.
Recorded in New York 30th Street Studio during two sessions March 2, and April 22, 1959, and released August 17, the same year, Kind of Blue was based on best musicians marking new directions in modern music. Despite revolutionary content of this album, the group was continuation of experiences with sextet Miles Davis recorded many times during previous years. Basic lineup was the same as recorded one year earlier 1958 Miles album. Front line of the group formed by leader Miles Davis with two saxophonists Julian “Cannonball” Adderley and John Coltrane has its counterpoise in rhythm section of Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums and merging these positions piano played by Bill Evans. During April 2nd session the lineup of Davis’ sextet was playing with two changes. In Freddie Freeloader Bill Evans was replaced by pianist Wynton Kelly and Blue in Green was recorded by quintet without Adderley.
|Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959)|
This album was different from the very beginning. Many Davis’ albums are monumental in idea or in realization. The end of fifties and beginning of sixties was the time for great constructions he made with orchestral arrangements by Gil Evans. Many of groundbreaking records were billed as a culmination of many years’ developments. In Kind of Blue modest title shows prudence and distance to theoretical matters of new music. Just like he was not sure of the new artistic and theoretical ideas joining Slonimsky’s Thesaurus of Scales, Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization and new possibilities of modal improvisation opened in John Coltrane’s and Miles Davis’ recordings in late fifties.
Although Kind of Blue was not the first modal recording, this is premiere program entirely founded on the idea of creating improvisation on the scale basis and developing improvisation from the scale inner tensions. Such approach was not quite new. It was presented in many folk cultures, in blues and in early jazz but it was never so much complex or consequent. Modal jazz was also the best way of leaving major-minor harmonic systems. On Kind of Blue modal scales occurred in rich and varied contexts, some were consisted on cycle of two or more modes – So What was based on two modes, Flamenco Sketches on five scales; some are standard 12-bar blues played in expanded modes (Freddie Freeloader) or even in 6/8 time (All Blues). Every improvisation was built on its own logic. Julian Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane and Miles Davis are improvising in wide opening space of new possibilities. And this was in fact the best feature of this record. Freedom musicians gain with this new idea was liberating and inspiring giving jazz whole spectrum of new energies.