Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Mar 31, 2020 (updated Apr 1, 2020)
98
The History of the Albums - n° 114

Miles pt.4 // Invisible [I invite you to read my previous reviews on Miles Davis, you will find the list below, in order to better understand his life and this one].

Here we are, dear Kind of Blue. Today I'm revisiting again one of the best jazz albums of all time, at least if you don't consider it as the best album since it has some very serious competitors, it would be unfair in my opinion that this album isn't at least in the top 5. If I had to make a more meaningful metaphor, Kind Of Blue is a little bit one of the 7 wonders, but in the music. To be honest, I'm under a lot of pressure writing this review, some people will understand it, because you know it's very hard to live up to this masterpiece (or impossible). So I'm going to do the best I can, because for me it's the best album of the 50's in any musical genre! It's true that when we talk about Jazz, the most complex and richest music since classical music, we often say that Jazz is a music that has to be earned and that you can't love it like that in a snap of the fingers. It's also true when we talk about Jazz (and I tend to agree) that the albums of the 60's are perhaps much better albums. However, if I put in context only in the sense of the Jazz revolution, the golden period is rather in the 50's because that's when Jazz started its "second life" and probably its best life. When you look at it a little bit closer, there are some small exceptions ready, notably thanks to the arrival of rock that gave the fusion / Crossover Jazz / Jazz Rock / Guitar Jazz style, and also all the "World/Spiritual" Jazz styles that will appear from the 60s, without forgetting the contemporary styles of today, all the jazz albums of the 60s are based on the revolutions that took place during the 50s. When the Big Bands became old-fashioned, followed by swing and be bop, the new golden generation took the liberty of taking everything back and transforming it in order to offer, cool jazz, hard bop, post bop, free jazz, modal jazz, avant-garde jazz, experimental big bands, soul jazz etc... These are clearly the bases that artists will follow in the next decade.

Among the founders of these bases, there is no doubt that Miles Davis is one of the most important. Throughout his career, he has always had a visionary and innovative side, allied to his genius, allowing him to alternate between Jazz styles. He has innovated on almost all jazz styles, without ever leaving the headliner. To tell the truth, he was not the only one who revolutionized these styles, he was always inspired, at least by someone who got his hands on a gold mine, without vampirizing anyone. To put things in context, in late 1958/early 1959 Miles Davis was working mainly on the modal jazz approach, although he also occasionally let himself be guided by original projects such as Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud or Porgy and Bess. Clearly inspired by George Russell's theories that he studied, Miles Davis was one of the first to really experiment with it, just like Bill Evans. Without Milestones for example, released at the end of 1958 (but recorded in February/March 58), there might not have been Kind of Blue which is today the modal album par excellence. Milestones was already an extraordinary album by its approach and its experimentation, but Kind of Blue goes even further, both by perfecting the modal style allied to high standing hard bop that he mastered perfectly, while adding new innovations.

After Milestones, Miles Davis revisited and rethought his approaches. The changes he made and the direction he took are some of the important elements that explain the success of Kind of Blue. First of all Miles Davis made a few changes to his band composition by re-engaging Bill Evans who had already been working together a bit after the Milestones recordings on a few recording sessions that would result in 1958 Miles not being released until 1974, instead of the usual Red Garland. Bill Evans is also one of the pioneers of the Modal movement, also very inspired by the works of George Russell, so it was logical that he should work on a modal work. But the most important thing is that Bill Evans had one of the best piano playing and one of the most atypical of the time. Moreover, despite the credits I find on the CD (yes, I didn't send it on vinyl...), according to some sources he co-wrote/co-composed the compositions Blue in Green and Flamenco Sketches. The importance of Bill Evans is therefore immeasurable, so much his role is decisive (he is absent on track 2 "Freddie Freeloader", replaced by Wynton Kelly). Although he keeps the irreplaceable John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley and Paul Chambers (what a team...), he replaced his faithful Philly Joe Jones by Jimmy Cobb, probably because of his heroin problems.

After doing some compositions in his band, the approach of the artistic direction plays a key role in the construction and creation of Kind of Blue. Quite simply because Miles Davis had kept his plans secret until the last moment. The members of the band found out shortly before recording their scores and on top of that they were not complete so they were left to improvise, with of course some indications and constraints imposed by Davis. Which means that a lot of things, tuning and arranging were done at the last moment. Yet Kind of Blues is incredibly coherent and homogeneous. Obviously this can be explained by the genius and hard work of Miles Davis, by the artistic direction and the choices that he has put in place. But also because he had with him a team of genius like him who were largely capable of adapting and improvising some grandiose things. Musically Kind of Blue has a supernatural power, like a kind of hypnosis. You might think at first glance, or if you don't understand this work, that it's very simple, with very few changes of rhythm for example, but it's a jazz album that has one of the most complex and sophisticated set of compositions there is (and at the time of its release it was perhaps the best example). I would actually need a whole book to talk about and go into every detail of each composition, but it's important to know that each one (with the exception of Freddie Freeloader who I find a little bit beneath the others) are at the same time cult standards of the jazz repertoire. So you can enjoy the compositions independently as much as the whole album. With Kind Of Blues, Miles Davis shows that he was clearly going further than anyone else, so much so that this album will be a first inspiration as much musically as aesthetically that will allow other jazzmen (like Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman for example) to make very great albums like this one. And it will even go beyond Jazz, many Rock, R&B or other Classical music artists will inspire this album. Art in its best form: blue.

Related albums I've reviewed:
1957 > Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
1957 > Miles Davis – 'Round About Midnight
1957 > Miles Davis – Miles Ahead
1958 > Miles Davis - Relaxin' With the Miles Davis Quintet
1958 > Miles Davis – Milestones
1959 > Miles Davis – Porgy and Bess
1959 > Bill Evans – Everybody Digs Bill

Track Ratings
1So What / 100
2Freddie Freeloader / 100
3Blue In Green / 100
4All Blues / 100
5Flamenco Sketches / 100
Doublez's Tags
8 Comments
2y
Fantastic review! And yeah, reviewing albums who level of "Classic" is so immense they are a cultural movement unto themselves, feels like you're tip-toeing around something dangerous
2y
top tier album, top notch review.
2y
@Jamobo Thank you very much! It's totally true what you say, it's a very complex task, especially when there's too much to say, you have to know where to go!
2y
@WhatTheFunk Thank you, I really appreciate your feedback! (By the way, it's weird but it's impossible for me to put a comment and send you a shoutoutout, so I couldn't reply to your last shoutoutout so I'm doing it here: thanks for your support and encouragement)
2y
I was eagerly waiting for this one, great review!
2y
Thank’s @nostalgia ! That s kind of you
1y
Thank you very much, it's a pleasure! @louisomahoney
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