978-0-306-81067-1 / 9780306810671

Kind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis Masterpiece


Publisher:Da Capo Press



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About the book:

Ashley Khan's Kind of Blue: the Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece is a symptom of a phenomenon it both reports and perpetuates. Miles Davis' 1959 albumKind of Blue) has been a perennial jazz bestseller, but in recent years it has enjoyed even higher sales, perhaps in large part because of the contemporary preoccupation with things past. Khan himself, growing up with punk rock, writing extensively for Rolling Stone magazine and discovering jazz second-hand, is perhaps an example of the new audience for Kind Of Blue as cultural icon. Kind of Blue has long signified much more than just the sounds contained in its 45-odd minutes: Miles Davis was already a symbol of hipness, black pride and cool by the late 1950s, and while that image waned as rock boomed in the 1960s and 1970s, it has become newly ascendant in the recent years, fuelled by 1990s retrospection and a vigorous reissue programme by Davis's old record label, Sony-Columbia. Against this background, Khan's book could have been a celebration of the mythology surrounding Kind of Blue, but while it briefly subscribes to idolatry, it is mostly a mature and serious account of a musical milestone. Drawing on old and new research, Khan traces the genesis of the record's aesthetic in, among other places, Claude Thornhill's 1940s orchestrations, George Russell's harmonic theories, Bill Evans's impressionism and Davis's own lyrical disposition. He discusses the making and selling of the record in exacting detail, but perhaps the most interesting part of the book is his survey of the influence of Kind of Blue on pop music. Duane Allman, Ray Manzarek of The Doors and Andy Summers of The Police all acknowledge their debt to the record's modal style, and Khan draws plausible parallels between the hypnotic broodiness of "So What" and contemporary trance and drum 'n' bass music. Davis himself, publicly scathing about his past and about efforts to describe or analyse his music, would probably have been officially unimpressed by this volume, but even he was susceptible to the charms of his own legend. --Mark Gilbert

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