delanceyplace.com 11/17/06 - miles davis
In today's excerpt - Miles Davis records Kind of Blue:
"In 1959 Miles Davis recorded his sixth album for Columbia Records, a small group session that would eventually be titled Kind of Blue. More than forty years after its release, it is still one of the most-sought-after recordings in the country; in fact, as late as 1998, it was the best-selling jazz album of the year. In both Rolling Stone and Amazon.com end-of- the-century polls, it was voted one of the ten best albums of all time—in any genre—and it is the only jazz album ever to reach double-platinum status. Yet its popularity is not the only extraordinary thing about Kind of Blue. In addition to being an uncontestable masterpiece, it is also a watershed in the history of jazz, a signpost pointing to the tumultuous changes that would dominate this music and society itself in the decade ahead.
"March 2, 1959 ... was the first of two dates on which Kind of Blue was recorded. Miles had worked on the tunes right up until the morning of the session. He had been thinking about this album for a while and had specific goals in mind. One was to steer a new course for jazz, away from Western musical theory [toward the idea of using modes or scales instead of chord progressions]; another goal, even more important, was to record an album on which musicians were forced to play their solos with complete spontaneity. ... Musicians have often brought new compositions to a recording studio, but the Kind of Blue sessions went far beyond that. Not only had the musicians (with the exception of [pianist Bill] Evans) not seen the tunes in advance, they had never before played music with the very structure of these tunes. ...
"Miles' commitment to spontaneity was in itself a key innovation of Kind of Blue. ... This is how Miles himself put it: 'If you put a musician in a place where he has to do something different from what he does all the time, then he can do that—but he's got to think differently in order to do it. He has to use his imagination, be more creative, more innovative; he's got to take more risks.' "