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Kind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis Masterpiece Paperback – September 18, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


U.S. News & World Report, 1/5/09
“a brisk read, full of rarely seen photos.”

Malcolm Jones, Newsweek, 2/9/09
“Absorbing.”, 8/14/09

The Believer, August 2013
“I read it with admiration, pleasure, and, occasionally, more concentration than I need to use on most music books…Kahn writes with discipline and a great deal of care. And—yes—he provides an authoritative and accessible guide…His book is riveting.”

Virginia Quarterly Review, 10/18/13
“There is no argument about the celestial status of Miles Davis’s 1959 epic recording Kind of Blue and Ashley Kahn’s Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles David Masterpiece, an informative brief for its greatness.”

About the Author

Ashley Kahn is an award-winning journalist and radio essayist, and is the author of The House That ’Trane Built, and A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album. He lives in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (September 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306810670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306810671
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,576,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Peryer on April 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
A surprisingly brisk read for a book of such ambitious scope, the author begins a full decade before the recording it chronicles. A wide range of subject matter - the evolution of jazz, Miles as an artist and creative voice, recording techniques, even the business of jazz marketing - are covered engagingly, intelligently and leave the reader with a better context in which to place this seminal recording.
Long-time fans, who know the music and the myths inside out, will marvel anew at the dedication Miles showed not only to his music, but in what can only be called his sentimentality in working with the other artists on the dates. His relationship with pianist Bill Evans is especially poignant.
The rise of modal jazz and its off-shoot from bop, along with the impact on the post-war generation of players is juxtaposed against a record label system willing to actually bid for jazz artists(!) and put real thought and resources into promoting their works. There is a tinge of nostalgia to the writing, though the author is not a contemporary of the original recording's release. This tone is far out-weighed by the realization that Kind of Blue really did mark a second (or third) Golden Age in jazz and that men the likes of Miles Davis - or Babe Ruth or Marlon Brando - seem not to walk among us much anymore.
In an age of celebrity profiles and Behind the Music "documentaries", Kahn's book shows us that every story has many stories, and he tells each with a respectful touch.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E A Glaser on January 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a jazz fan I was eager to read Ashley Kahn's book on the album "Kind of Blue", and I wasn't disappointed. The author got a rare opportunity to listen to the master tapes of the two studio sessions that created the five songs on the album. The heart of the book is the dissection of each song -- its origins, the mistakes made along the way, and an analysis of the final complete version. Also interesting was the story of Miles Davis' career up to that point. The description of the jazz scene in 1959 put the album into context. It's fascinating to be reminded that "Kind of Blue" was overshadowed at the time by Ornette Coleman's debut album, which was considerably more avant-garde (but much less accessible).
Not being musically trained myself, I didn't completely follow Kahn's explanation of "Kind of Blue"'s ground-breaking use of modal (versus chordal) scales. I was more interested in the human stories -- how Miles hooked up with Bill Evans; John Coltrane's expansion of his musical horizons while working with Davis; the impact of heroin addiction on Davis' attempts to keep his bands intact. There are a lot of personal histories embedded in the story, and the author does a good job of teasing them out and explaining how this seminal release came to be made.
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65 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Engelbach on May 1, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I hate to be a nay-sayer when so many other critics have nothing but unqualified praise for this book. And, by and large, it's an interesting read with much fascinating information. As a compilation of facts, it offers an exciting look behind the scenes at the creation of a milestone (no pun intended) of jazz.

However, the book has deficiencies that can't be overlooked.

First of all, the book is too adulatory. Although it's much better than the completely worshipful Eric Nisenson book on the same subject, there's too much PR in proportion to journalism. When I buy a book I don't want to read an extended press release.

In addition, Kahn's excuses for the ineptitude of Columbia Records are too forgiving. More of this below.

First, I suspect that Kahn is not himself an experienced musician. When he tries to write about the music itself he makes several mistakes. I'll cite just one.

On page 70 is a picture of the chart Cannonball Adderley used for "Flamenco Sketches," with a caption by the author that refers to the scales used in the tune as "C Ionian, A-Flat Mixolydian, B-flat Major 7th, D Phrygian, and G Aeolian." The chart, however, is transposed for Eb alto saxophone, so the picture doesn't match the description. It would have been helpful if the caption had mentioned this.

Worse, however, is the apparent lack of understanding of music in the caption itself. "C Ionian" is essentially "C Major." Non-musical readers have heard of C Major but many may have no clue about what an "Ionian" is.

The "A-flat Mixolydian" scale shown here begins on Eb, so it would be more properly labeled "Eb Dorian."

"B-flat Major 7th" is a chord, not a scale. The scale is "Bb Major," period.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on December 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
This extensively researched book opens a big window into a decade or more of American popular music, when Top 40 charts embraced everything from novelty songs to Elvis and Doris Day, and jazz performers commanded their own share of a vast audience. Sound recording technology had recently introduced LPs and stereo to consumers, and the music industry was booming. It was at this point, the late 1950s, that the young trumpet player Miles Davis stepped onto the stage and emerged as an influential innovator and eventual jazz giant.

Author Kahn traces the steps of Davis' early career, focusing on the man, the musician, and the jazz artists who were his contemporaries, including the six men who joined him in creation of the album "Kind of Blue." Then listening to the original session tapes he recreates the recording of this album in 1959 in CBS's 30th Street Studio in New York. He wraps up his book with an interesting account of the marketing and release of the album and an analysis of its impact on music and musicians who followed, as well as its continuing popularity among listeners.

Most interesting for nonmusicians among readers is his explanation of modal jazz and its implications for the jazz performer. Also fascinating is the account of how these gifted, strongly independent jazz musicians came together for a brief period of less than two years to perform as a group, culminating in this classic album. The book is illustrated with numerous photographs, many taken at the recording session, and it ends with a bibliography, discography, copious notes and ample index. Altogether it's a generous and informative appreciation of one of the great jazz recordings of the last century.
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