On August 17, 1959, Miles Davis released “Kind of Blue,” the best-selling jazz record ever and considered one of the most influential albums of all time.
“Kind of Blue” has become part of the soundtrack for my novel “For Purple Mountains.” I find the music beautifully rich and moving, but there’s more to it than just that. The history behind the music inspires me to reach beyond what’s easily accessible.
Mr. Davis was well established and successful, but was starting to feel confined by the boundaries of the bebop and hard bop styles of jazz he played. Rather than accepting the restrictions, he created his own shit, as he says above. He didn’t travel the road less taken, he paved a whole new way.
Jazz pianist Chick Corea said, “It’s one thing to just play a tune, or play a program of music, but it’s another thing to practically create a new language of music, which is what “Kind of Blue” did.”
Using pianist George Russell’s theory of improvisation based on scales rather than chords gave the musicians the freedom to explore rhythm and melody. Their explorations created modal jazz, and it’s influence rippled into musical genres as diverse as classical and rock ‘n roll.
I could go on about the endless, well-deserved accolades, but I’d rather let the music speak for itself. I’m hopeful that others will hear it and be inspired to go out and create their own shit. Blue in Green from “Kind of Blue.”
Fred Kaplan’s article on Slate features musical samples and an easy to understand explanation of Why Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is so Great.