If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, then jazz critic Francis Davis’ liner notes to the Legacy Edition of Kind Of Blue is a soft-shoe outside the Sydney Opera House to Bill Evans’ cautious waltz around the Empire State Building in his original essay, “Improvisation In Jazz.” It’s as good a point of reference as any to start an analysis of this latest re-release of Miles Davis’ most well-known work and what is arguably the greatest jazz album ever recorded.
After all, Francis Davis’ notes are the newest aspect of this edition, aside from the packaging. But even his notes, I believe, were included in last fall’s 50th Anniversary limited edition box set of this album (released about a year early at that), with two CDs (one of Kind Of Blue, the other being the now hard-to-find 1958 Miles, comprised of mostly the same players), a DVD, colored vinyl and a hardback book of photos and essays. Nothing about the Legacy Edition of Kind Of Blue is new. It’s all old, right down to the live version of “So What?” (also on Anniversary) which was previously available in an “unauthorized form.” Good music always finds its way out there.
The other smatterings of “new” material here (also on the Anniversary set) is short false starts and studio sequences of the band working out kinks in original recordings. It’s charming, certainly, to hear “Freddie Freeloader” start, only to stop and hear studio chatter or laughing. To hear it three times—yeah, maybe a little unnecessary, but it’s nice that it’s here.
As the Legacy Edition doesn’t have the DVD of the box set, unless you already have the remaster of 1958 Miles (we’re going to just assume you have Kind Of Blue already), the main reason to pick up this reissue is to catch the great tracks “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Love For Sale,” “Stella By Starlight,” and “Fran-Dance.” Yes, I just named every cut, but all of this is gold.
And the matter of old and new is missing the point. Kind Of Blue (and the 1958 Miles sessions) is a breathless listen no matter what time period. You don’t listen to this because it’s old or new. You listen because it’s as close to perfect as jazz will likely get.
In A Word: Essential