The 1959 Miles Davis album "Kind of Blue" could be the greatest jazz album of all time. It's certainly the biggest selling, and while popularity doesn't always suggest artistic achievement, the record's influence has been immense in jazz specifically and music in general.
Audiences will have a chance to experience "Blue" live this Sunday, as drummer Tim Metz has put together a top-shelf band to re-create the album's timeless music with two shows at JB's Lounge at the Clarion Inn in Sacramento.
Metz, along with Joe Gilman on piano, Mike McMullen on tenor sax, David O'Keefe on bass, Tom Peron on trumpet and Jeff Clayton on alto sax, will play the album's five tunes.
Clayton is an extraordinary addition to an already top-flight ensemble. He has a long and impressive résumé that includes performances or recordings with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Orchestra under Thad Jones, Diana Krall, B.B. King and Ray Charles.
The legacy of "Blue" is one of experimentation and innovation. Instead of chord progressions, "Blue's" music is based modes, sets of scales that allow the players more solo freedom. The five songs "So What," "Freddie Freeloader," "Blue in Green," "All Blues" and "Flamenco Sketches" have entered the jazz lexicon as classics of composition and improvisation.
With pianist Bill Evans creating the modal framework that transported the album from the topical hard bop of the times, Davis' sextet had the incendiary John Coltrane and earthy Julian "Cannonball" Adderly on the front line. These players, along with drummer Jimmy Cobb and bassist Paul Chambers, were on spectacular creative waves that extended into significant solo careers after this record's release.
Coltrane continued the modal experiment through the early 1960s with one of the greatest quartets in jazz history, while Evans redefined the piano trio in subsequent years. Even Adderly, who formed a quintet with his brother Nat, created a template for an accessible, groove-based band that many artists followed.
Davis, of course, went his own way as well, with his stellar quintet of the '60s. But "Kind of Blue" has continued holding a singular place in jazz history with its cool, brooding lyricism and the exquisite solos.
Pianist Evans, the creative focal point of the recording, receives co-writer credit with Davis on "Blue In Green" and "Flamenco Sketches." Evans also penned the album's liner notes, where he wrote, "Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances."
The album was recorded in two sessions at Columbia Records' 30th Street Studio in New York City. On March 2, "So What," "Freddie Freeloader," (with Wynton Kelly on piano) and "Blue in Green" were recorded, and on April 22, "All Blues," and "Flamenco Sketches" were laid down , making up side two.
There was little rehearsal, and though legend has it that the album was recorded in one take, there were a few false starts, but only one master take of each tune was made. In a model of efficiency, the album was released Aug. 17, 1959.
The record is considered a natural starting point for any jazz record collection. Critic Stanley Crouch has said he can't imagine anyone who considers themselves "enlightened" not having a copy. Hip-hop and jazz producer Q-Tip has said, "It's like the Bible you just have one in your house."
The Tim Metz Group plays the music of Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue." $13, $5 for children 10 and under. Two separate shows: 5 and 6:45 p.m.
JB's is inside the Clarion Inn at 1401 Arden Way.
Call (916) 723-5517 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations.
Call The Bee's Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120.