This is something like the “B side” of my previous article on this same blog (THAT DAY: https://theartofthinkingoutloud.com/2016/01/28/that-day/) and which is set to the music of Kind of Blue .
“Blue in Green” is the third tune on Miles Davis’ 1959 album, Kind of Blue. One of two ballads on the LP. (the other being “Flamenco Sketches“).
As an aside here (and something that may earn you points in one of those “did you know?” kind of games), it has been said that the second ballad which appears on the record as “Flamenco Sketches” is in fact the song “All Blues” and vice versa. Yes, the argument is that somebody may have switched them by mistake and that they only realized it when the records were already printed and so were the covers, and as a result one simply became the other.
At the very least this is what Jeremy Yudkin argues (also as an aside point) in his scholarly article Miles Davis Kind of Blue, which you can read on the Oxford University Press Music Quarterly Journal. He correctly points out that “Flamenco Sketches” fits more logically with the strumming mid-tempo of the song which appears as “All Blues”, while the title “All Blues” fits much better with the last, very slow song that is known as “Flamenco Sketches” (If you ask me, the easiest thing would be to simply check the original copyright registry of both scores…but no one is asking me…I know).
In any case, the spirit behind “That other day” is a little bit more complex, and less romantic, than “That Day”.
One of the most beautiful songs in that masterpiece album is “Blue in Green“, with its mainly modal melody. Recorded on March 2nd, 1959, in New York City, and in the same session where “So what” – another classic – was also recorded, it was the result of combining the talents of some of the best musicians of its time: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Miles Davis, Jimmy Cobb, Bill Evans on piano, and Paul Chambers on bass.
Even though the song appeared in the original record as written by Davis, it has long been speculated that pianist Bill Evans had, at the very least, a hand in it (the credits for the Evan´s trio Album “Portrait in Jazz”, in which there is a version of “Blue in Green”, attribute the song to ´Davis-Evans´)
Some go as far as to say that Evans actually wrote it. This is the case of producer Earl Zindar, whom in the Fall 1993 issue of a magazine called Letter from Evans , said that he knew perfectly well that Evans had actually penned it himself. He said “I know that it is [100-percent Bill (Evan)’s] because he wrote it over at my pad where I was staying in East Harlem, 5th floor walkup, and he stayed until 3 o’clock in the morning playing these six bars over and over.”
On the opposite side of the street we find Miles Davis asserting, in his autobiography, that he alone composed all the songs on Kind of Blue. Confirming this is the writer and poet Quincy Troupe, co-author of one of the best know Davis biographies -, who said in an interview and in regards to this issue:
“Miles talked about being back in Arkansas, and he was walking home from church. And the people in the backwoods were playing these really bad, really great gospels. He couldn’t see the people but he heard these gospels coming in through the trees and over the trees. And it was dark and he was about six years old, and he was walking with his cousin. So he said that gospel, and that music, and also he had been listening to the music from the Guinean Ballet, the finger piano, so all of that fused and came back to him with this feeling that he heard playing when he was walking through the back roads of Arkansas.
And he started remembering what that music sounded like and felt like. He said that feeling was what I was trying to get close to in Kind of Blue. That feeling had got in my creative blood, my imagination, and I had forgotten it was there. I wrote these blues to try to get back to that feeling I had when I was six years old, walking with my cousin down that dark, Arkansas road.”
The end result is that, sadly, we will never know the whole truth. Over the last 20 years the song appears mostly now as a “Davis-Evans” composition. It is sometimes difficult to know what goes on in the mind of brilliantly creative people to get stuck, at one point, over something like this and never settle the issue. I guess, it is that exception that everyone talks about when reaffirming a certain opposite rule.
The issue became so heated between both musicians that Zindar himself, in another interview conducted by Win Hinkle, recalled the 1978 Evans NPR interview in which he asserts his authorship of the song, and recalls –with certain humor and disdain – writing to Miles with the suggestion that he should be entitled to a percentage of royalties, to which Miles apparently responded with an envelope that had a check for twenty-five dollars in it.
I am no musician, but I can distinctly see Evans hand in this. Miles was also a wizard, so doubts persist. I guess the best way to go about it is to just enjoy their brilliance and accept that for once, these two geniuses showed their flaws and pettiness for all of us to see. An exceptional blemish for two men who had dazzling musical careers that no one can refute or argue with.
Here is my pictorial version of “That Other Day”. That nonetheless beautiful day – the music still moves us the same way it did before – but it is also the day in which these two egos collided. More complex than the original painting, but maintaining its spirit and stressing the superposed opinions of Bill and Miles.
I hope you enjoy it.
Until next time.
©2016 by Ignacio Alperin Bruvera