As it happens, that — most popular — one was first issued just about exactly 50 years ago. The historian, Ralph E. Luker, celebrates the fact and gives this link:
There's a great deal written about Miles* and about this album. A current book — The Blue Moment: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music By Richard Williams — is reviewed in FT and the New Stateman, the former giving brief and the latter somewhat more extensive details about the work and its time.
One academic critic, David Yearsley,** has written a tribute to the album which both acknowledges its greatness and gives some interesting side notes, particularly one involving another favorite jazz musician of mine, Bill Evans who would have celebrated his 80th birthday last week had his drug habit not killed him some 30 odd years ago.
Yearsley points out that Evans had played on earlier albums that Miles cut and had since gone on to form his own group. Miles got him to come back for the Kind of Blue recording date. As Yearsley explains, Wynton Kelly, Davis's new pianist, was surprised to find Bill at the piano when he showed up for the first of the two recording sessions. Davis had Kelly play on only one cut of the album, "Freddie the Freeloader." Bill played on all the others and later wrote up the liner notes. For this work he got union scale, amounting to $64.67 for the day. Yearsley writes:
Given how much money the record made, [the vast amount Miles received] seems especially unjust in the case of Evans, whose harmonic sense and aesthetic vision were so crucial to the shape of the album, even though all compositions are credited to Davis, who was never shy or in the least apologetic about appropriating the work of others.*** How much his creation of the ostinato to the final track on the album, “Flamenco Sketches” is worth is hard to say, as are the tentative musing of Evans and Chambers that serpentine into the arid landscapes of “So What.” . . . Evans’s thing was never my kind of blue, but that unmistakable, searching sound so imbues the overall sense and effect of the album that the disparity between the earnings of Davis and Evans is far bigger even than the numbers of zeroes suggests. The blues have their price, too. The ghost in Evans’ melancholy chords will haunt Davis’s masterpiece recording in eternity. Given how much money the record made, this seems especially unjust in the case of Evans, whose harmonic sense and aesthetic vision were so crucial to the shape of the album, even though all compositions are credited to Davis, who was never shy or in the least apologetic about appropriating the work of others.
The ghost in Evans’ melancholy chords will haunt Davis’s masterpiece recording in eternity.**** . . .
Much is now made of the spontaneity of the recording, how all was done in the studio without rehearsal or reflection, how the tunes were new to all and that the entire effort is akin, as Bill Evans put it in his liner notes, to the “Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous, [and] must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water pan in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment.”
- Kind of Blue: 50th Anniversary
- Kind of Blue at Amazon
- Kind of Blue at last.fm
- Kind of Blue, Why the best-selling jazz album of all time is so great, by Fred Kaplan on Slate
*The wikipedia article provides a good starting point.
**His bio squib: David Yearsley teaches at Cornell University. A long-time contributor to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, he is author of Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint His latest CD, “All Your Cares Beguile: Songs and Sonatas from Baroque London”, has just been released by Musica Omnia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
***"Bill Evans assumed co-credit with Davis for "Blue in Green" when recording it on his Portrait in Jazz album. The Davis estate acknowledged Evans' authorship in 2002." — Wapedia v Wiki: Kind of Blue.
****To some extent, Miles wjould later acknowledge his musical debt to Bill. According to the wikipedia entry for Evans,
Davis wrote in his autobiography, "Bill had this quiet fire that I loved on piano. The way he approached it, the sound he got, was like crystal notes or sparkling water cascading down from some clear waterfall." Additionally, Davis said, "I've sure learned a lot from Bill Evans. He plays the piano the way it should be played." [In 1959] he recorded Everybody Digs Bill Evans, documenting the previously unheard-of meditative sound he was exploring at the time. However, he came back to the sextet at Davis' request to record the jazz classic Kind of Blue in early 1959. Evans' contribution to the album was overlooked for years; in addition to cowriting the song "Blue in Green", he had also already developed the ostinato figure from the track "Flamenco Sketches" on the 1958 solo recording "Peace Piece" from his album Everybody Digs Bill Evans. Evans also penned the heralded liner notes for Kind of Blue, comparing the improvisation of jazz to Zen art. By the fall of 1959, he had started his own trio.