Miles Davis's 1959 masterpiece Kind of Blue has a reputation not only as one of the trumpeter's finest achievements in his long and illustrious career, but also as one of jazz's most essential masterworks. A timeless masterpiece indeed, Kind of Blue is the very definition of a classic jazz record in my book. Its soothing ambiance, intricate rhythmical and improvisational structures, and outstanding cast of musicians make it the perfect album for nearly every day and mood. Not to mention, of course, that Kind of Blue is the greatest selling jazz album of all time, it inspired thousands of young musicians at the time of its release, and it still continues to inspire young musicians over fifty years after its release. This is an album you must hear for historical significance alone, but the music is so terrific that I think it's essential even without all of its influence and accolades. If you like music and haven't heard Kind of Blue, you're missing out more than words can describe. This is the kind of album that everyone deserves to hear at least once. But, be warned - if you hear this album once, it will be exceptionally difficult to get it off your rotation!
The music here is often described as "cool jazz", which means that the music is heavily focused around subtle riffs, improvisations, and a gentle atmosphere. This was a rather stark departure from a lot of Miles's earlier hard bop efforts, but the quality of the music on Kind of Blue is irrefutable. This is a prime example of cool jazz at its very best; every musician is at the very top of their game, every composition is an irresistible "toe-tapper", and every solo is executed with finesse and emotion. I think it's a safe bet to claim that if you don't like Kind of Blue, then you just don't like jazz music. Mid-twentieth century jazz simply doesn't get any better than this.
Of course, it's difficult to discuss this album without talking about the strength of the musicians involved. Kind of Blue was crafted by a cast of star-studded musicians, including Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Julian Adderley (alto saxophone), Paul Chambers (double bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums), Bill Evans (piano), and Wynton Kelly (piano on "Freddie Freeloader"). The rhythm section lays down plenty of memorable riffs throughout the course of the album, and the solos from Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Julian Adderley, and Bill Evans rank among the most memorable performances in each of their careers. The chemistry between each of these musicians is strikingly noticeable, even more than on many other Davis albums. The warm and organic production helps highlight all of the different things going on in the music, making it one of the best sounding productions from the fifties (or ever).
Kind of Blue is the sort of album that no review can do any justice. It's simply one of those records that everybody needs to hear, and it also currently stands as one of the most prized pieces of music in my collection. This is a prime example of a 5 star album if I've ever seen one. There's a reason why Kind of Blue is always found towards the top of 'greatest album of all time' lists - it truly is one of the most beautiful, moving, and impressive pieces of music you'll ever experience. Essential.