The Blue Moment: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music

Richard Williams’s The Blue Moment is not just another study of Miles Davis’s monumental Kind of Blue, but the chapter that delves into each of the album’s masterpiece alone is worth the price of the book. Williams’s meticulous yet comprehensible analysis makes the music easy to understand even to none-jazz fans. His take on “So What” is an illustrative example:

Davis’s solo begins against an apparently inadvertent but superbly appropriate crash from Cobb’s cymbal—perhaps the most famous cymbal crash in all of jazz history—as the drummer switches from brushes to sticks; hanging and decaying over the first two bars of the improvisation, the shimmering sound provides a perfect platform for the trumpeter, who prowls the scale like a cat picking its way between windowsill ornaments, his peerless lyricism in full bloom.

All you have to do is play “So What” and you can hear what exactly he is talking about. But that’s not all. The Blue Moment also shows the success of Davis’s sidemen like John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Cannonball Adderley who had learned and drawn inspiration from Kind of Blue and moved beyond it. From the Velvet Underground to James Brown to the Soft Machine, the Miles Davis’s influence could be heard. The Blue Moment is definitely a joy to read from start to finish, but if you just want to learn about Kind of Blue, the title chapter is a must-read.