In early 1959, jazz trumpeter Miles Davis laid down the foundation for a whole new style of jazz music. Through his “Kind of Blue”� modal jazz was born. This record became a classic, at times showing its complexity through the soloing, but also allowing the educated listener to revel in the simplicity of the modes. Davis planted the seeds for this new style in his album “Milestones”� but “Kind of Blue”� showed that the style had matured and was more developed. From the introductory piano/bass duet to the final notes, it is clear that Davis captured something original.
The album was recorded in only two sessions and went on without any prior rehearsal or music written out. Davis only provided general “sketches”� of each song for the musicians, which they read and improvised over. For the task of recording, Davis put together an all-star lineup with some of the greatest jazz musicians in music history. The rhythm section was composed of Paul Chambers on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums, and Bill Evans on piano, except for “Freddie Freeloader”�, which featured Wynton Kelly on piano. To round out the band was the horn section, led by Davis himself, and completed by alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, and tenor John Coltrane. The individual band members were great musicians in their own respect, but when shepherded by Davis for the “Kind of Blue”� sessions, the music they produced was incredible.
If “Kind of Blue”� is a musical journey, then surely the rhythm section is the flight crew, insuring that the passengers have a smooth ride. Throughout the entire album, the beat is kept steady, the comping never clutters or inhibits the soloist, and the chord changes are right on the money. With a tight rhythm section laying a solid foundation, Davis, Adderley, and Coltrane are free to take their solos in any direction they choose.
Even from the first song, a mellow blues based tune, “So What”�, we can hear the creativity at work. The interplay between Evans and Chambers in the intro is so melodious; it is hard to believe it was achieved without rehearsal. Then the signature melody line, delivered by Chambers, then answered by the horn section, kicks in before we are led into the first solo section. Davis then takes us into his modal playground and allows us to listen as he runs free. The solo makes you run the emotional gamut from sheer joy to melancholy and despair in the space of a minute.
The band performs equally well on the second track, “Freddie Freeloader”� and provide a melody line that many musicians use for impromptu jam sessions because of its catchiness and simplicity. It is a pleasant set up for the next tune called “Blue in Green”�. “Bleu in Green”� is interesting because it is not in a standard form, but in a ten-bar circular form. This provides a challenge for the soloist to follow the form, but they manage the changes beautifully and effortlessly.
The next song is “All Blues”�, which is another 12-bar blues, but is metered in 6/8 and has an overcast mood assisted by Davis’ use of a Harmon mute and the piece’s minor tonality. To end the record, they recorded “Flamenco Sketches”�, the only song in these sessions to have two takes.
All in all, “Kind of Blue”� has worked its way into the hearts of millions of jazz fans with good reason. Davis has never had a tighter band behind him and every player exudes their confidence and knowledge of their instrument with every note they play. The end product is a beautiful blend of evocative solos and innovative progressions that deserve to be heard, studied and loved by anyone who appreciates good jazz.
Courtney from Study Moose
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