1959: The Year Classic Albums Were Born
"The only thing I'm sorry about is I'm the only one left to talk about it." he says. He reminisced of Miles that "I loved playing with him. We were pretty good friends. I used to go with him to the gym and take pictures of him shadow boxing and all that;" and of Coltrane, "He was a sweet guy. He was much more mild mannered than he sounds on the saxophone. We didn't really have that many conversations because most of the time, he was practicing. [chuckles] Even when he'd take a 20-minute solo and get off the bandstand and go in the dressing room, he practiced. That's how dedicated he was to getting to what he got to."
Blumenthal says Cobb's presence is not to be overlooked.
"I really think Jimmy Cobb has never gotten the credit he deserves for the whole feeling of the album. He followed Philly Joe Jones into Miles' band. Philly Joe was a much more bombastic drummer who was up front, kind of like Art Blakey with the Jazz Messengers. Whereas Jimmy Cobb was very comfortable just creating an aura you almost feel more than you hear. He just is perfect with the music on Kind of Blue. For me, it's hard to imaging Kind of Blue with Philly Joe Jones on drums, being the success that it is or having the appeal to the broad audience that it has. That's not to take anything away from Philly Joe Jones. That's not to say that Jimmy Cobb can't kick butt when he's called upon to do that. But what he does here, that's a different feeling in the Miles Davis band. It really contributes to the success of the album."
Cobb says while he can't pinpoint the reason for the success of that groundbreaking artistic statement, its sheer popularity speaks to its greatness. Blumenthal concurs. "Fifty million Frenchmen can't be wrong, is that what they say? If enough people respond to it, how can you deny its power and its greatness?"
He adds, "Miles Davis was a guy who you can go along and see his ideas developing and his interest changing. This is clearly one watershed moment in his development. The fact that it happened at a time when he not only had a band of great musicians surrounding him, who could respond to the same challenges he was trying to find for himself, but one in particular who was right on that wavelength, and that was Bill Evans."
He acknowledges that Miles had a great knack for "finding the partners that would be inspiring and make his music work. Whether it was Gil Evans or Bill Evans or Coltrane or Wayne Shorter or Joe Zawinul or many other musicians. He was like Duke Ellington in that sense. Some people question whether Miles Davis deserves to be credited with composing all these pieces, or Bill Evans. People say the same thing about Duke Ellington. 'He didn't really write 'Mood Indigo.' Barney Bigard did.' Or, 'He didn't really write 'Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me.' Cootie Williams did.' But yet, these guys on their own wouldn't have created those pieces of music. That same thing holds for a lot of people who worked for Miles Davis. Maybe Bill Evans could have come up with this stuff, or something close to this stuff. There are recordings, like 'Peace Piece' that sound a lot like 'Flamenco Sketches.' He did come up with things that were close to this, but they weren't this. This came from the synergy of Miles Davis and Bill Evans and the other guys in the band approaching this particular music. It worked as well as any other situation you can imagine."
Evans claimed authorship of "Blue and Green" and was at times perturbed about not getting credit. But that's now a side issue. It's clear that Mileswho always loved Evans style and sense of touch at the pianohad Evans in mind when he conceived of the album and the presence of Evans is a vital part of the artistic statement. The two in tandem were necessaryand wonderful.
"Miles Davis, I'm sure, could hear that, 'For what I'm thinking about, Bill Evans gets that.' Wynton Kelly is great, but he gets something else. Bill Evans gets that that thing I'm looking for here,'" says Blumenthal.
The Legacy package includes an outstanding DVD documentary about the making of Kind of Blue, but also other music done with this version of the Miles Davis band, with Evans, that shows a broader picture of the group and how well they played, with expanded repertoire that includes "On Green Dolphin Street," "Stella by Starlight" and "Fran Dance." "Even though they're not modal, and the (extra) music is based on standard chord changes, they have the same kind of emotional feeling that fits very well with Kind of Blue," adds Blumenthal.