Fifty years ago today, the Miles Davis Sextet began recording for Columbia Records the music that ultimately made up the album called Kind Of Blue. To observe the occasion, Jan Stevens of The Bill Evans Web Pages commissioned an essay about that imperishable recording and its most recent CD reissue. The piece, by John Varrallo, is exclusive to the Evans site. It is worth reading.
Evans, who was central to the concept of the music on Kind Of Blue, had left the band by the time Davis appeared on CBS-TV’s Robert Herridge Theater in April of 1959. Wynton Kelly was now the pianist. John Coltrane was still on tenor saxophone, with Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers on drums and bass. Later in April, Evans returned to the band, but only to complete the final tracks for the album. Alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley is not on the television program. In this performance, the quintet is enhanced by three trombones, one of them played by Frank Rehak. You will see Gil Evans and the large orchestra that played with Davis in other segments of the broadcast. Herridge introduces the album’s most famous piece.
Columbia/Sony/Legacy has added to the chain of Kind Of Blue CD reissues an elaborate package that includes two CDs, a DVD and a vinyl long-playing record of the original album.
Peter Levin says
One of the other trombonists is Jimmy Cleveland, who had a long career with Lionel Hampton and a host of others, was a Gil Evans regular and led a few sessions that have become cult items in the jazz trombone community. He died last summer.
Ed Leimbacher says
Thanks for the fascinating video clip (a Kinescope?)–Evans swaying, in the groove, the unexpected trombones boosting at one point, Coltrane the Existential tenor always in the process of Becoming, and dapper Miles looking as cool as we always imagine him… except who knew his jowls could bulge out a bit like Dizzy’s? I stupidly never figured him to blow hard enough! But his exit is vintage Miles: walking off the set, leaving the rest to Chambers and Cobb.
I saw him play a theater-in-round set-up in the early Fusion days. The support guys (all later leaders themselves) came out one by one and started playing, sounding like they were tuning up, but then Miles emerged and joined right in, no pause or starting point, and they played for an hour maybe without stopping and then Miles and the others left, one by one, until someone (bass? drums?) was left to hit the final note. I guess that was his statement, something like “Jazz is whatever I say it is.”
Peter Levin says
I think the third trombonist is Bill Elton. There was a fourth trombonist there that day for the Gil Evans portion of events, Rod Levitt, about whom you’ve written so well in the past.
This clip lists all of the participants at the beginning.
Dave C. says
Nice coincidence that it is also the 50th anniversary of the first publication of Robert Frank’s “The Americans”. Most jazz photographers always had to have music playing in the darkroom to guide them through the developing and printing process. Someday my prints will come…..
J. Michael Yates says
I love the album. All my life I’ve confused Bill Evans with Gil Evans
Terry Teachout says
I believe I posted this before you got with the blog revolution:
(Mr. Teachout is the proprietor of About Last Night, the web’s premier omnibus arts blog. He is responsible for my entering the field, for which I thank him, most days. Please click on the link above to read his 2003 essay on Kind Of Blue. — DR)
Jim Brown says
I had the great pleasure of attending an interview sort of session
with Jimmy Cobb organized by Jim Nadel of the Stanford University
music department, who has long been the principal instigator of the
Stanford Jazz Festival. The topic, of course, was the anniversary of
the recording date.
In response to the eternal question about Bill Evans’ participation
in the compostions and the sessions, Jimmy stated that he considered
it equal parts of Bill and Miles. On the basis of what I’ve heard
over the years of both musicians, I couldn’t agree more.
The Hepcat Geezer says
August 17, 2009 marks exactly fifty years from the day Columbia Records released the Miles Davis album, “Kind of Blue”. “So What?” one might ask. Well, there are many great albums from the Age of Vinyl, but “All Blues” are not the same. Some music has the horsepower to affect and alter it’s listeners, to move them mentally and emotionally, and to transform them.
One afternoon on the sidelines of the soccer pitch, at least fifteen years ago, I was talking to the son of a friend of mine. Though this young fellow was in college at the time, I had known him since he was in grade school. Beside refereeing youth soccer games, he had been in a garage rock band since high school. “My Dad told me you listened to jazz a lot,” he says, “but I don’t know much about it. People say it’s pretty deep. What should I listen to so I can get into it?” “Get a copy of the CD “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis,” I told him. “It’s easy to find. They probably have it at Wal-Mart. Drink two glasses of wine and sit in the dark with headphones on, at one o’clock in the morning. Listen to Miles talk on trumpet, Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, John Coltrane on tenor sax, and Bill Evans on piano. Do this three times. You will be turned on to the music.”
I knew this because that’s how I got hooked on jazz. (Well…I didn’t have the wine.) The Columbia Record Club sent me a copy of the “Kind of Blue” album when I was thirteen years old. As I lay in bed listening to it in 1960, the music transported my mind from suburban New Jersey to a smokey jazz club in Greenwich Village, where I could hang out with Maynard G. Krebs, and talk to girls with blonde ponytails, wearing black turtleneck sweaters. From that point on, I began to construct an aura, a shell, of iconoclastic coolness, or so I imagined.
Anyway, about six months after my conversation with this young guy, I ran into his father, Claude, who tells me a tale of woe about how their oldest son is driving both his wife and him nuts. (I knew this to be a very short ride.) “That crazy kid,” he told me, “changed his major at the University, from Business Administration to Music. He says he wants to become a jazz musician!” Shaking his head and rolling his eyes, Claude went on to ask, “Do they still have those?? I thought they were all dead by now!! Where does he get these crazy ideas???
What could I say? I didn’t tell him. Two years later I heard Claude Jr. was playing bass on weekends in a piano trio, in a bar just off the expressway. It wasn’t me, or what I had said to him. It was Miles. Like the Pied Piper in the fairy tale, his recorded sound (particularly in his golden period from 1955 to 1965) kidnaps the listener’s ear. Looking back from a fifty year view, the “Kind of Blue” album remains a masterpiece of the twentieth century.
Harris Meyer says
I highly recommend another 50 year old gem, Louis Malle’s excellent, moody film noir, “Elevator to the Gallows,” with an original Miles Davis score. Just watched it by chance tonight. A alluring young Jeanne Moreau and a really compelling murder plot with a French twist. Malle’s breakthrough film. He later made one of my all-time favorites, “Murmur of the Heart.”