Miles Davis and the Recording of a Jazz Masterpiece (James Kaplan, FEB 26, 2024, Esquire)

The Five Spot was closed on Mondays, but on that March Monday Davis, Coltrane, and Evans had other business anyway: in Columbia Records’ 30th Street Studio, they were joining the alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb to begin making, under Miles’s leadership, what would become the bestselling, and arguably most beloved, jazz album of all time, Miles’s Kind of Blue. March 2 and April 22: three tunes recorded on the first date (“So What,” “Freddie Freeloader,” and “Blue in Green”), two on the second (“All Blues” and “Flamenco Sketches”). Every complete take but one (“Flamenco Sketches”) was a first take, the process similar, as Evans later wrote in the LP’s liner notes, to a genre of Japanese visual art in which black watercolor is applied spontaneously to a thin stretched parchment, with no unnatural or interrupted strokes possible, Miles’s cherished ideal of spontaneity achieved.

The quiet and enigmatic majesty of the resulting record both epitomizes jazz and transcends the genre. The album’s powerful and enduring mystique has made it widely beloved among musicians and music lovers of every category: jazz, rock, classical, rap. This is the story of the three geniuses who joined forces to create one of the great classics in Western music—how they rose up in the world, came together like a chance collision of particles in deep space, produced a brilliant flash of light, and then went on their separate ways to jazz immortality.