musician modal mode jazz bop miles davis quincy jones dave fricke

What We Can Learn from Miles as Kind of Blue Turns 50

The new Legacy Edition of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue comes with plenty of extras: over two hours of audio including false starts, alternate takes, studio dialogue and non-album tracks, a 17 minute live verson of "So What," and a 24-page booklet

Austin, TX
(March 20, 2009) - If there’s one album without a guitar on it that you should own, it should be and probably is Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, the result of two recording sessions totaling 10 hours that would go on to become the most popular jazz album of all time (RIAA certified quadruple platinum). This legendary album, cut 50 years ago on a slightly fast, tube-driven, three-track tape deck at New York City’s famous 30th Street Studio (which, unfortunately, was razed for the construction of an apartment building), had a ripple effect throughout the entire universe of music. Its ground breaking introduction of the modal concept turned jazz upside down but also influenced everyone from the Byrds and the Doors to Santana and the Allman Brothers. The album continues to teach us new things today, revealing new complexities with age just a like a fine wine.

At a recent South by Southwest panel discussion called “Kind of Blue at 50,” a group of music experts and people close to Miles shared stories about the trumpeter and the legendary Kind of Blue sessions. In attendance was George Avakian (worked for Columbia Records and signed Miles), Vincent Wilburn, Jr. (played drums for Miles from ’84-’87), Erin Davis (Miles’ youngest son who also played percussion for him and runs Miles Davis Properties), David Fricke (music guru best known as a writer/reviewer for Rolling Stone) and moderator Ashley Kahn (who wrote the book, Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece). As if that weren’t enough expertise to talk about all things Miles, a last minute straggler sitting in the back of the room was invited to join the panel. That man was none other than legendary music producer Quincy Jones.

Vincent Wilburn, Jr., Erin Davis, Quincy Jones, David Fricke

So, what can guitarists take away from this gathering of music industry heavyweights as they discussed Miles Davis and his most significant work? A lot. The principals that guided Miles explain why he has been described as nanotechnology. The micro components of his music and ways can seem dissonant and counterintuitive, but together they produce results that have fascinated music fans, musicians and scholars ever since. Here’s a sampling of tips that, in true Miles fashion, should challenge you:

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