Is Kind of Blue the Best Jazz Album Ever

Let me begin by qualifying "best", in this case I use the word best to mean the most representative or widely accepted.

Kind of Blue is not my favorite album, but whenever I listen to it I feel that if someone were to ask me what is Jazz I would be compelled to play it, more specifically "So What".

Maybe it is the star studded cast, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderly. On their own these guys are legends. Together?

So the question can be twisted, are they any other jazz albums that could represent what Jazz so perfectly?
Granted "Kind Of Blue" is a stellar album but,there are way too many subgenres to select one album to represent all jazz music.Just my opinion.

Just like "Dark Side of the Moon", by Pink Floyd, is the best Rock album, and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is Classical's best piece.

Any other questions?


IMHO, There can be no "Best" when it comes to 'Works of Art', as it is all just a matter of opinion.

I do agree with you that if 100 jazz lovers were to put together a list of their top 10 albums, KOB would probably be on more lists than any other album. (It would be on mine quite probably, even though it is not my favorite either.)
For me, "Kind Of Blue" was a significant gateway LP to further jazz exploration. It's accessible, yet intricate. Sort of the perfect blend, which helps to put it near the pinnacle of oft mentioned jazz LPs because many folks often connect with it immediately.
Why bother with a term in superlative? Even more when it comes to music or art?!
It's a great album, and I listen to frequently, but I have to admit it's not my favorite. For many reasons it could by described as "The Best" when considering reasons brought up on this thread, but I listen to Chet Baker and Dave Brubek albums quite a bit more.
Certainly a great album and a gateway for many listeners. The same could be said of Brubeck's "Time Out" or Mingus' "Ah Um," Oliver Nelson's "Blues and the Abstract Truth" and a whole bunch of other great albums.

In 1959, the same year "Kind of Blue" was issued, Ornette Coleman put out "The Shape of Jazz to Come." This probably is NOT a gateway album, but, arguably, it is more influential than "Kind of Blue."

The problem with a label like "the greatest" is that, for a lot of listeners the album becomes not the gateway, but the endpoint. Why go any further if I've heard the "greatest" (particularly if I didn't like it all that much)?
It is by far the best of all time. It smokes every other album out there and makes Louis, Dizzy and Bird sound broken.
Wow, Lokie,

And here I thought I was the King of Sarcasm.
(Apparently, I am only the Prince.)

I think it is the "best" jazz album for non Jazz fans that later become Jazz fans.

Does that make sense?

I thought it was the best till I discovered the HardBop Blue Notes.

If had never heard Kind of Blue ..... I doubt I would have discovered the others.


Certainly one of the most popular and successful. Does that make it the "best"?
No. Jazz took a wrong turn with bebop.
I'll conceed, "jazz" may be too broad a term. How about best ("best" as qualified in my original post) "Bebop Jazz" album.

I am not claiming that KOB is the best, as in technically or artistically above the rest in its genre. I know that there are many jazz albums of the era that surpass KOB (many of them have been mentioned in the thread above). I don't believe that any one can be considered the best as they all offer something unique.

But I like Kurt-tank's analogy with Dark Side of the Moon,(not sure about Beethoven 5th). Let me steel Tvad's term, these are "gateway" albums into their respective genres.
Many do not like HardBop as Lloydc may have mentioned but I find it impossible to listen to ....... lets say..... Art Blakey's Moanin title track with out moving some body parts :) Just one of many. Everyone should own at least Lee Morgan's Sidewinder, John Coltrane's Blue Train,and Grant Green's Idle moments.
I'd definitely put in a word for Kind of Blue as the greatest jazz make-out album of all time. Not to denigrate it from a purely musical standpoint (because it truly is amazingly good playing, especially the miraculous way Miles turned this group into a cohesive ensemble), I wonder how many who consider it the "greatest jazz album" have fond memories similar to my own for which Kind of Blue was merely a soundtrack? =^)

I not what you mean, I feel guilty playing it when my wife is around, since I owned the record while I was still a bachelor. If vinyl could talk, the stories my collection could tell...
KOB was stylistically one of the first "modal jazz" albums, I believe, not Be Bop, which was popular prior to KOB in the 1940s and well into the 1950s.
Right. Bebop to modal was from bad to worse.

but seriously, why put KOB over Louis' greatest work?
"but seriously, why put KOB over Louis' greatest work"

You wouldn't find me doing that!

Or Ellington's, or even various others.
I was not a huge jazz fan, but got into it for the quality of recording aspects. Three jazz cds in my collection are KOB, Jazz at the Pawnshop and Cafe Blue - all said to be some of the best recordings ever. Of the three, Kind of Blue is my favorite by far. I listen to KOB regularly, and appreciate it more and more with each play.
Kind of Blue together with Love Supreme from Coltrane.
Lloydc: Jazz took a wrong turn with BeBop??? This suggests that everything that followed is errant in some way, I.e., not jazz...? or what? "Bad" jazz? I mean, really now, what sort of absurdity is that? Please explain!

Coltrane? Wrong turn! Clifford Brown? toss 'im overboard! Andrew Hill? Bah!

Short answer: yes. No contest whatsoever.
I own Brubeck, Chet, Coletrane etc. Etc.
But a lot of that stuff sounds like Mr. Rogers music in comparison.
Of course, this is simply my opinion, and only an opinion.
BTW, I went to the 50th anniversay show here, magnificent!
They played 3 bebop numbers to close the set. Stunning!
I agree that bebop ruined jazz, suddenly there was a style that damn few were qualified to play competently!
To be a jazz musician used to actually mean something.
Now we have Sting, Diana Krall, Norah Jones.....
I'll take the pioneers and originators any day.
Fripp1, while off-post, I too am interested in hearing more from Lloydc regarding bebop as a wrong turning in jazz.
There is not a best of anything. But the most underated jazz CD that no one has heard of and everyone should buy is a CD by Ray Conig Jr titled TRIO. It has no vocals and consists of a stand up bass, piano and drums. Sometimes simple is best. Give it a listen.
Fripp 1, Mapman, I was kidding. Hyperbole.
Glad you clarified that,Lloydc, because your comments and my new-found-interest in hardbop were about to make me feel like I'm totally missing the point.

It would have been back to SunRa, Eric Dolphy and my wife wondering WTF I'm listening to.
Don't lose any sleep over it. The answer is no. What do you like? Horns? Piano? Strings? Vocals? There's lots to choose from. Nostalgia is the equalizer.
Why not just ask, "Is Kind of Blue the most representative or widely accepted Jazz recording?"

You know, many worship Brubeck's Time Out just as much.

I love the opiate-enriched Anita O'Day signing Sweet Georgia Brown as much as the above, but I'm bent.

It's all subjective. Mary Lou Williams and Ellington would never have got past the word "Jazz" to attempt an answer.

Teo! Teo! (in that hoarse voice) I hear beyond the grave.

Even though I had read in many places that KOB was one of the best Jazz album, it wasn't until recently I started to listen to regularly. I bought the CD probably over 10 years ago, but it was not one of my favorite. Just hard to listen to and the sound recording was not good either.
However, I bought a newly released LP about a year or so ago and started to listen to again, and I've realized that it was indeed something. I just listened to it again and it felt just fresh and the sound was just fantastic.

However, I still prefer many of my other jazz collections to KOB, including Getz/Gilberto, Brubeck's Timeout, Muddy Waters Folk Singer, to name a few.

Muddy Waters in Jazz collection? That's broadening the category, but Ellington would appreciate it cause he hated the categorization of music. Ihcho, you like blues? Here's a good one to listen to: James Ulmer, No Escape from the Blues. Let me know what u think.
Yes, I would agree Folk Singer would be a bit of stretch to be included in jazz collection, but can it be blues jazz? We know Muddy had a big influence on many (blues) jazz musician later on. Same would be for Getz/Gilberto which is bossa nova jazz and not in mainstream Jazz.

For standard jazz, Bill Evans' Waltz for Debby would be just as good.

I have Folk Singer, Getz/Gilbero, and KOB in both LP and CD, and LP sounds more lively and full on my system.
Yes, I will check out James Ulmer. But I am not sure whether it would sound as good as Folk Singer (on LP). ;-)
Ulmer's nothing like Folk Singer. No Escape is revved-up blues. But I like. This coming from one with a LARGE collection of the old-time blues players.
The Blues Rider Trio Early Morning Blues is another more recent selection of blues I find worthy of occupying its place wedged between Little Walter and Howlin' Wolf. What the hey, give em a try out.
A great album but just too cool for me.I prefer something warmer and more organic.
NO. "Somethin Else" led by Cannonball Adderly, with Miles Davis, Hank Jones, Sam Jones, and Art Blakey; is the best Jazz album ever.
maybe grover washington jr's winelight,bob james BJ4,lonnie listen smith,larry carlton and the crusaders
Nick sr,the answer to this question depends on the mood you are in to a great extent; how ever I believe that an objective jazz lover would pick "Somthin else" over "Kind of Blue". Give "Somthin Else" a spin and get back to me.
I hope this is my final post on this thread. I just realized, "Bird With Strings" is the only album that I have been playing over and over for what seems a life time; therefore it is the best jazz album ever, for me.
Has been on my want list for years but haven't come across a copy.
I'm very late to this thread, but it's hard not to post my .02 after reading above statements like:

"I agree that bebop ruined jazz, suddenly there was a style that damn few were qualified to play competently!"

"Bebop ruined jazz"

Give me a break. So, a professional player should not push the established boundaries of harmony in addition to striving to become the ultimate musician?

Can one imagine Beethoven saying to himself, oh I better not write Symphony No. 5 as it would be too groundbreaking and dissonant for what the acceptable norm is.

Not desiring to sound trite, when I read statements like the above two from previous posts it reveals a certain ignorance perpetuated by decades of american jazz listeners.

Players like Gillespie, Parker, Monk, Gordon, were so instrumental in pushing the boundaries of the established harmonic and rhythmic norms of the day. These cats were trailblazers, riding into an infinitesimal space of harmony and time, disregarding the use of the same old scales that shackled musicians that came before them. In many respects Bebop created its own scales!

Say you don't care for bebop, you don't understand bebop, you don't understand jazz harmony, or even say you prefer Kenny G, but don't say Bebop caused jazz to make a wrong turn without further qualifying a statement like that because you come off sounding illiterate and ignorant of both jazz, or at minimum you lack a basic understanding and knowledge of music harmony, and least of all a typical ignorant american listener who has extremely limited knowledge of its only true native artform - Jazz. Bebop was extremely instrumental in the evolution of both the music and generations of players that followed. To not acknowledge bebop's contribution to jazz harmony is typical american listener ignorance. Beboppers blazed a harmonic trail that allowed the music to evolve to greater heights than it would have otherwise. The integrity, and harmonic structure of Bebop scales pushed the boundaries of the music and left a mark on the music in such a short time unlike no other music ever has...imho.

Play a polychord on a piano by simultaneously playing two scales vertically, one on top of the other, and you'll gain a better sense and appreciation of what these trailblazers were doing on their instruments that was so difficult for the average instrumentalist to come to terms with. And that's only a beginning of what they were actually creating on their instruments. These guys were nothing short of brilliant musicians. They deserve to be acknowledged for their unique artistry.

KOB, as one poster finally pointed out, was a groundbreaking recording because of its exploration of modal harmony. Other artists had been exploring this harmony before Miles decided upon this format for KOB. But KOB's success could be exclusively attributed to the wide use of modal harmony and perhaps the influence and impact modal harmony has upon the ear of the listener. Cannonball Adderly is a complete, lest I say it, bebop player, but stylistically he's tamer on the ears than many that came before him. And even using basic modal forms and scales these technically gifted musicians collectively came together and turned something basic into something brilliant that has withstood the test of time. There aren't alot of albums one can listen to that if you didn't know any better they'd thought it was recorded today. KOB is timeless in that are many others.

Heck, I couldn't imagine life without Dexter Gordon, another bona fide and complete bebop player.

KOB is one of my all time label anything 'the best' is futile as likes and dislikes vary widely. But it's unequivically the all time 'best' selling jazz album, there's no argument in that. Geez, between digital rereleases and albums I own more copies of KOB than any other album. It's certainly one I can put on and allow the repeat to play over and again without fatigue.

My apologies for sounding harsh in my remarks, but as a hobbyist musician nothing gets my dander up more than listening to ignorance on behalf of an ill informed uneducated public when it comes to jazz in general. Is there little wonder Japan and Europe have supported Jazz for decades but the american listener by and large is completely absent. What's that say about the intelligence of the average listener in this society? But that's a whole 'nother pandora's box, so I leave that one alone.

You da man, C1! Thank you for the extremely erudite response. From where I sit (and hear) I do not understand how an art form (jazz, generally) so reknown, and built upon, its pushing of boundaries can be criticized for doing just that, especially when it sounds so ungodly cool.
"Kind of Blue" deserves all the praise heaped upon it, but in a way it somewhat sad. The album represents what Miles and the other musicians were doing on two sessions in 1959. Six months earlier or six months later the band would have produced a different album. They and the music were constantly changing and evolving. "Kind of Blue" is a single frame taken from movie by a band that probably didn't record its best performances.

BTW, nice analysis, Coltrane1 and Onhwy61.
It's close, if not the best.
I think Charles Mingus Ah Um is the best, with KInf Of Blue a close second.
Wow, I thought this thread was dead. Far from it.

Coltrane1 thanks...

The point of this thread was never to try and claim that KOB was the absolute best. Rather, my point was that given that it was the most sold Jazz album and it can often be heard on tv or radio, it is widely recognized* by the ignorant pop music listner as the sound of Jazz.

*Let my qualify "recognized"
By recognized I do not mean that the ignorant person who hears it playing would say "Hey it's Miles, Coltrane and Company playing So What" like they would say "Hey that's Lady Gaga singing Poker Face, that's hot!". What I mean, is that if I invited this person over to listen to my system and put on the record they would say "hey that some really cool Jazz". Whereas if I put Jack deJohnette's Special Edition they would say "What is this noise! why do you still listen to records? haven't you heard of MP3, don't you have an I-pod, can I plug mine in I have the latest "37Cents", and turn up the volume and the bass..."
I digress but you get my point.

The sound of KOB is seductive and draws listners from almost any backround or preference. Clearly there are many jazz albums that are ground breaking and great in their own right "Time out" comes to mind and several others have been mentioned in this thread. But I don't believe that any of these have the same reach as KOB.

An anecdote to further support my point. My mother in law recently purchased a best of Miles Davis CD after seeing the Miles Davis exhibit at the Montreal Museum of fines arts. During Thanksgiving I was over at the in-laws and the CD was playing in the Kitchen as we were preparing the food, the track playing was "Call It Anything" from the Isle of Wight festival, which I love but it's Free Jazz and comes across as noise to most people specially when its played on a clock radio. So I asked my dear Mother in Law, Do you like this? to which she answered "No! its noise I just like the first few tracks" (refering to tracks from KOB and Sketches of Spain).

What was my point?

O yeah, my Mother in Law likes KOB, therefore it must be the best Jazz album ever...
Well any thread with the phrase KOB in the title is worth a looksee! ;^)
kind of blue is a really good album, no doubt. but if i were to pick a best album i would say that it was "working with the miles davis quintet" which was pretty much a quintessential be-bop jazz album. and with songs like "half nelson", "four" and "trane's blues", what a great album!
Some have said KOB appeals to people with only a casual interest in jazz. Completely true, hence its huge numbers. Much of its brilliance, though, is that it equally rewards just about every level of sophistication. It's brilliant technically, compositionally, as an ensemble (or ensembles), individual performances, harmonically, its atmosphere, etc.

Some days it's Waltz for Debbie, or Night Dreamer, or Love Supreme, or Moanin, or Tomorrow is the Question, or (lately) Holland's Conference of the Birds. But if I happen to hear any piece of KOB anywhere I am (usually Pandora-ing somewhere) I have to stop still and listen. It's a magical record.
I believe that Kind of Blue is an album that will live eternally. It will still be as relevant 50 years from now, 150 years from now as it was 50 years ago. I think it will never age. As much as I think DSotM still holds up today I'm not sure how well it will 50 years from now. I think KoB transcends jazz and time. So do I think Kind of Blue is the best jazz album of all time? No and yes. It's also the best musical album of all time. IMHO
No, "Somethin Else" led by Cannonball Adderly is a better album. Miles and Cannonball appear on both albums, but believe it or not; Miles sounds better on the Cannonball album and the music is better.
It may or may not be the best Jazz album ever, it is certainly, the most-important Jazz album ever!