Like a lot of other music fans, Kind of Blue was the first jazz album I purchased. I selected my copy from the Columbia House music catalog which seems rather comical today, but it’s the truth.
Over the years I heard plenty of rumors as to how quickly this album was recorded, but the time mentioned always varies by source. In an effort to learn more about the album, I stumbled on Ashley Kahn’s book, Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece and pulled out the following information below that I found the most interesting.
If you are a fan of the album and want to learn more about how it was recorded and see behind the scenes photos, pick up a copy of Kahn’s book! It was a quick read packed with a lot of great information.
Here we go…
Kind of Blue Was Recorded in Just Nine Hours.
I often hear people say that Kind of Blue was recorded in just 72 hours which seems impossible. In fact, there were only three recording sessions, each lasting three hours. The first two sessions were on March 2nd, 1959 and the third session was on April 22nd, 1959. That means the entire album was recorded in just NINE hours and rumor has it they finished early on the third session.
How is this possible? During the sessions, Miles only recorded each song once. This doesn’t mean they only pressed the record button once for each song and out came a masterpiece. For instance, on Flamenco Sketches, they labored at the beginning to get the feel right and had to stop before they finished the recording the first five times. But when they started the sixth take, they performed the song all the way through and Miles didn’t record it again, leaving that version as is on the release.
Following the recording of Freddie Freeloader, he requested they record another ending to splice in but then decided against using it and kept the original performance in full on the release as we hear it today.
Miles didn’t need multiple takes of each song to choose from. After they recorded each song once, he kept it and moved on.
John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley and Paul Chambers Were Only Paid $245.50 Each.
According to Kahn, all of the session players were paid the Union scale of $48.50 for each three hour recording session. It is surprising that high caliber players such as Coltrane and Adderley would even agree to such a low rate. Maybe they spoke up at some point because rumor has it they were paid an extra $100 each on top of the Union scale.
In fact, the entire album’s recording expense totaled just a few thousand dollars. All Columbia had to pay for were the Union scale payments for six sidemen, a contractual advance to Miles, nine hours studio time, four reels of tape and one piano tuner.
Considering the number of units sold and the streaming figures of today, Columbia has had a cash cow on their hands for over fifty years.
They Recorded the Five Songs in the Following Order…
First two recording sessions on March 2nd, 1959:
- Freddie Freeloader
- So What
- Blue In Green
Second session on April 22, 1959:
- Flamenco Sketches
- All Blues
Bill Evans Should Have Been Paid Royalties for Blue In Green and Flamenco Sketches.
All of the royalties from Kind of Blue sales are attributed directly to Miles Davis. Bill Evans would argue that he was responsible for helping to compose Blue in Green and Flamenco Sketches for Miles and therefore should have been paid royalties on those two songs.
Supposedly, in an effort to pacify Bill, Miles sent him a single check for $25. Ouch.
The Original Session is TOO SLOW.
During the first recording session, a motor problem on the tape machine caused the tape to be recorded slightly slower than 15 ips, meaning the parts played back at an ever so slightly sharper pitch.
This went unnoticed by everyone until 1992 when Mark Wilder used the back up tape for a reissue project and heard the difference.
Miles Performed for TV in “The Sound of Miles Davis”.
On April 2nd, 1959, Miles recorded a TV performance produced by Robert Herridge and legendary jazz critic, Nat Hentoff. It took a year before the performance would air on television meaning it premiered not long after the album’s release, helping to fuel the promotional fire Columbia had in place for Kind of Blue.
Miles Did Not Choose the Order of the Songs for Release and the Labels Were Misprinted.
Irving Townsend, the album producer, actually chose the album sequencing instead of Miles. While putting the tracks in order, he mislabeled the song titles on Side B as Flamenco Sketches and All Blues when it should have been All Blues and Flamenco Sketches. This mistake was probably due to the fact that they recorded Flamenco Sketches first then All Blues second during the session and Miles did not have track names picked out yet for the songs during recording.
Columbia estimates 50,000 LPs were pressed incorrectly and they are all, of course, collector items today.
Cannonball Adderley’s Name Was Misspelled for Thirty Eight Years.
Another error occurred on the back cover of the LP jacket where Julian “Cannonball” Adderley was listed incorrectly as simply Julian Adderly, misspelling his last name.
For some reason, this error was not corrected until the 1997 CD reissue!
Miles and Bill Never Recorded Together Again.
It may not surprise you, but Miles Davis and Bill Evans never recorded again following the Kind of Blue release.
Could it be the lack of royalties received by Bill? Was is the insulting $25 check Miles sent as a peace offering? Or was it just the simple fact that both music men took their art to new places where the other wasn’t needed as a contributor?
It may be all of those things, but one thing stands true, in the last 50 years, Kind of Blue has been a gift to music fans and will continue to be so for another 50 more years and counting.
Just listen for yourself: