Part of a brief series on the 60th anniversary of 1959; Jazz’ golden year.
1959 is considered a landmark year for music not just by Jazz historians, but by music historians the world over. Why is it so important?
1959 represents a key year in Jazz because it simultaneously represents the apex of a golden age, a changing of the guard, and the divergence of several styles that would continue to dominate jazz music for years to come. Even today, one would be hard pressed to listen to jazz radio or attend any live jazz show that doesn’t bear some distinct mark of 1959.
Miles Davis (and sextet): Kind of Blue
Release Date: August 17, 1959
- Miles Davis: Trumpet
- Julian “Cannonball” Adderley: Alto Sax
- John Coltrane: Tenor Saxophone
- Bill Evans: Piano (except on track 2, “Freddie Freeloader”)
- Wynton Kelly: Piano (on track 2, “Freddie Freeloader”)
- Paul Chambers: Double Bass
- Jimmy Cobb: Drums
What can one say about a sextet (group of 6) album that features 6 of the most influential musicians of all time (7 if you include pianist Wynton Kelly’s appearance on track 2, “Freddy Freeloader”)? What if every song inside is perfectly composed and executed and now considered a standard? What if that album is also considered the top-selling “straight ahead” (meaning traditionally-styled, acoustic jazz) jazz album of all time?
The answer is that there is nothing more to say, except to add that although this is a work by masters of the jazz genre at the top of their game, this is still an easy listen, and is therefore a great first album for anyone who would like to start listening to jazz.
For fans of other genres of music, this album is to jazz what Beethoven’s 9th is to classical music or what Michael Jackson & Quincy Jones‘ “Thriller” is to pop music. It’s that monumental, and that good.
Why is Kind of Blue important?
When it was released in 1959, this album was significant because it signaled a shift from the complex chord-based bebop style that dominated jazz in the 1940s and 1950s to the smoother, more relaxed scale-based modal and cool jazz styles of later years (some historians say it even set the stage for the “smooth jazz” style most people are familiar with today). That shift didn’t just help shape the future of jazz, but also inspired many of the rock greats of the 1960s and 1970s such as the Doors, Steely Dan, and Santana, and still serves as a foundation for many of today’s musicians in many genres, from country and rock to electronic music.
Listen for Yourself:
If you enjoy this album, you will also enjoy:
Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, 1962: Know What I Mean
This quartet album features Kind of Blue‘s Julian “Cannonball” Adderley and Bill Evans along with bassist and drummer Percy Heath and Connie Kay of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and feels and sounds very much like Kind of Blue.
Miles Davis, 1958: Milestones
The supergroup that appears on “Kind of Blue” (informally known by jazz fans as “Miles’ first great quintet”) was only together for about 3 years. If Kind of Blue was never recorded, Milestones might be known as their magnum opus. Although it was only recorded a year before Kind Of Blue, even the casual listener can tell that Milestones is clearly a completely different animal stylistically from Kind of Blue. This album is an interesting way to gauge the type of progress Kind of Blue represented for jazz and Miles Davis as a bandleader, as well as pianist Bill Evans’ impact on Davis and his group.
It’s worth noting that Evans had already left the group when Kind Of Blue was recorded, but was brought back to record the album, probably because of the stylistic difference that was just mentioned.
Also Recommended: Miles Davis & Gil Evans: Miles Ahead, and Cannonball Adderley: Somethin’ Else.
These albums are widely available for purchase or streaming wherever you usually get your music. Lead sheets (jazz sheet music) for many of these songs are available in fake books available for purchase from KD Music and Arts.
All songs embedded here are copyright their original owners.