Review: Miles Davis - Kind of Blue: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition

By JON GARELICK  |  December 12, 2008
4.0 4.0 Stars


It's not quite the 50th anniversary, but, hey, Christmas doesn't arrive in August. So here it is, the monument that Kind of Blue has become: two CDs of the original album, alternate takes, "sequence" takes with studio chatter, and "previously unreleased" tracks; a blue-vinyl LP in a replica of the original jacket; a documentary DVD, a poster, and a half-dozen 8x10s of Don Hunstein's session photos; a facsimile of Bill Evans's handwritten liner notes; and a 60-page LP-sized booklet with more photos plus essays by Francis Davis, Gerald Early, and Ashley Kahn.

By now, Kind of Blue is also a litmus test — if you don't like it, you probably don't like jazz. (Hey, anything's possible.) In 1959, Dave Brubeck's Time Out sold more, but Kind of Blue had the impact. Its slow and medium-tempo improvisations based on modes rather than chord changes were the essence of cool, with production to match. Miles and pianist Evans shared the Zen conception ("the sound of one finger snapping," as Francis Davis calls the tune "So What").

And then there are those distinctive voices that blend as well as they contrast: Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley in the front line with Miles, Evans's downtown Debussy, drummer Jimmy Cobb's crucial cymbal smashes, Paul Chambers's bass throb, and some of the most beautifully developed and sustained solos in the history of jazz. Soon Brubeck would be as square as Ike — but Miles never looked back, and Kind of Blue is still the best-selling album in jazz history.

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