October 1, 2008 / 10:15 AM / 10 years ago

Miles Davis classic "Kind of Blue" still kicking at 50

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - As record albums go, Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” may not be the biggest seller of all time, but it has influenced generations of jazz and other musicians and is about to celebrate its 50th birthday.

The 1959 oeuvre sold more than three million copies and was named No. 12 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time in any genre, let alone jazz.

Davis’ horn has been silent for 17 years, but mention the album’s five tracks, “So What,” “Freddie Freeloader,” “Blue in Green,” “All Blues” and “Flamenco Sketches” and any jazz fan will hear that haunting, reedy sound again.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking work, Columbia/Legacy, a division of Sony, is putting out a luxury collector’s edition which includes two compact discs of the original album, plus outtakes and alternative versions, a documentary DVD and more.

There is also a Miles Davis exhibition planned for the Cite de la Musique complex in Paris and a feature film starring Don Cheedle as the famously idiosyncratic artist.

Vince Wilburn Jr., Davis’ nephew and a manager of his estate, said the album has been reissued and remastered several times. It has sold two million copies since Davis died in 1991.

“I’m not surprised it’s selling still, this is Miles Davis,” said Wilburn. “It’s music, groundbreaking and fresh. People love Miles.”

“Kind of Blue” featured the iconic Davis and his band, Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley on alto saxophone, John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Bill Evans or Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and drummer Jimmy Cobb, the only surviving member.

Wilburn said there was no end to Miles Davis music for future release.

“There is tons of material, bootleg sessions and endless hours of music. The trouble is deciding what to release. The quality is there, but it’s a question of respecting the music,” said Wilburn, who played drums with the band in his uncle’s later years.

Davis’ influence can be still be heard in today’s music.

“Everybody I run into, they were influenced by Miles — Sting and Keith Richards, Q-Tip and Nazz, Joni Mitchell,” he explained.

“Everybody was touched by Miles. His spirit lives on.”

Reporting by Steve James; Editing by Patricia Reaney

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