In 1959, Miles Davis was looking to forge a path away from the bebop spearheaded by mentor Charlie Parker, Fred Kaplan writes on Slate. “Parker not only invented bebop, he perfected it,” Kaplan continues, leaving Davis nowhere else to go. So when Davis was introduced to so-called “modal” jazz—with the emphasis on free experimentation with scales and away from rigid chord structures—he jumped at it. “Man, if Bird was alive, this would kill him,” Davis said.
Before he recorded “the best-selling jazz album of all time and the spearhead of an artistic revolution,” Davis needed a pianist “who knew how to accompany without playing chords.” Which was crazy, Kaplan writes, because playing chords “was what modern jazz pianists did.” But with Bill Evans and hornsmen John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, a legend was born. The tunes have “the same feel as the other blues tunes,” Kaplan concludes, but “there are no chord changes. It sounds (hence the album’s title) kind of blue.”