Miles Davis‘ greatest album (in my mind) is Kind of Blue. It was recorded in 1959 and this is the 50th anniversary. So I call on my friend at Crooks and Liars, Mike Finnigan, a famous keyboard musician (has played with Dave Mason, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker and tons of others) to talk about Miles and everything that was happening around 1959. This is a great conversation featuring some outstanding music from Duke Ellington, Clifford Brown, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Because this was only a 20 minute conversation, and we could not get to all of the influences that I really wanted to talk about.
There was so much going on in the late 50s. There is the rise of rock ‘n’ roll with Elvis Pressley. The crooners like Perry Como, Johnny Mathis and Bing Crosby are at the height of their popularity. Television is becoming more widely available. This is the backdrop in which Miles Davis is trying to get attention. Miles Davis wants to be not just the most popular jazz musician but the most popular musician of all time. Jazz, specifically swing music, had been the most popular form of American music since the late 30s. But by the mid-50s its popularity is falling off and some of the greats of jazz are dying. The great songstress, Billie Holiday, and Lester Young, the great saxophone player, get together on CBS’s the Sound of Jazz in 1957. In less than two years both are dead. The great trumpet player Clifford Brown dies in a car crash in June of 1956. The great Charlie Parker dies in 1955. Even Miles Davis fights his own drug habit, but by the mid-1950s Miles Davis is free of heroin and ready to change jazz again.
This is a great discussion with Mike Finnigan. We talk about the thunderous sounds of Art Blakey, the pure, clear sound of Clifford Brown, the revitalization of Duke Ellington and the cool sound of Miles Davis. Mike does mention modal jazz. I am familiar with the term but the definition is here. All I know is modal jazz was a breakthrough. Enjoy!