Miles Davis: 'Kind of Blue'

The cover of Kind of Blue

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[MUSIC]

A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: So, Murray Horwitz, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, and Bill Evans...

MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb...

SPELLMAN: Jimmy Cobb. Kind of Blue. Five million records sold and still going strong. How come this is in our NPR Basic Jazz Record Library?

HORWITZ: This record is everything that jazz should be and it's everything America should be. You can hear each individual — and the character of each individual musician — as he tells his story. And then the group character as they all work together. It's everything that we all want to be. It's incredibly hip and cool and admirable. It's humorous. It's very intelligent. It's courageous. It's all those things.

[MUSIC]

SPELLMAN: There's great depth to this record, too, I believe. And I know that every time that I listen to it I find some real bottom to it, something to ruminate over.

HORWITZ: It's true. The emotional range as well as the intellectual range of the music being played is phenomenal. There's a poignancy about the record, but you go from incredibly poignant to very joyous and playful, and sometimes in just a few notes.

SPELLMAN: The musicians on this record are not local talent.

HORWITZ: No. This is not the local "Dentists of Dixieland," you know. These are heroes, not just all-stars. And maybe the least-sung heroes are the rhythm players: the bassist, Paul Chambers, and the drummer Jimmy Cobb. They are there just as a solid foundation, and yet a melodic — even in the drums — accompaniment to everything that the more famous players are doing.

[MUSIC]

SPELLMAN: There's a unique and specific sound to this ensemble, I think, that adds to the depth and the color of it.

HORWITZ: You know people have asked recently, especially since we've been doing this Basic Jazz Record Library, A.B., "Are there some more albums like Kind of Blue. I mean, if we like Kind of Blue, what are some albums like that?" And you're right, with just the sheer sonic texture of this, there really aren't. It's mostly, I think, the collaboration among the players that just makes a whole that's greater than the sum of the parts.

SPELLMAN: One of the advantages of the LP record was that you could make a release which was like a suite in itself in the relationship of one tune to another. It seems to me that Kind of Blue is like a suite.

HORWITZ: I think that's very true. The pieces are sequenced in a way that they have certain functions. "So What" is the perfect opening tune...

[MUSIC]

HORWITZ: And you know, A.B., when the record gets at its "moodiest" in this sort of tone poem called "Blue in Green," he follows up immediately, Miles Davis does, with — and Irving Townsend, the producer of the record — with this great swinging blues, "All Blues."

SPELLMAN: And so for your NPR Basic Jazz Record Library, we are recommending Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. It's on the Sony/Columbia Records label. For NPR Jazz, I'm A.B. Spellman.

HORWITZ: And I'm Murray Horwitz.

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  • Album: Kind of Blue
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