Friday, May 8, 2009

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue 50th Anniversary

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue 50th Anniversary

The 50th Anniversary of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue is a very historic event. Legacy Recordings is releasing a Collector's Edition Box set on September 30 to celebrate this very important release. ...

Miles Davis (trumpet); Julian "Cannonball" Adderley (alto saxophone); John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); Wynton Kelly, Bill Evans (piano); Paul Chambers (double bass); Jimmy Cobb (drums).

Liner Note Authors: Robert Palmer; Nat Hentoff.

Recording information: Columbia 30th Street Studios, New York, New York (03/02/1959); Columbia 30th Street Studios, New York, New York (04/22/1959).

With BIRTH OF THE COOL, Miles Davis distilled a new tonal palette for jazz. As early as 1954, Miles reacted to the escalating chordal complexity of hard bop by fashioning an evocative blues based on a simple scalar pattern ("Swing Spring"). KIND OF BLUE was the ultimate fulfillment of this approach, with Miles providing his collaborators little more than outlines for melodies and simple scales for improvisation. By emphasizing the blues and the improvisor's melodic gifts, KIND OF BLUE precipitated a major stylistic development--modal jazz.

Charles Mingus had experimented with pedal points throughout the 1950s, and the melodic freedom of Ornette Coleman's Atlantic sides was also predicated on freedom from chord changes. But KIND OF BLUE was to prove the most influential, enduring work of its kind. There was just such a vibe about these 1959 sessions--Miles' lyric genius and burgeoning stardom, the innovative voicings and rarefied touch of pianist Bill Evans, the electrifying presence of Coltrane and Cannonball--that some thirty-plus years after its initial release, KIND OF BLUE is still recognized as Davis' point of departure towards jazz's less-explored regions.

Bill Evans' translucent chords and Paul Chambers' famous bass line herald the revolution that is "So What": Davis and Evans' taut, coiled lyricism stands in sharp relief to the saxophonists' labyrinthine elation. The fat, shimmering beat of the classic Evans/Chambers/Cobb rhythm team is an oasis of calm throughout the childish blues "Freddie Freeloader." Often credited to Davis, "Blue In Green" is an Evans masterpiece, in which the rhythmic oasis becomes a smoky mirage for Davis' minor reveries on muted horn. The waltzing "All Blues" is one of the smoothest, most swinging grooves in the history of jazz, while "Flamenco Sketches" reflects Miles fascination with the earthy melodies and brooding metaphors of the Iberian peninsula...a harbinger of his next masterpiece, SKETCHES OF SPAIN. KIND OF BLUE remains Miles Davis' most evocative piece of musical haiku.

Rolling Stone (12/11/03, p.94) - Ranked #13 in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums Of All Time" - "This painterly masterpiece is one of the most important, influential and popular albums in jazz..."
Q (4/99, p.129) - Included in Q's list of "The Best Jazz Albums of All Time."
Q (3/95, p.116) - 5 Stars - Indispensable - "Widely considered the greatest album in jazz history, Miles Davis' 1959 masterpiece is a collection of exquisitely melodic and deceptively simple modern jazz..."
Down Beat (1959) - "This is a remarkable album. Using very simple but effective devices, Miles has constructed an album of extreme beauty and sensitivity. This is not to say that this LP is a simple one--far from it. What is remarkable is that the men have done so much with the stark, skeltal material.
JazzTimes (8/97, p.106) - "...The absolutely beautiful Coltrane solo on the `Flamenco Sketches' alternate is alone worth the price....The restoration of the sound to the correct pitch makes enough of a difference to recommend repurchasing this classic even without the jazz track of the year aboard..."
Vibe (12/99, p.158) - Included in Vibe's 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century
Blender (Magazine) (p.67) - 4.5 stars out of 5 -- "Its ageless cool now seems intertwined with its backstory: Just months after making the album, Davis and most of his sidemen would spin off in different directions, founding entire schools of jazz."
Paste (magazine) (p.61) - "[T]he music draws you in with seductively gentle restraint. It's a recording with a pristine elegance."

Much has been said about the Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue." The album is the subject of two books and any Miles Davis bio worth picking up devotes several pages to it's development and musical importance. The record is known for its simplicity and improvisation, as the sextet of jazz masters use a minimum amount of chords to create a mood that's profound, yet accessible. The original album consists of five tracks recorded in two days. Now, a half a century after its creation, there's a lot more.

The musical paleontologists at Epic/Legacy have given this superior work the full treatment, expanding the music onto two CDs, with more Miles on a DVD, which includes a documentary on album and a rare television appearance of Miles and his band, from 1960. The box set also includes four essays, session transcripts and a 60-page book.

The documentary, which is described as "newly produced," obviously isn't a recent as you might expect, as the late Ed Bradley comments on the influence of the album along with Bill Cosby, Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santanna and Q-Tip. The late Jackie McClean also it appears, making this the only element of this reissue of a 1958 record that could be called dated. A rare television appearance of Miles and the band is also included, catching Miles in his prime, living up to his legend even when he's smoking cigarettes in the background as his band plays.

The songs on "Kind Of Blue" were believed by many to have been recorded in one take, but among the "new" music is an alternate take of "Flamenco Sketches," along with shorter versions of album's five tracks and one false start. Jazz nerds are given further insight into the recording process through the brief dialogues between Davis and the record's producer and engineer, between the takes. This banter is transcribed and followed by analysis in the accompanying book. On the second disc is another session with the same musicians, which were first released together in 2000, and a 17 minute live version of the album's opener "So What."

The voluminous criticism, discussion and the additions to this essential album threaten to overwhelm a work known for it's lack of complexity. The music authorities may have tried to drown the public with data and transcriptions, but they've provided the ultimate life preserver in the box set: A 180-gram blue vinyl version of the album.
If you would like to hear the spirit of jazz- then listen to Kind of Blue.

No comments:

Post a Comment