Kind of Blue
Why the best-selling jazz album of all time is so great.
By Fred Kaplan
Take it away Fred….
When Miles Davis came to New York in 1945, at the age of 19, he replaced Gillespie as Parker’s trumpeter for a few years and played very much in their style. A decade later, he, too, was wondering what to do next.
The answer came from a friend of his named George Russell (who died just last month at the age of 86). A brilliant composer and scholar in his own right, Russell spent the better part of the ’50s devising a new theory of jazz improvisation based not on chord changes but on scales or “modes.” The kind of music that resulted was often called “modal” jazz. (A scale consists of the 12 notes from one octave to the next. A chord consists of three or four specific notes in that scale, played together or in sequence: For instance, a C chord is C-E-G.)
This distinction may seem slight, but its implications were enormous.
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