On this day in 1959, trumpeter Miles Davis entered the Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York to record Kind of Blue. He was joined by John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley (alto saxophone), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums), Bill Evans (piano), and Wynton Kelly (piano on the bluesy second track, ‘Freddie Freeloader’). The album, which was completed in April later that year, would go on to become the bestselling jazz record of all time.
Ashley Kahn, in his excellent book Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece, grapples with the inestimable place that the album occupies in the history of music:
“Critics revere it as a stylistic milestone, one of a very few in the long tradition of jazz performance, on equal footing with seminal recordings by Louis Armstrong‘s Hot Fives and Charlie Parker‘s bebop quintets. Musicians acknowledge its influence and have recorded hundreds of versions of the music on the album. Record producer, composer, and Davis confidant Quincy Jones hails it as the one album (if that were the limit) that would explain jazz.”
Jazz critics Richard Cook and Brian Morton include the album as one of their core collection of recordings, praising Bill Evans’ ‘allusive, almost impressionistic accompaniments which provide the ideal platform for the spacious solos created by the horns’. They conclude: ‘If you have anything approximating to a jazz collection, you will already have this record.’
While Davis often downplayed the significance of Kind of Blue as just another date in the studio, the recording represents a significant advancement in the development of jazz. The album’s sparse, lyrical pieces remain unsurpassed. Essential listening.