Jazz music was often based on popular songs, and followed the chords of those pieces. In be-bop, players began dismantling the chord sequences by following a different line through the changes. In modal jazz, which appeared in the late 1950s, a shift occurred when jazz musicians began basing their playing on the scales indicated by the chords, rather than the chord sequence itself. Essentially, this was a shift from harmony towards improvised melody.

How was this new style received? Well, the primary album is Miles Davis Kind Of Blue, the best selling jazz album of all time. So it is safe to say that modal jazz was a popular game changer.

Composer George Russell was an important developer of modal jazz, whose practitioners included players on Kind Of Blue, pianist Bill Evans and saxophonist John Coltrane. Jackie McLean and Wayne Shorter (saxes) were other important musicians in this style, as were pianists Chick Corea and McCoy Tyler.