Miles Davis (1926 – 1991) was an American jazz trumpeter, composer and band leader. He was one of the most important figures on the jazz scene and played a large part in introducing several new jazz styles. His album, Kind of Blue, is one of the most widely acclaimed jazz albums of all time. 

American jazz musician and composer Miles Davis

One of the tracks on his album Kind of Blue is today’s piece called All Blues. It is said that not long before the recording took place, Miles Davis gave the players a brief outline of the scales and melodies that they would improvise on. The album was recorded with hardly any rehearsal and today’s piece, All Blues was recorded on only the second take.

Things to listen out for:

The opening bar of the introduction is repeated several times. The snare drum is played using wire brushes swept across the drumhead.

After four bars of the introduction, the 4-bar riff is introduced. The piano, drums and bass continue their ostinati (repeated note pattern) and saxophones are added.

 After this riff, the muted trumpet plays the melody. Miles Davis uses a trumpet with a Harmon mute to alter the sound. In the opening bars the trumpet plays legato (smoothly). Listen out for the difference in sound when the mute is removed at 1 min 45.

The blues influence can be heard in the 12-bar blues chord structure and the use of blue notes. Compared with the major scale, some notes, known as blue notes may be flattened by a semitone or ‘bent’ by a smaller interval.

The music is in the Mixolydian mode (the white notes on the piano from G to G). All Blues is sometimes described as modal jazz.

Minor sevenths are added to most of the chords.

Chromatic harmony uses notes from outside the key to colour the chords. 

Each of the soloists improvises in the choruses.

Here is a live version of today’s piece:

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