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A Year of Praise: The ‘Kind of Blue’ 50th Anniversary

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The 50th anniversary of Miles Davis’ seminal recording, “Kind of Blue,” has provided us a tremendous, 50th-anniversary boxed set from Sony, commemorative events, special panels to converse over the album’s legacy and more ink spilled and Internet space devoted to retrospectives, analysis and appreciations about the best-selling jazz recording of all time to keep you busy reading for the remainder of the year.

The album and its amazing cast of musicians undoubtedly deserve all the attention – and then some. It’s truly one of those recordings that even non-jazz fans are aware of, and perhaps even own because the idea of having such a legendary recording in their collection is too good to pass up, they heard one of the songs somewhere, sometime and liked it enough to give it a try, or maybe it’s just fun to be part of a very (very) big group of people worldwide (and perhaps beyond!) who love “Kind of Blue.”

Between the lines of the well-deserved hullabaloo over “Kind of Blue” is the fact that many fans and critics don’t even think its Davis’ best album. Without doubt his most famous, but there are other equally essential albums in the Miles Davis catalog not to be overlooked by fans of old, or those just getting acquainted with the jazz legend.

The latest entry in the “Kind of Blue” Appreciation Society is John Edward Hasse, the curator of American Music at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, who penned an interesting appreciation/perspective in this past weekend in the Wall Street Journal on Kind of Blue’s golden anniversary (Davis’s New Burst of Freedom).

Writes Hasse: “Davis once famously said, “Don’t play what you know, play what you don’t know.” His players’ improvisations here sound clean, fresh and original, as they nimbly respond to the challenge of unfamiliar pieces and the novel organizing principle of modes. The slower chord changes, the spareness of the themes, and the economy of his and Evans’s solos all conveyed a sense of space and possibility — and thus helped open a door to a new kind of musical modernity.”

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