3 Shades of Blue: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and the Lost Empire of Cool

Penguin Pr. Mar. 2024. 496p. ISBN 9780525561002. $32. MUSIC
Kaplan (Irving Berlin: New York Genius) impressively tells the story of how Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans came together for the recording session that produced the 1959 album Kind of Blue. When pianist Evans joined Davis’s band in 1958, he was the only white member in an all-Black group; Davis’s musical ability lifted them above the era’s pervasive racism. Evans’s lyrical improvisation skills and talent on the keys sparked a revolutionary idea in Davis’s mind: there’s no need to play all those chords to play jazz. Evans lasted only a few months in the group: the band’s rigorous schedule, his discomfort as the only white player on stage, and other personal concerns eventually drove him out. But the following year, he came back to collaborate one last time on an album that’s not only jazz’s best seller but a minimalist reworking of the jazz lexicon. The book follows the three musicians from the starts to ends of their careers—a sad story for Evans, a triumphant one for Coltrane, and a complicated but creative one for Davis.
VERDICT A compulsively readable book about three jazz legends who came together for one glorious moment to produce one of the best, most influential jazz records ever.
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