19 September 2019, The Tablet

Miles ahead

Miles ahead

Miles Davis: Rubberband

If you’re the kind of music lover who has just one jazz record in the collection, the chances are that it’s either a Billie Holiday compilation or Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. Released in 1959, it’s routinely listed by most critics as one of the greatest dozen or so jazz albums of all time – but how good is it really? Drummer Jimmy Cobb told me in 1989, its thirtieth anniversary, that the band, which included saxophonists Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, pianists Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans and bassist Paul Chambers, as well as the leader’s trumpet, never thought much of it and considered it simply another day’s work.


An odd fate for an artist whose default mood was exploratory and sometimes explosive. A decade on from Kind of Blue, Miles detonated an electric session called Bitches Brew and followed it up with a sequence of dark sessions that explored funk, early forms of rap, Stockhausen abstraction and Indian music. He also made a fateful switch from Columbia Records and producer/collaborator Teo Macero to the more pop-oriented Warner Bros.

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