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Can anyone be said to have done so? Or was it just a movement that emerged from the various people playing at the time? I believe that Kind of Blue was the first album to popularize it but can Miles actually be said to have invented modal Jazz? Surely other contemporary musicians were doing similar things.

Wikipedia is not very clear on this. It states

Originating in the late 1950s and 1960s, modal jazz is epitomized by Miles Davis's "Milestones" (1958), Kind of Blue (1959), and John Coltrane's classic quartet from 1960–64.

And then goes on to say

Mercer Ellington has stated that Juan Tizol invented the melody to "Caravan" in 1936 as a result of his days studying music in Puerto Rico, where they couldn't afford much sheet music so the teacher would turn the music upside down after they had learned to play it right-side up.

So, if Caravan is indeed the first modal jazz piece, should Juan Tizol be credited with inventing it? Or should it be Russel? Or everyone who was playing at the time or what?

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Wikipeda sums it up nice –  Dom May 24 at 22:18
    
@Dom that's just it, it doesn't really. I did read it before posting (though I should have made that clearer in my question, I have edited to make this clearer). All the wikipedia page says is that in the 50s, musicians began experimenting on it "spurred by [...] George Russell", yet it also mentions Caravan as a 1936 recording. So, if Caravan is indeed the first modal jazz piece, should Juan Tizol be credited with inventing it? Or should it be Russel? Or everyone who was playing at the time or what? –  terdon May 26 at 17:19
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It is rare that movements in music get attributed to a single player. Usually there is a group of musicians that further some concepts, and then in hindsight it is made into a genre, or sub genre. I can't think of any other genre or sub genre that is attributed to a single musician, so I doubt a clear cut answer exists. –  Meaningful Username May 26 at 17:48
    
My understanding is that Davis was the first to strictly compose modally in jazz, and he certainly helped popularize it via making albums of almost entirely modal music. That being said I'd imagine that Davis was himself influenced by early modal composition, such as Caravan, so really the emergence is a result of years of musicians doing the same thing and eventually that thing turned into what we know as modal jazz. –  player3 May 26 at 19:47

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

All modal jazz means is that the harmony is deliberately static so that the players can stretch out against it as well as with it in a more elastic fashion. It's not really something you could even say was "invented". While "Kind of Blue", put it on the map, there are boat loads of tunes preceding that album that are modal in at least sections. "Dark Eyes" is another early example that is very modal. The practise preceded the term and the movement.

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That said, most people would consider "So What" to be the first entirely modal side recorded. I have no idea if it actually is, but it's considered to be. ;-) –  Iain Duncan Jun 27 at 16:26
    
Also, lots of Gypsy jazz could be considered modal. –  Iain Duncan Jun 27 at 16:28

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