Miles Davis’s “Kind Of Blue” Is The Definitive Jazz Album

Back to Article
Back to Article

Miles Davis’s “Kind Of Blue” Is The Definitive Jazz Album

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






While most associate the era of jazz as being the 1930s and the 1940s- and this certainly holds true- jazz music continued to maintain serious relevance and commercial force going even into the 1960s. When we think of jazz, we think of names like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Ella Fitzgerald, and while we typically see jazz as being most popular in the 1930s and 1940s, these artists mostly put out records and performed in the late 50s into the early 70s. One name stands among the rest, primarily, that being Miles Davis.

Miles Davis may not be a household name these days, but in his over fifty-year long career, the artist put out almost as many full-length studio albums as years he was making music, with hundreds of live albums, EPs, and singles to compliment his 51 albums. While almost all of his albums display a serious amount of talent from all of his musicians and himself in his songwriting and performance, his 1959 release in Kind of Blue represents possibly the most popularly accessible and entertaining jazz record ever recorded.

The trumpeter’s album in Kind of Blue remains one of the most popular records to ever be sold on vinyl.

 

Kind of Blue was released in mid-August of 1959, just under a year following his previous album Milestones. Following on Milestones‘s use of modal jazz compositions, Kind of Blue is written almost entirely in the modal style and is heavily based on use of scales instead of chord progressions as was typical of Davis’ earlier works. The album opens with a bouncy track called So What. The iconic opening piano which transitions into saxophone accompaniment slides through a series of different note progressions, eventually opening into a trumpet solo while the drums, bass, and piano continue to hold down a solid rhythm. The song is notable for the rhythm section, which holds down a serious beat and rhythm underneath the talented soloing on the part of the other artists in the ensemble. After nine minutes, the song leads into the next piece, Freddie Freeloader. A blues-influenced piece, Freddie Freeloader features pianist Wynton Kelly in place of Bill Evans, however Kelly remains as skillful as his counterpart in terms of playing. A myriad of solos by various members of the ensemble including Miles Davis and the legendary John Coltrane add to the color of the piece, another nine-minute long track. Employing use of a B flat blues scale, chord progression sticks out (in a good way) and allows the track to really shine.

Freddie Freeloader is followed by Blue In Green. The song is shorter in duration than the rest of the songs on the album, however its soft ambient rhythm section and muted woodwinds and brass helps make the song feel like its own piece, a lulling ballad in the midst of other songs that don’t retain the same lullaby-like feel. After five minutes of Blue In Green, the audience is treated to All Blues. At (an almost absurd) 11 minutes and 33 seconds in length, this track establishes itself at the forefront of the album as it maintains the most memorable solos and, in my opinion, the best composition. In a biased take, this song is the best on the album and really asserts its presence even in spite of its length and repetition: it benefits from its repetition of such a good frame underneath the extremely talented solos by Miles, Coltrane, and other artists in the woodwind/brass. All Blues is seriously the standout track from a standout album, and is the one track I’d recommend above all the rest..

Flamenco Sketches is the last track on the album and is almost entirely improv, with no melody whatsoever. The jazz ballad is just short of 9 and a half minutes long and switches through a variety of modal changes, through roughly 5 different modes. Alongside John Coltrane and Davis himself, the track features playing by Cannonball Adderley, Jimmy Cobb, and Bill Evans.

Kind of Blue certainly earns its spot as the definitive jazz album. All tracks are memorable, and truly establish themselves as masterpieces of composition, instrumentation, and improvisation. Unlike other jazz albums wherein many of the tracks sound similar, every track on this album feels unique and original while maintaining a similar style and tone. Themes vary between tracks, but never feel too distinct from one another stylistically, which helps the album feel concise and fluid without sounding stale. The talent of the songwriting and the composition warrants the fame and renown this album commands and its popularity as a fixture in the jazz genre. I give Kind of Blue a solid 8/10 – while not the best album I’ve ever listened to (sometimes the songs feel like they drag on for far too long), it’s up there with the greats, deserving the appreciation it gets and then some. If you haven’t already, give this album a listen- So What and All Blues are seriously some of the greatest jazz songs ever composed in terms of flow, accessibility, and general feel.

The Good: So WhatAll Blues, Flamenco Sketches

The Okay: Freddie Freeloader, Blue In Green