Miles Davis - Kind of Blue (1959), 7/10

Miles Davis was a revolutionary musician for many reasons including his constantly evolving vision, capability as a bandleader and technical performer, and his very individual, brilliant ear for melody. I would argue Kind of Blue only fully exhibits one or maybe two of these great characteristics, while some of his later work put all of them on full display simultaneously, resulting in more holistic recordings. Let it be noted that is an absurdly high bar, however. Of course, what I am referring to as far as Kind of Blue goes is Miles’ potential as a performer and, perhaps, his ear for great melodies, although these are not quite his very best. The laser focus on modality takes the blame for that shortcoming, or at least limits the album's potential to reach a grander plane. Regardless, there is no arguing that this album is technically outstanding from a performance standpoint. Miles, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, Coltrane and Jimmy Cobb are all individually amazing at their respective crafts and masters of interplay, which is absolutely essential for a record with this structure and intention. The songs themselves are soothing, polished, and at times even flirt with spirituality, particularly during improvisation. I won’t pretend to understand every nuance of a record at the level of those who have truly analyzed the album from an academic perspective, but there is a unique grace to every song, both in their respective narratives and in the space explored by the band. As it should be, considering the wildly proficient personnel. Most of these songs are growers, and while they do display a certain grace and elegance at face value, there is plenty to dig into after many listens, which is what gives the record its staying power. The motif may be somewhat singular, but it captures a very specific frame of mind quite successfully, and for that deserves a majority of its seemingly endless praise. Praise for which, as a lover of jazz, I am very grateful not just from an exposure and popularization standpoint, but also simply because this is a truly outstanding recording with so much nuance and virtue of sound. For true newcomers to jazz this is a good starting point, and whether you enjoyed this album or not, a good next step would be towards Mingus, as his catalogue offers a very different perspective on the evolution of jazz, yet remains quite accessible for people from all musical backgrounds. Ultimately, while I appreciate Kind of Blue and it is in fact a personal favorite of mine, it is simply for its individual disposition, technical prowess, and its effortless, tranquil compositions, almost in spite of its influence. I lean towards other ideas being explored during the late fifties such as Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come, a record’s attitude and timing that duly frustrated Miles. If nothing else, Kind of Blue is one of the greatest exercises of modal jazz ever recorded and deserves a mention among the very best.