Friday, April 10, 2009

Kind of Blue

Have you ever played the “what five albums would you want if stranded on a deserted island” game? It’s great dinner party discussion and tips one off on the musical tastes, and priorities, of your dinner companions.

One of the albums I would strongly consider in my five is “Kind of Blue,” the Miles Davis masterpiece that turns 50 this year. In celebration of the event, Sony is issuing a special boxed set of “Kind of Blue.”

Davis, as we all know, was a true jazz pioneer. He began his career in the 1940’s and sampled, and led, many flavors of jazz virtuosity—jazz, bebop, hard bop, modal, jazz funk and fusion.

It was in 1959 that Davis and pianist Bill Evans got together to discuss ideas for a new record. When the two eventually formed back up with the band, they had virtually no rehearsal—they recorded all but one of the pieces on the album in one single “take.”

Other musicians on the album were John Coltrane, tenor sax; Cannonball Adderley, alto saxophonist; bassist Paul Chambers; and drummer Jimmy Cobb. Wynton Kelly joined the band on piano, instead of Evans, on one track.

Although the actual numbers remain in dispute, “Kind of Blue” became the top-selling jazz album of all time. It is arguably Davis’ best work—and, certainly his most iconic. “Kind of Blue” influenced an entire generation of jazz musicians—guys like Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Its influence also reached into rock music where artists like Carlos Santana, the Allman Brothers Band and The Police were inspired to pursue modally based improvisation.

Davis died in 1991 but the legacy of his work lives on in this masterpiece--Happy 50th Birthday to “Kind of Blue.”

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