Kind of Blue: Legacy Edition – which includes final LP tracks, and all known alternate takes, studio sequences, and one false start — celebrates a masterwork and its prelude, offering the only other studio sides we have by Davis’ sextet, and a later live recording, illustrating how this band evolved and where they were headed on their journey toward immortality.
Kind of Blue: Legacy Edition is a double-CD package containing a standard CD booklet with a reworked 2,500-word version of Francis Davis’ essay from Kind of Blue Deluxe 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, and an embedded .pdf file with an enhanced digital booklet adapted from the box set.
At the core of Kind of Blue: Legacy Edition is the original 45-minute album program, whose five titles – “So What,” “Freddie Freeloader,” “Blue in Green,” “All Blues,” and “Flamenco Sketches” – are indelibly etched in our contemporary musical DNA, be it jazz, rock, third through fifth stream classical, or beyond.
On Disc One, the five titles are presented intact: the first three numbers (“So What,” “Freddie Freeloader,” “Blue in Green”) that were cut on the first day of recording, two three-hour sessions on Monday, March 2, 1959; and the last two numbers (“All Blues,” “Flamenco Sketches”) recorded at the final three-hour session, Wednesday, April 22, 1959. All sessions took place at Columbia’s old 30th Street Studio, supervised by Columbia staff producer Irving Townsend, and recording engineer Fred Plaut.
After those original five tunes are presented, Disc One moves on to the alternate take of “Flamenco Sketches,” the only complete alternate take from the original recording sessions (a track first unveiled on the 5-LP/4-CD box set of 1988, Miles Davis: The Columbia Years 1955-1985, the first Miles Davis box set ever issued by Columbia). Following the alternate take, there are “studio sequences” (ranging from 11 seconds to nearly two minutes) for every one of the five titles, and one “false start” (for “Freddie Freeloader”).
While the 1959 sessions occupy Disc One – Disc Two turns back the calendar to May 26, 1958. The five completed tracks from that session with producer Cal Lampley – “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Fran-Dance” (with an alternate take), “Stella by Starlight,” and “Love for Sale” – are the only other studio recordings of the sextet with Adderley, Coltrane, Evans, Chambers, and Cobb (though live recordings exist on other Columbia/ Legacy album releases from the Newport Jazz Festival in July, and New York’s Plaza Hotel in September).
The five 1958 studio tracks, scattered on various LPs through the years, were united in one place for the first time on the double GRAMMY Award-winning 6-CD box set issued in 2000, Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961 (Columbia/Legacy). Now, for the first time, the five 1958 studio tracks are rightfully coupled – at last –- with the five sextet tracks of Kind of Blue. The final track on CD Two is a mesmerizing 17-minute live concert version of “So What” (without Adderley, with Kelly), recorded in Holland, April 1960.
In late 1958, after some eight months, Bill Evans – the only white member of Miles’ group – left the lineup and was replaced by Wynton Kelly. As Miles began to formulate his next studio recording, he began to think about Evans. The pianist was invited back for the sessions and became an integral spark on the album’s concept. As Francis Davis points out, and jazz scholars have long noted, at least two numbers (in whole or in part) on Kind of Blue are directly attributable to Evans: his “somber” piano intro to “Flamenco Sketches” (“identical to [Evans’] own ‘Peace Piece,’ which he’d recorded the previous December, together with Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Some Other Time,’ the show tune on whose intervals it was based”); and “Blue in Green” (“which sprang verbatim from his introduction to ‘Alone Together’ on an earlier recording of that standard by Chet Baker”).
There are numerous instances where Kind of Blue reveals the influences that Miles brought with him to the sessions, as related by Francis Davis. There was the sound of “a gospel choir he’d once heard while walking at night on a dark road in Arkansas” (called to mind in “the perambulating ‘All Blues’,” writes Davis); an earlier version of “On Green Dolphin Street,” recorded by one of Miles’ passions, pianist Ahmad Jamal; and so on.
Francis Davis (who wrote an entirely different 4,000-word liner notes essay for the box set), places the album in historic perspective: “Beyond jazz, Kind of Blue‘s long-term influence has been enormous. Beginning with the Byrds, the Doors, Carlos Santana, and the Allman Brothers, most rock improvisation has been modal. What Davis did in 1959 (and what Coltrane did subsequently, by introducing non-Western scales) helped set the stage for minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. And if a certain horn riff on recent hits by Amy Winehouse and Christina Aguilera strikes you as familiar, that’s because their producer Mark Ronson borrowed it from James Brown’s 1967 hit “Cold Sweat” – a riff that the tune’s composer, Pee Wee Ellis, freely admits to lifting from “So What.”
KIND OF BLUE: LEGACY EDITION
by MILES DAVIS
(88697 27105 2, originally issued August 17, 1959, as Columbia 8163)
Disc One – Selections: 1. So What (B) • 2. Freddie Freeloader (B) • 3. Blue in Green (B) • 4. All Blues (C) • 5. Flamenco Sketches (C) • 6. Flamenco Sketches (alternate take) (C) • 7. Freddie Freeloader – studio sequence 1 (B) • 8. Freddie Freeloader – false start (B) • 9. Freddie Freeloader – studio sequence 2 (B) • 10. So What – studio sequence 1 (B) • 11. So What – studio sequence 2 (B) • 12. Blue in Green – studio sequence (B) • 13. Flamenco Sketches – studio sequence 1 (C) • 14. Flamenco Sketches – studio sequence 2 (C) • 15. All Blues – studio sequence (C).
Disc Two – Selections: 1. On Green Dolphin Street (A) • 2. Fran-Dance (A) • 3. Stella by Starlight (A) • 4. Love for Sale (A) • 5. Fran-Dance (alternate take) (A) • 6. So What (D, previously released in unauthorized form).
Key to recordings:
(A) – Session of Monday, May 26, 1958: MD, CA, JC, BE, PC, JCB.
(B) – Session of Monday, March 2, 1959: MD, CA, JC, WK (on Freddie Freeloader only), BE, PC, JCB.
(C) – Session of Wednesday, April 22, 1959: MD, CA, JC, BE, PC, JCB.
(D) – Concert of Saturday, April 9, 1960: MD, CA, JC, WK, PC, JCB (at the Kurhaus, Den Haag, Holland).
MD – Miles Davis (trumpet)
CA – Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley (alto saxophone)
JC – John Coltrane (tenor saxophone)
WK – Wynton Kelly (piano)
BE – Bill Evans (piano)
PC – Paul Chambers (bass)
JCB – Jimmy Cobb (drums)