On this day in 1959, Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” was released. It is the top-selling jazz record of all time and is considered by many to be the greatest jazz album of all time. The late 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley, exclaimed it was “the single greatest achievements in recorded music.”
The album’s influence on music, including jazz, rock, and classical music, has led music writers to acknowledge it as one of the most influential albums ever made. In 2002, it was one of fifty recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. In 2003, the album was ranked number 12 on Rolling Stonemagazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
From Rolling Stone:
This painterly masterpiece would become one of the most important, influential and popular albums in jazz. But at the time it was made, Kind of Blue was a revolution all its own, a radical break from everything going on. Turning his back on standard chord progressions, trumpeter Miles Davis used modal scales as a starting point for composition and improvisation – breaking new ground with warmth, subtlety and understatement in the thick of hard bop. Davis and his peerless band – bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb, pianist Bill Evans, and the titanic sax team of John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley – soloed in uncluttered settings, typified by “melodic rather than harmonic variation,” as Davis put it. Two numbers, “All Blues” and “Freddie Freeloader” (the latter featured Wynton Kelly at the ivories in place of Evans), were in 12-bar form, but Davis’ approach allowed his players a cool, new, collected freedom. Evans wrote in his original liner notes, “Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances.” Or as the late critic Robert Palmer wrote, “Kind of Blue is, in a sense, all melody – and atmosphere.” The bass line in “So What” is now among the most familiar obbligatos in jazz, and there is no finer evocation of the late-night wonder of jazz than the muted horns in “All Blues.”
Its most famous track is “So What”.