April is Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), so we’re spotlighting jazz albums that are the benchmarks of influence and popularity. Each week in April we’ll highlight one album that deserves to be called a classic. Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is the first.
In the spring of 1959, Miles Davis got together an incomparable group. Saxophonists John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, pianists Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb all signed on to record a new album based on a new vision. That August, Kind of Blue was released, and the jazz world has never been the same.
Miles was getting tired of playing hard bop, so for Kind of Blue he adopted the modal approach to composition and improvisation. Each performer was given a set of scales defining the limits and parameters of their improvisations. The sound took the world by storm, and has been called the pinnacle of modal jazz by critics.
Fans didn’t care about the method to Miles’ madness—they just wanted to listen. Kind of Blue remains the best-selling jazz album of all time. In 2002 the Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry.
The songs on this album are considered jazz standards, and many are recognizable to the masses (jazz fans or not). “Freddie Freeloader,” “All Blues” and “So What” are notable to most, while “Blue In Green” and “Flamenco Sketches” are the beautiful ballads that round out what millions consider to be the perfect album.