Bill Evans' liner notes, for the
"Kind of Blue" album

Bill Evans was the pianist in Miles Davis' group in 1958, and after a few tracks recorded and less than a year touring with the band, left to form his own trio and expand his career,. He was called back to play on the now legendary "Kind of Blue" album in the spring of 1959. According to many sources, Miles concept for the modally-conceived tunes of the sessions was indeed based on the playing of Evans. Bill, in fact, penned "Blue In Green" (though the writer's credit still usually goes to Miles, the Miles Davis Estate has finally admitted in 2002 on the official website , that Evans wrote the tune) and his piano sound is so much a part of the ambience of this historic album. "Kind of Blue" also featured the legendary musicians John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. It is a marvel in the history of improvised music, and is still the best- selling jazz album of all time --over three million copies, as certified by the RIAA and certainly the most beloved. These liner notes below, written by Bill Evans, appear on the original recording sleeve.

"There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous. He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water paint in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment. Erasures or changes are impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.

The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see well find something captured that escapes explanation.

This conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflections, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique disciplines of the jazz or improvising musician.

Group improvisation is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking, there is the very human, even social need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result. This most difficult problem, I think, is beautifully met and solved on this recording.

As the painter needs his framework of parchment, the improvising musical group needs its framework in time,. Miles Davis presents here frameworks which are exquisite in their simplicity and yet contain all that is necessary to stimulate performance with sure reference to the primary conception.

Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances. The group had never played these pieces prior to the recordings and I think without exception the first complete performance of each was a "take."

--- Bill Evans



A classic book for a classic album, written by Ashley Kahn, (DaCapo Press, Boston). It's TRULY INCREDIBLE! (You can read an interview with author Ashley Kahn here from the excellent website JerryJazzMusician.com. It's a good one too as Kahn talks about Bill's career (as well as the other players), his writing BLUE IN GREEN and other matters (like the studio's piano). Kahn got access to some very rare materials and never-before-seen session photos from the label's archives and the book features some heretofore unknown info on these classic sessions. There are interviews new and old, a sturdy MILES bio up the 1958 album, Columbia's production sheets, sales figures,analyses, info on the outtakes, European album cover versions, and more on Bill Evans. A wealth of information on jazz's most important record ever --one that become a true cultural phenomenon.

More"KIND OF BLUE" stuff:

Find out more about this album on the official Miles Davis site


GO to the special NPR page on the album

Buy it at amazon.com

Arts critic Terry Teachout's brief yet excellent blog essay on the album.