“Davis captured the mood of uncertainty that prevailed in bohemian and intellectual circles at the end of the 1950s – a time when the artists and audiences who were most committed to the modernist ideal of ongoing progress in the arts were also reading the Beats and J.D. Salinger and pondering Zen Buddhism’s riddles of blissful acceptance of things as they are.” – from the liner notes written by Francis Davis
At the pinnacle of those forward-thinking artists who challenged the status quo at the close of the buttoned-down, buttoned-up Eisenhower era, and brought us into the clear light of the 1960s – was Miles Davis (1926-1991). In every way, Kind of Blue (recorded and released on Columbia in 1959), starring Miles’ “first great quintet” – Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley (1928-1975, alto saxophone), John Coltrane (1926-1967, tenor saxophone), Bill Evans (1929-1980, piano) or Wynton Kelly (1931-1971, piano), Paul Chambers (1935-1969, bass), and Jimmy Cobb (b. 1929, drums, the only surviving member) – was the album that not only changed the private fan’s perception of jazz, but forever changed fellow musicians’ concepts as well.
A half-century later, Kind of Blue continues to inspire new levels of scholarship into its creation, new attempts to explain the album’s allure and influence. Tens of thousands of jazz albums, and at least three generations of jazz players later, the essence of Kind of Blue has never been duplicated. That may account, in part, for its RIAA quadruple-platinum status in the U.S. and worldwide recognition as a timeless masterpiece, #12 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.
KIND OF BLUE: LEGACY EDITION – which includes final LP tracks, and all known alternate takes, studio sequences, and one false start – now becomes the basic catalog staple by which the next generation will know this album. The double-CD package will be available at all physical and digital retail outlets starting January 20, 2009, through Columbia/Legacy, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT.
This Legacy Edition celebrates a masterwork and its prelude, offering the only other studio sides we have by Davis’ sextet, and a later live recording, illustrating how this band evolved and where they were headed on their journey toward immortality.
KIND OF BLUE: LEGACY EDITION comes four months after the September 30, 2008, release of KIND OF BLUE: 50th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTORS EDITION, and provides an affordable alternative to the box set. Among the many contents of that expansive and lavishly-designed 12-inch slipcase box was a 60-page bound book that included exclusive photographs, full discographical annotation, and critical essays written by Miles Davis authorities Francis Davis and Prof. Gerald Early, plus session transcripts by Ashley Kahn. The newly configured double-CD package will contain a standard CD booklet with a reworked 2,500-word version of the Davis essay, and an embedded .pdf file with an enhanced digital booklet adapted from the box set.
In conjunction with the upcoming 50th anniversary of Kind of Blue in 2009 are two important musical celebrations. The “Kind of Blue @ 50” World Tour starring NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Cobb (who celebrates his 80th birthday on January 20, 2009) & The So What Band – with Cobb, Wallace Roney, Javon Jackson, Vincent Herring, Larry Willis, and Buster Williams – will commence May 2nd at the 40th annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. A trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil will follow in mid-May. The band will then perform at many North American and European Jazz Festivals in June and July, followed by concerts at American performing arts centers in October and November, with further dates to follow in Europe and Asia. The tour is produced and promoted by Absolutely Live/International Music Network (www.imnworld.com).
2009 also marks the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s seminal album Giant Steps (Atlantic), whose recording sessions in May 1959 (with a different quartet that featured Chambers) directly followed Trane’s participation in Kind Of Blue. February 12-14th, at New York’s Rose Theater, Jazz At Lincoln Center will present “Miles and Coltrane: 50th Anniversary of Kind of Blue and Giant Steps.” Music director Mulgrew Miller and his trio, and acapella masters Take 6 will bring their unique style to the music of Kind of Blue; and the saxophone section of the JALC Orchestra will play orchestrated solos from Giant Steps. Jimmy Cobb will join the program as these groundbreaking masterpieces are re-imagined. In addition, a pre-concert lecture (free with ticket purchase) will be held nightly at 7:00 p.m., at the Irene Diamond Education Center, featuring Ashley Kahn.
At the core of KIND OF BLUE: LEGACY EDITION is the original 45-minute album program, whose five titles – “So What,” “Freddie Freeloader,” “Blue in Green,” “All Blues,” and “Flamenco Sketches” – are indelibly etched in our contemporary musical DNA, be it jazz, rock, third through fifth stream classical, or beyond.
On Disc One, the five titles are presented intact: the first three numbers (“So What,” “Freddie Freeloader,” “Blue in Green”) that were cut on the first day of recording, two three-hour sessions on Monday, March 2, 1959; and the last two numbers (“All Blues,” “Flamenco Sketches”) recorded at the final three-hour session, Wednesday, April 22, 1959. All sessions took place at Columbia’s old 30th Street Studio, supervised by Columbia staff producer Irving Townsend, and recording engineer Fred Plaut.
After those original five tunes are presented, Disc One moves on to the alternate take of “Flamenco Sketches,” the only complete alternate take from the original recording sessions (a track first unveiled on the 5-LP/4-CD box set of 1988, Miles Davis: The Columbia Years 1955-1985, the first Miles Davis box set ever issued by Columbia). Following the alternate take, there are “studio sequences” (ranging from 11 seconds to nearly two minutes) for every one of the five titles, and one “false start” (for “Freddie Freeloader”).
While the 1959 sessions occupy Disc One – Disc Two turns back the calendar to May 26, 1958. The five completed tracks from that session with producer Cal Lampley – “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Fran-Dance” (with an alternate take), “Stella by Starlight,” and “Love for Sale” – are the only other studio recordings of the sextet with Adderley, Coltrane, Evans, Chambers, and Cobb (though live recordings exist on other Columbia/ Legacy album releases from the Newport Jazz Festival in July, and New York’s Plaza Hotel in September).
The five 1958 studio tracks, scattered on various LPs through the years, were united in one place for the first time on the double Grammy Award-winning 6-CD box set issued in 2000, Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961 (Columbia/Legacy). Now, for the first time, the five 1958 studio tracks are rightfully coupled – at last – with the five sextet tracks of Kind of Blue. The final track on CD Two is a mesmerizing 17-minute live concert version of “So What” (without Adderley, with Kelly), recorded in Holland, April 1960.
In late 1958, after some eight months, Bill Evans – the only white member of Miles’ group – left the lineup and was replaced by Wynton Kelly. As Miles began to formulate his next studio recording, he began to think about Evans. The pianist was invited back for the sessions and became an integral spark on the album’s concept. As Francis Davis points out, and jazz scholars have long noted, at least two numbers (in whole or in part) on Kind of Blue are directly attributable to Evans: his “somber” piano intro to “Flamenco Sketches” (“identical to [Evans’] own ‘Peace Piece,’ which he’d recorded the previous December, together with Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Some Other Time,’ the show tune on whose intervals it was based”); and “Blue in Green” (“which sprang verbatim from his introduction to ‘Alone Together’ on an earlier recording of that standard by Chet Baker”).
There are numerous instances where Kind of Blue reveals the influences that Miles brought with him to the sessions, as related by Francis Davis. There was the sound of “a gospel choir he’d once heard while walking at night on a dark road in Arkansas” (called to mind in “the perambulating ‘All Blues’,” writes Davis); an earlier version of “On Green Dolphin Street,” recorded by one of Miles’ passions, pianist Ahmad Jamal; and so on.
Francis Davis, contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly and jazz columnist for The Village Voice, has won five ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for Excellence in Music Journalism. In addition to writing many books (among them The History of the Blues, Hyperion, 1995; and Jazz and Its Discontents: A Francis Davis Reader, Perseus, 2004), he has also written liner notes for over 60 jazz and pop albums, including titles by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans.
[Prof. Gerald Early of Washington University is a widely published author, as well as the editor of Miles Davis and American Culture (Missouri Historical Society Press, 2001), a compendium of essays. Ashley Kahn is the author of several books, including Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece (Da Capo, 2000), and A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album (Viking, 2002).]
Francis Davis (who wrote an entirely different 4,000-word liner notes essay for the box set), places the album in historic perspective: “Beyond jazz, Kind of Blue’s long-term influence has been enormous. Beginning with the Byrds, the Doors, Carlos Santana, and the Allman Brothers, most rock improvisation has been modal. What Davis did in 1959 (and what Coltrane did subsequently, by introducing non-Western scales) helped set the stage for minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. And if a certain horn riff on recent hits by Amy Winehouse and Christina Aguilera strikes you as familiar, that’s because their producer Mark Ronson borrowed it from James Brown’s 1967 hit “Cold Sweat” – a riff that the tune’s composer, Pee Wee Ellis, freely admits to lifting from “So What.”
KIND OF BLUE: LEGACY EDITION
by MILES DAVIS
(88697 27105 2, originally issued August 17, 1959, as Columbia 8163)
Disc One – Selections: 1. So What (B) • 2. Freddie Freeloader (B) • 3. Blue in Green (B) • 4. All Blues (C) • 5. Flamenco Sketches (C) • 6. Flamenco Sketches (alternate take) (C) • 7. Freddie Freeloader – studio sequence 1 (B) • 8. Freddie Freeloader – false start (B) • 9. Freddie Freeloader – studio sequence 2 (B) • 10. So What – studio sequence 1 (B) • 11. So What – studio sequence 2 (B) • 12. Blue in Green – studio sequence (B) • 13. Flamenco Sketches – studio sequence 1 (C) • 14. Flamenco Sketches – studio sequence 2 (C) • 15. All Blues – studio sequence (C).
Disc Two – Selections: 1. On Green Dolphin Street (A) • 2. Fran-Dance (A) • 3. Stella by Starlight (A) • 4. Love for Sale (A) • 5. Fran-Dance (alternate take) (A) • 6. So What (D, previously released in unauthorized form).
Key to recordings:
(A) – Session of Monday, May 26, 1958: MD, CA, JC, BE, PC, JCB.
(B) – Session of Monday, March 2, 1959: MD, CA, JC, WK (on Freddie Freeloader only), BE, PC, JCB.
(C) – Session of Wednesday, April 22, 1959: MD, CA, JC, BE, PC, JCB.
(D) – Concert of Saturday, April 9, 1960: MD, CA, JC, WK, PC, JCB (at the Kurhaus, Den Haag, Holland).
MD – Miles Davis (trumpet)
CA – Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley (alto saxophone)
JC – John Coltrane (tenor saxophone)
WK – Wynton Kelly (piano)
BE – Bill Evans (piano)
PC – Paul Chambers (bass)
JCB – Jimmy Cobb (drums)
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