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Kind of Blue


Senior Member
I was going to post this in the "who is the Miles Davis of sax players" thread but I thought it would be going off the subject. So here goes.

If Kind of Blue is the best selling jazz album of all time, then why has it essentially been unrepeated? I have looked in vain for another album which has its atmosphere, its restrained "less is more" feel. You would have thought that anyone who could create something else in the same vein would make a fortune.

My uninformed guess is that modal playing relies on being being able to improvise extended, interesting melodic lines based on one scale - and that ain't easy. Just ask Satie who presumably worked hard over the Gnossiennes and Gymnopedies. Coming up with new such lines, night after night, would be a little difficult, whereas playing the changes you already have a tried and tested 2-5-1 structure...?

I know about Christian Scott etc but his stuff is a pale shadow.


Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
"Kind of blue" by Ashley Kahn, could give you some clues.

There is a magic on that album that will never happen again. They did not know it was the first modal album, and that tension makes it special.
Add the location, and you get it.

After a lifetime listening to it, it still surprises me.

In Virgin records I often had customers asking "which is the best jazz album?"
- "Kind of Blue"
- "Why?"
- "Because it is an absolute beauty"
- "I'll buy it"

Legend says that Manfred Eicher heard that album, gave up his career as double bass classical player and founded ECM (not too hard to believe, if you think of the ECM sound)

Another good album in that mood? "Lontano" by Tomasz Stanko


Well-Known Member
If 'Kind Of Blue' is the best selling jazz album of all time, it's because it's been selling steadily since 1959 - 5 decades worth of sales all add up. At the time, Dave Brubeck's 'Time Out' was probably more popular - it went gold in 1963. Miles didn't get a gold disc until Bitches Brew. Kind Of Blue didn't go gold until 1993 and went platinum in 2008, so a lot of the sales have been in the last 20 years
These days it'd be difficult to get a jazz album the kind of prolonged exposure and worldwide distribution that Kind Of Blue has had, nor would a major label like Columbia be very interested in jazz. Nor do many jazz musicians have the kind of mystique that Miles has. It's the legendary status that helps sell music to the general public

What we should bear in mind is that Miles and the other musicians didn't know they were creating a 'classic album', they were just doing the best they could. There are other Miles albums that are equally as good - Porgy And Bess, Sketches Of Spain, In A Silent Way, the soundtrack to Ascenseur Pour l'Echafaud etc, but for whatever reasons, Kind Of Blue has become 'the one'
Miles' working methods often involved not telling the musicians what he wanted and only giving them some vague scribblings and cryptic instructions at the last minute (and he also had an unerring knack of choosing the right musicians for the job) - he didn't want them to get complacent and knew that if you can create the right working atmosphere, the first ideas that people come up with when presented with a fresh challenge will often be the best. The few out takes from the Kind Of Blue sessions suggest that they got it right in the first or second take.

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