Throwback: Miles Davis-So What

Miles Davis moved away from his hard bop style of jazz for his 1959 album Kind Of Blue. Davis had seen the Ballets Africains from Guinea in 1958 and he was aware of George Russell’s music theory book Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization. Pianist Bill Evans had worked with Russell, who was also a piano player, before joining Davis’s group in 1958. These things influenced Davis’s choice to record modal jazz, which emphasized slow changes of the scales used to improvise a solo instead of the speed attributed to the chord changes in bebop and hard bop. The contemplative approach to “So What” had a fluid charm that Davis’s horn commanded with a newfound sensitivity. Evans and bass player Paul Chamber’s introduction started the album with what became the most recognized first seconds of a jazz song. The new style of Davis’s music made Kind Of Blue the most sold jazz album ever and many critics considered it his greatest work. John Coltrane, who played on the album, would use these ideas in his future landmark recordings like My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Pharoah Sanders were also influenced by Kind Of Blue. The impact of the album went beyond jazz with rock artists The Allman Brothers and Pink Floyd referencing how KOB affected their music. James Brown’s saxophonist Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis used Davis’s “So What” to co-write “Cold Sweat” with Brown. 

The 50th Anniversary edition of Kind Of Blue was released in 2008. On June 25th, Merci Miles! Live At Vienne will be released on Rhino Records. 

Miles Davis Kind Of Blue Cover