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Miles Davis: Kind of Blue CD Review (1997 Reissue)

by September 06, 2013
Kind of Blue

Kind of Blue

Label: Columbia (CK64935)

Track List

1)     So What

2)     Freddie Freeloader

3)     Blue In Green

4)     All Blues

5)     Flamenco Sketches

6)     Flamenco Sketches (alternate take)


Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (1959) was such a ground-breaking recording that books have been written about it. The original LP sold millions (no small feat for a jazz recording), simultaneously launching a musical genre (cool jazz) and elevating Miles Davis to legendary status—all from two recording sessions over two days in March and April of 1959. Nearly every track is considered a jazz classic that may be heard in any number of live jazz venues on any given night; their simplicity belies their genius. The many versions of this CD are also a great example of what can go wrong when proper care is not taken in transferring “old” analog classics to the digital domain; that history is both interesting and essential to what I feel is the definitive CD release we have today.

Audio Quality

There have been over a half-dozen releases of Kind of Blue in nearly every format including:
  • LP (multiple times)
  • Open-Reel Tape (remember those?)
  • cassette
  •  MiniDisc (remember THOSE?)
  •  SACD

Almost none of them are still available and almost all of them were released at an incorrect speed (tracks 1-3, or side 1 of the LP) due to one of the original tracking machines running slow; this resulted in those tracks playing back in a sharp pitch. While this was finally corrected in the early 1990's Jazz Masterpiece version, it was not until the late 1990's that a properly re-mastered CD was released. For you multi-channel lovers out there, don't bother with the SACD as it is roundly panned as a sonic mess. Bottom line: be careful which format and which version you buy, as even some of the early re-mastering efforts were sub-par.

I have the LP release “Columbia PC 8163” which was a 1977 stereo re-issue on vinyl (the original LP was issued in 1959 and is considered valuable). While many will debate the quality of this particular LP re-issue (there was another US LP re-issue in 1995), the sad fact is it sounded better than almost every CD version until the 1997 re-issue reviewed here. The 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition is the same re-mastered audio packaged with a lot of extras (CD/DVD/LP) for a lot more money.

There are no weak tracks on this CD (even the alternate take), and history finds both the writing and personnel choices impeccable. The story goes that Miles Davis had only written out the charts to be used hours before the sessions, recording these tracks with little to no rehearsal—often on the first full take—all to capture the inspired spontaneity that he so desperately coveted throughout his career.

Of course, it doesn't hurt when you're joined by some of the greatest musicians  of all time:

  • saxophonists John Coltrane and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley (legends in their own right)
  • pianist Bill Evans (these represent his final recording sessions with Miles Davis)
  • rhythm section Paul Chambers (bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums)


This particular CD version (the 1997 reissue) is the only version of Kind of Blue that I can recommend for purchase, and one of the few multiple media releases I own (both LP and CD). Tip: the easiest way to determine if you have the correct version is to verify there are six—not five—tracks (every properly remastered version, whether a re-issue or special edition, contains an alternate take of Flamenco Sketches). The liner notes created for this re-issue are essentially a small book that include the original “Improvisation in Jazz” essay by Bill Evans as well as an additional “Kind of Blue” essay by Robert Palmer (former writer for the New York Times). Miles Davis' Kind of Blue is the highest ranking jazz album (#12) in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time as well as the best selling jazz album of all time (over 4 million copies) according to the RIAA. In addition, it was one of fifty recordings selected by the Library of Congress in 2002 to be added to the National Recording Registry. No matter which way you slice it, Kind of Blue was an historical musical milestone.


Audio Quality: 5/5

Features: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

Reference Equipment

  • Yamaha DSP-A1 Natural Sound A/V Amplifier (Stereo Mode)
  • Pioneer Elite CLD-99 Reference LD Player
  • Polk Monitor 10B Speakers (x2)


About the author:
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Stanton was born and raised in Kansas City, where he was exposed to the rich culture of jazz at a very young age. He's a drummer and an electrical engineer and loves to review jazz music for us.

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