"Blue in Green" consists of a ten-measure cycle following a short four-measure introduction.
Miles Davis - trumpet
Bill Evans - piano
Wynton Kelly - piano
Jimmy Cobb - drums
Paul Chambers - bass
John Coltrane - tenor saxophone
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley - alto saxophone
Kind of Blue is representative of modal jazz - i.e., based entirely on modality in contrast to Davis's earlier work with the hard bop style of jazz and its complex chord progression and improvisation. The entire album was composed as a series of modal sketches, in which each performer was given a set of scales that defined the parameters of their improvisation and style. This style was in contrast to more typical means of composing, such as providing musicians with a complete score or, as was more common for improvisational jazz, providing the musicians with a chord progression or series of harmonies.
Modal jazz of this type was not unique to this album. Davis himself had previously used the same method on his 1958 Milestones album, the '58 Sessions, and Porgy and Bess (1958), on which he used modal influences for collaborator Gil Evans's third stream compositions. Also, the original concept and method had been developed in 1953 by pianist and writer George Russell. Davis saw Russell's methods of composition as a means of getting away from the dense chord-laden compositions of his time, which Davis had labeled "thick". Modal composition, with its reliance on scales and modes, represented, as Davis called it, "a return to melody." In a 1958 interview with Nat Hentoff of The Jazz Review, Davis elaborated on this form of composition in contrast to the chord progression predominant in bebop, stating "No chords ... gives you a lot more freedom and space to hear things. When you go this way, you can go on forever. You don't have to worry about changes and you can do more with the [melody] line. It becomes a challenge to see how melodically innovative you can be. When you're based on chords, you know at the end of 32 bars that the chords have run out and there's nothing to do but repeat what you've just done—with variations. I think a movement in jazz is beginning away from the conventional string of chords... there will be fewer chords but infinite possibilities as to what to do with them."