Miles Davis: Kind Of Blue

The umpteenth reissue of the 1959 modal and changes cooler adds five related late-50s bonus tracks and a front cover variation

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Were albums awarded state pensions, Kind Of Blue, now 65 years old, would just about be eligible. I haven’t actually counted but this latest re-release must bring the total reissues over the years close to triple figures.

This, of course, leaves the reviewer smack dab behind the eight ball, because, let’s face it, what else can there be left to say about it that hasn’t been said not only in previous reviews but also in the several books devoted to it? Still, I’m lion-hearted so I’ll give it the old college try.

I’ll begin with a confession, which is, so they tell me, good for the soul. Until a little over an hour ago I had never heard this album. Shocking, I know, but there it is. That may explain my initial reaction which can be boiled down to five words: “What’s all the fuss about?”

Yes, it’s become “iconic”, yes, it’s shifted millions of units, yes, it’s influential. That last could well be the problem. Had I heard it in 1959, I may well have been as awestruck as everyone else, but clearly, I’ve spent 60 years listening to pastiches of the original so that I’ve been hearing it by osmosis as it were. Now, face to face with the original, it’s a case of so what.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m the least technical person I know – once I master the principle of the screwdriver, I’ll be ready to join the faculty at M.I.T. – so all Miles’ spiel about “modal jazz”, “chords/scale unity”, “vertical relationship between chords and scales” etc is lost on me and comes across as as pretentious as calling flowers by their Latin names. I’m afraid my reaction to someone speaking of Bellis Perennis is to paraphrase Elwen Brooks White and cry “I say it’s a daisy, and I say to hell with it.”

I have absolutely no doubt that this album will have no trouble finding its audience, indeed, it probably already has – those who have worn out their original copy, and/or those who covet the five bonus tracks.

Having now heard it I’m totally unable to work up a sweat about it and nor will I rush to play it again as I will, for example, The Atomic Mr. Basie, or Concert By The Sea. Don’t all rush to lynch me at once; I have a finite number of necks and I’d like to continue sticking them out for a few more years.


Discography
(1) So What; Freddie Freeloader; Blue In Green; All Blues; Flamenco Sketches; (2) Blue In Green; (3) Round Midnight; (4) Stella By Starlight; (5) My Funny Valentine; (6) It Never Entered My Mind (73.16)
(1) Davis (t); John Coltrane (ts); Julian “Cannonball” Adderley (as); Bill Evans (p, except track #2); Wynton Kelly (p, on #2 only); Paul Chambers (b); Jimmy Cobb (d). New York, 2 March, 22 April 1959.
Bonus tracks: Davis (t) with:
(2) Evans (p); Scott LaFaro (b); Paul Motian (d). New York, 28 December 1959.
(3) Coltrane (ts); Red Garland (p); Chambers (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). New York, 10 September 1956.
(4) Adderley (as); Coltrane (ts); Evans (p); Chambers (b); Cobb (d), New York, 26 May 1958.
(5) same personnel as (3). Hackensack, New Jersey, 26 October 1956.
(6) same as (5) but 11 May 1956.
Essential Jazz Classics EJC 2607