Monday, August 17, 2009

Today in Music (1959): Miles Davis released Kind of Blue

Kind of Blue

Miles Davis

Released: August 17, 1959

Recorded: March 2 and April 22, 1959

Peak: 2 US (catalog albums), 63 UK

Sales (in millions): 5.0 US, 0.6 UK, 5.6 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: jazz


  1. So What [9:22]
  2. Freddie Freeloader [9:34]
  3. Blue in Green [5:27]
  4. All Blues [11:33]
  5. Flamenco Sketches [9:26]

Total Running Time: 45:44

The Players:

  • Miles Davis (trumpet)
  • Julian “Cannonball” Adderly (alto saxophone)
  • John Coltrane (tenor saxophone)
  • Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly (piano)
  • Paul Chambers (double bass)
  • Jimmy Cobb (drums)


4.397 out of 5.00 (average of 29 ratings)


Kind of Blue has been called the most famous and influential jazz recording of all time.” – Steve Marshall, The Night Owl


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Kind of Blue has been called the most famous and influential jazz recording of all time.” NO “When you find jazzers, rock and popular music followers actually unanimously unite over one record, then you know something must be right.” CL “Although it took three decades to sell one million copies, it has sold another four million since Davis died in 1991,” YN making it “the best-selling jazz disc of all time.” TL

Trumpeter and composer Miles Davis “left his most lasting mark” TL with Kind of Blue, an album that “isn’t merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it’s an album that towers above its peers” AMG and “has influenced generations of jazz and other musicians.” YN “Many consider this recording to be one of the most important jazz recordings of any era.” NRR It is “a foundation album for jazz fans, the cornerstone of any jazz collection.” CS Clarke Speicher, of The Review, calls it “the most important, as well as one of the most beautiful albums, in the history…[of] jazz.” RV

Davis had “already remade jazz in his own image several times over.” TLThe Birth of Cool introduced a smooth, sophisticated approach, and then Walkin’ heated things up again. His classic ‘50s quintet raised the bar for small-group improvisation.” TL As Miles Davis’ son Erin said, his father “was never one to dwell on the past and always moved on to embrace new styles.” YN

Kind of Blue “reinforced his rep as a trendsetter and innovator.” BL Jazz had been “largely based on chord progressions, limiting soloists in their efforts to improvise.” CS “When modal music was rediscovered by early-20th-century composers such as Claude Debussy and George Russell, it allowed soloists a greater degree of innovation…as they could now wander freely through the scales rather than be compelled to revisit important notes in a chord.” CS

Davis gave the freedom to “an unprecedented all-star team” TL to “show off what they could do without overshadowing their colleagues.” CS They wouldn’t know if they were recording or not when Davis called them into the studio. He “liked to capture the raw, spontaneous energy that came with a musician trying a piece for the first time.” CS Pianist Gil Evans said all the songs on the album are first takes. CS It was recorded in “less than ten hours of actual recording time at Columbia Records’ 30th Street Studio.” YN

Kind of Blue “lures listeners in with the slow, luxurious bassline and gentle piano chords of So WhatAMG which “became the cornerstone of modal jazz.” CS “From that moment on, the record never really changes pace – each tune has a similar relaxed feel, as the music flows easily.” AMG “His songs sound deceptively simple, but more complicated harmonies lurk just beneath the surface. The sparseness shows a more introspective direction from the fast and furious sound of be-bop that had dominated jazz.” RV “The lack of the dense harmonic digressions associated with Bop give the music its unhurried, meditative, but still intense feel, beautifully illustrated in All Blues or ‘So What.’” WR

“It’s the pinnacle of modal jazz,” AMG an approach which Davis described as he was on the brink of making this album: “I think a movement in jazz is beginning away from the conventional string of chords and a return to emphasis on melodic rather than harmonic variation. There will be fewer chords but infinite possibilities as to what to do with them.” JI

These “open-ended songs…were given just one or two takes – and the glorious results…are simultaneously delicate and powerful, and teeming with life.” TL In the album’s original liner notes, Bill Evans says “the band did not play through any of these pieces prior to recording. Davis laid out the themes before the tape rolled, and then the band improvised. The end results were wondrous and still crackle with vitality.” AMG

Kind of Blue became a how-to of jazz recordings, a standard by which all others would be judged.” RV “Seasoned jazz fans return to this record even after they’ve memorized every nuance. They return because this is an exceptional band…of the greatest in history, playing at the peak of its power.” AMG “It is advanced music that is extraordinarily enjoyable. It may be a stretch to say that if you don’t like Kind of Blue, you don’t like jazz – but it’s hard to imagine it as anything other than a cornerstone of any jazz collection.” AMG


A 1997 reissue added an alternate take of “Flamenco Sketches.” In 2008, a two-disc version added more studio outtakes and additional songs.

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First posted 8/17/2012; last updated 3/17/2024.

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