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Miles’ ‘Kind of Blue’ Turns 50

Kind of Blue is turning 50 and to celebrate Columbia/Legacy Recordings is releasing a jam-packed 50th anniversary edition of the seminal Miles Davis album on Sept. 30. In addition, Morrison Hotel Gallery will present a traveling exhibit of Davis photography beginning in November.

While the album’s 50th birthday won’t actually come until next year-it was recorded in March and April of 1959-this collector’s edition may actually keep you busy until then. The boxed set includes two CDs, a newly-produced DVD documentary, a 60-page book, Kind of Blue on 180-gram, 12-inch vinyl, in-depth liner notes and a series of memorabilia.

The set’s first disc includes the complete album, plus the alternate take of “Flamenco Sketches”-all the other compositions were captured in one take-a series of so-called studio sequences and a “Freddie Freeloader” false start. According to a press release, these “studio sequences”-one for every cut-“are eye-opening revelations into the studio relationship between Davis, the musicians, Columbia staff producer Irving Townsend and recording engineer Fred Plaut.” The sequences range from 11 seconds to two minutes.

Disc two turns its focus back to 1958 with the sessions that pre-date Kind of Blue. These are the only other studio sessions featuring the Davis-led sextet of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. Cal Lampley produced the set, which features “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Love for Sale.” While those cuts are all available on various compilations, this is the first time they’ve been paired with Kind of Blue. There’s also a live version of “So What,” sans Adderley, plus Wynton Kelly, from Holland in 1960.

Celebrating a Masterpiece: Kind of Blue highlights the DVD portion of the set, compiling black and white film and still photographs from the sessions, interviews with Davis (from the sessions) and Evans (on the radio), interviews with musicians such as Herbie Hancock, John Scofield and Carlos Santana and even the late Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes fame. There’s also the group’s 23-minute appearance on Robert Herridge Theatre, which was recorded in 1959 and aired on CBS in 1960.

A series of essays accompanies the work, including one by Washington University in St. Louis Prof. Gerald Early.

Kind of Blue would not have been possible if the LP did not exist,” Early said in a press release. “It was jazz conceived for the record album, not only because of the playing times of the tunes but also because of how the album creates an overall mood. Kind of Blue is not simply a series of tracks as the standard small group jazz album of the day was. Kind of Blue was one of the few jazz records of its time that had a sense of narrative, a cohesive inter-relation between the tunes. It was a work, not a bunch of disparate tunes used to pace a small group jazz album: one fast-tempo piece, one ballad, one blues, one or two standards, a bop-oriented original. The sense of the album as an organic whole added to its appeal.”

For collectors, the boxed set also includes Evans’ hand-written liner notes, a reproduction of the original 1959 Columbia brochure promoting the record, six 8×10 photos and a 22×23 poster.

The four-week exhibit of Davis photography will open at New York’s Morrison Hotel Gallery in November before traveling to other Morrison Hotel and Starwood Hotel locations in 2009.

Originally Published