In the early spring of 1959, six musicians went into a studio in New York, a high-ceilinged converted church on East 30th Street. Their leader, Miles Davis, was already the most celebrated of the younger jazz musicians in America. Two of the players were ex-junkies; two of the others were still addicts.
They spent six hours there that first day. A few weeks later they returned for another three hours. In those nine hours they recorded, in a miraculous collaborative effort, one of the finest albums of the twentieth century. 'Kind of Blue' is haunting, melodic and plaintive, a mesmerising and propulsive recreation of the musical roots of jazz. It has sold at least five million copies.
Ashley Kahn's book recreates those few hours in New York in words and photographs. He writes about the careers and struggles of the music's makers. Kahn explains, without jargon, what makes the music so unusual. He has listened to all the tapes, which allow him to take us through the making of each track on the album, and he has interviewed the survivors. He writes about the album's massively influential afterlife. This is an essential accompaniment to a modern classic.