Miles Davis solo on “So What” from the album “Kind of Blue”

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Kind of Blue. The best selling jazz album of all time. Every jazz musician should know this solo, every trumpeter should have it memorized. So What. A tune played by everyone musician but often ignoring the original intention by Miles. I learned this solo a long time ago but never transcribed it myself. Today I took the time to learn it off the original recording and then transcribed it to the computer for the first time. Many have written about this solo so I won’t take up much time, but a couple things become really obvious once you get the lines Miles plays on paper and analyze them.

The first is that he doesn’t just use the Dorian modes for the solo, but rather imposes keys within the modality of the two minor chords involved (Such as using D Major on E minor). Another is the use of rhythm to suspend and play with the listener’s head. Miles doesn’t go Woody Shaw on this tune, but few of the phrases are evenly lined up with every measure and many include syncopation that pushes the suspense of the line further.

A great exercise would be to take this solo and learn it in every key, something I think will help with playing modal tunes in non-familar keys. Sometimes it isn’t about using advanced chord extensions and scales, but rather the phrasing. Miles keeps coming back to the tonic of the two chords throughout this solo, a key point that should not be overlooked by young improvisers looking to build their craft. Download the transcription the YouTube video.

Download   Bb |  C |  Eb

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