Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – 1959: Master of Bebop & Fusion


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Miles Davis Kind of Blue, from 1959, is quite possibly
the single best recording of bebop jazz trumpet in existence
with personnel who are a pantheon of jazz greats.

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July, 24, 2017

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Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – 1959:
Bebop Jazz at it’s finest

Miles Davis was truly the Master of the Jazz Trumpet
and Kind of Blue is his best ever

The Daily Walk with Miracles, updated July 24, 2017, by Paul Evans. Photo modified from Flickr and Jasmin Hunter, video Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – 1959 (Complete Album) courtesy of Columbia, R. Jason Mills and YouTube. Article excerpt courtesy of Nigle M. Smith and The Guardian. Visit www.milesdavis.com. Rolling Stone (from which we get our featured photograph), included “Kind of Blue” among its “15 Essential albums.”

Flickr photograph of actor Don Cheadle who portrays the great jazz trumpeter Miles Davis in a new movie

When I heard Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” CD for the first time, about 1991 or ’92, it was almost a religious experience. (People see “God” in nature or in Light, well, music means so terribly much to me, and this is one of the best CD’s I ever heard.) The album was released not quite 58 years ago. This was also in my own musical evolution, the beginning of a long period of listening pleasure involved with standard jazz, smooth jazz, new age and various “jazz fusion” sounds. Kind of Blue is the best example I know of a jazz style called “be-bop” and the time it was released, 1959, I have read, was the climax of bebop and the beginning of it’s denouement in musical jazz history. I soon collected many of Miles’ Davis CD’s including the one for which the movie in question is named, “Miles Ahead,” which had actually been released in 1957. These were “the Columbia Years” for Miles. If I had to explain what jazz was to an alien, and had only one album to show for an example, “Kind of Blue” would be the first album to come to mind. If your level of musical appreciation of the album is high, you may want to read about the album “Kind of Blue” at Wikipedia, or read the whole Wikipedia article on Miles Davis.

Then, in 1968 Miles shocked the world with an entirely different approach to jazz in his “Bitches’ Brew,” (1:45:54) of which I have owned various editions. You can easily get a 1 CD or 2 CD edition but I believe a 4 CD set is available at Amazon, too. It’s really good, Avant-garde jazz fusion, if you like that kind of thing, but don’t go by “whether or not you like “Kind of Blue.” It’s a totally different approach from out of a parallel jazz universe, and I’d only buy it if you enjoyed listening to it first on YouTube. Miles Davis basically invented avante garde jazz with this recording in 1968. Miles dominated and defined bebop, and then shocked the world with Bitches Brew, which was itself basically the start of jazz fusion. (But don’t listen for any “smooth jazz” from Miles! And generally, most recordings are available to listen to for free on YouTube, but hey, it’s your money!)

Some classic rockers call you names if you listen to jazz, but jazz is the only genre of music invented in America and I’d say listening to it is patriotic and especially great because you can listen to it in several ways. You can try anything from just “having it on in the background” to stretching the mind to see what’s there in an attentive session where you will be rewarded for your efforts. Jazz is like New Age music that way, you can benefit from listening to it in various ways, and you don’t have to worry about “what the music will do to the kids” or if it’s moral or not.

The Guardian on Miles Davis — the film, Miles Ahead examines the actor Don Cheadle’s role in portraying a very special, epochal trumpeter who personally was so important to the development of the whole genre:

“I wanted to be able to put all of Miles’s music into the film – all that we had the rights to – and I didn’t want to be stuck within one period of music,” Cheadle said.

“Had we told it in a way that was chronological, was cradle to the grave, we would have been pigeonholed into these specific moments that coincided with the music. I wanted to approach the music in the way that I experience his music when I listen to it.”

Miles Davis was thus a pioneer of the two important jazz styles called bebop and avante garde jazz fusion. To me, though, when I think of the man, Miles Davis, and his legacy, I think of his bebop recordings. Nobody else ever personified a style like Miles did bebop. His personal style and legend, is almost imaginable from the Kind of Blue album in the video, below. It is my favorite recording of any jazz that I know. (And I really needed a break from all the classic and Christian rock I’ve been blogging so this was the first album that occurred to me, again it’s the best jazz album I ever knew.) As with so many sensitive musical pioneers, Miles Davis’ life was tragically shortened, in this case by the scourge of heroin. But (even as hackneyed as this is to say), Miles’ music will live on forever. We try to bring you important music of all genre’s here at The Daily Walk with Miracles (home page), and this album is one of the most important recordings in jazz history.

As far as an appreciation of jazz overall, and of Miles Davis’ legacy, I would not leave out Miles Davis’ “In a Silent Way” from 1969. It puts an almost religious dimension onto a pure jazz sound that amounts to a sort of “bebop fusion,” if one could so describe it. If you like bebop at all, you should listen to “In a Silent Way.”

NPR gives the definitive appreciation of Kind of Blue: “The best selling jazz record of all time was released 40 years ago and it still sells 5,000 copies a week. It is a universally acknowledged masterpiece, revered as much by rock and classical music fans as by jazz lovers.” You may also want to visit the Miles Davis website.

The same NPR summary lists the personell who performed on Kind of Blue with Miles. These guys are absolutely at the top of the list of standard jazz performers: “Kind of Blue brought together seven now-legendary musicians in the prime of their careers: tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, alto saxophonist Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb and of course, trumpeter Miles Davis.” It is like an assembly of jazz “demigods.”

Also see Kind of Blue – Why the best-selling jazz album of all time is so great, SLATE Magazine, August 17, 2009, by Fred Kaplan. SLATE gives us a good appreciation of Miles’ new “modal” bebop style; if you want the music theory behind Miles Davis, this would be a good place to start. They note that “it’s cool, romantic, melancholic, and gorgeously melodic.” Now how many pop songs or albums could you really say that about? Kind of Blue still sells 5,000 copies a week, 58 years later.

See all the great digital rights free mp3’s available for download from Amazon.com by Miles Davis. Included on this page is the important “Sketches of Spain” CD. All of Amazon’s mp3’s are high quality 256 kbs versions, so you can buy with confidence here. It’s where I personally get all my digital mp3’s.

Kind of Blue playlist
1. So What – 00:00
2. Freddie Freeloader – 9:26
3. Blue in Green – 19:19
4. All Blues – 24:47
5. Flamenco Sketches 36:23
6. Flamenco Sketches (Alternate Take) 45:51

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

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there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.
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