Which Miles Davis album is often cited as the best selling jazz album of all time?
And the answer: Kind of Blue.
Released in 1959, Kind of Blue is regarded by many critics as one of the best albums of all time. The recording includes some of the most influential jazz musicians in history, including saxophonists John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley.
Davis is widely considered to be one of the highest calibre jazz players of the 20th century, if not of all time. Born to a prosperous dental surgeon, Davis enjoyed a comfortable childhood before embarking down an impassioned music career. After playing with local St. Louis jazz groups, Davis went on to attend the Institute of Musical Art, now known as The Juilliard School. However, much of the formative jazz learning Davis experienced during this time was not from attending class – he skipped many classes and instead was schooled through jam sessions with masters such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
In 1954, after overcoming drug addiction, Davis embarked on a transformative 20-year period in which he was considered the most innovative musician in jazz. It was during this period that he teamed up with saxophone legends John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, pianists Red Garland and Bill Evans, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummers “Philly” Joe Jones and Jimmy Cobb to release hit albums ’Round About Midnight (1956), Workin’ (1956), Steamin’ (1956), Relaxin’ (1956), and Milestones (1958). Davis capped this era with his most renowned album, Kind of Blue (1959). Kind of Blue experiments in modal jazz, a style in which improvisations are based upon sparse chords and nonstandard scales rather than on complex, frequently changing chords.
Listen to Davis’ iconic track “So What” below.