Miles Davis Analysis – so What and Autumn Leaves

‘So What’ Miles Davis Solo Analysis Miles Davis’ solo is very minimalistic mainly using crotchet and quaver rhythms throughout with the occasional triplet or semiquaver grace note. For the A sections of the first chorus he bases phrases around the minor pentatonic scale. He develops his opening motif (bar 2 of A1) in bar 4-7 returning to the root (E) in between each ascending then descending phrase going up to the 7th (D) in the final variation of the motif.
The phrase lengths are irregular; Davis generally uses shorter phrases in the E minor Sections taking a vertical approach to the improvisation then uses longer phrases in the contrasting F minor section where he takes a more horizontal approach. In A1 of the second chorus Davis’ explores the upper extensions of the chord (9, 11, and 13) and superimposes a D major triad on the E minor chord. In A2 he returns to the pentatonic style we see in the first chorus with the use of the blue note (Bb) giving the section a bluesy feel.
In the B section he again emphasis the upper extensions this time superimposing an Eb major triad over the F minor chord. In bars 5-7 of this section he plays an F minor scale in thirds. He plays a run making use of the F# in order to lead back an E minor section. He continues to use upper extensions in the first half of the last A section before returning to the pentatonic to finish the solo. The phrases are generally longer in the second chorus. A noticeable rhythmic motif Davis uses throughout his solo is starting and ending phrases with a pair of quavers for example the first phrase of the solo in bars 2-3).

His note choices p over one and a half octaves ranging from a concert D to Ab. Miles Davis tends to leave rests of up to a bar in between phrases during which the piano plays melodic fills. ‘Autumn Leaves’ Cannonball Adderley version – Davis’ solo analysis This Davis solo is more complex than the ‘So What’ solo due to the fast harmonic pace with a new chord each bar compared to So What which only uses two chords throughout the whole piece. Like ‘So What’ the majority of his phrases are crotchet/quaver based with occasional triplet run or semiquaver passing notes.
Davis uses his opening phrase, an upbeat crotchet followed by another 3 crotchets, at the start of both choruses and continues to use the 3 crotchet pattern throughout the solo for example bar 7 of A2 in chorus 1. He also uses the pair of quavers starting or ending a phrase motif from ‘So What’ throughout this solo for example bar 7 of A1 chorus 1. From the start of this solo Davis’ makes use of the upper extensions starting on the 9th (E) of the D minor chord.
He tends to start the majority of phrases on the 4th of the chord being played at the time and also emphasises the 6th at the end of some phrases (bar 7, A1 in chorus 1) using the F# over an A minor chord. In general phrases last for about 2 bars although the phrase lengths increase during the middle of the solo. One of the standout melodic phrases is the partly chromatic semiquaver/triplet run in bar 7, A1 in the second chorus followed by the repeated triplet pattern in the following bar. This phrase contrasts with the rest of the solo and adds variation and excitement whilst moving the solo forwards.
Davis uses triplet scalic/chromatic runs in order to emphasise notes at the start of phrases for example, bar 8 of A1 in section 1 where the runs leads to the G which emphasises the use of the 11th over the D minor chord. Miles Davis also uses ghost notes in this solo (bar 6 of A2 chorus) in order to vary the dynamic levels and emphasise the surrounding notes. Overall the solo makes subtle references to the melody which gives some familiarity to the listener; Davis also achieves this by repeating rhythmic and melodic motifs.
Similarly to ‘So What’ he leaves rests between the phrases where the piano fills and this solo has a similar range to ‘So What’ ranging from Concert D to A. The Potboiler by John D’Earth – Structure and use of instruments http://cti. itc. virginia. edu/%7Eskd9r/Jazz-elements/Potboiler. mp3 The head follows the 32-bar song form (AABA) and uses the rhythm changes chord progression. There are 6 choruses in total, in the first the head is established with the trumpet and tenor sax playing the melody in octaves for the A sections.
In the B section they play in the same octave then harmonise in the last two bars. They return to playing in octaves for the A section. During the head the piano plays chords in syncopated rhythms and the drums use a basic swung rhythm with hits emphasising off beats notes in the melody. In choruses 2 and 3 (0. 50) the sax and trumpet do a traded solo, i. e. Sax for 8 bars, Trumpet for 8, Sax for 8, Trumpet for 8, Sax for 4, Trumpet for 4, Sax for 4, Trumpet for 4, Sax for 2, Trumpet for 2 etc.. or the 2 full choruses. The two soloists imitate melodic/rhythmic motifs the other player has used during the solo. During the solo the piano continues comping using the middle octaves of the piano. The drums continue to use the same swung rhythm with the occasional fill towards the end of phrases. The double bass is very subtle in the solos making it difficult to hear. In Chorus 4 (2. 29) the trumpet and sax fade out and the piano solos playing the melodic phrases in the right hand whilst comping in the left hands.
The sax and trumpet play a repeated motif as a backing in the second and third A sections. In chorus 5 (3. 20) all the players trade fours with the drummers i. e. the sax plays for four bars with the rhythm section the drum solos for four bars. In this chorus the double bass is prominent as the piano and drums play at a lower volume during its solo. In chorus 6 (4. 05) we return to the head which is played the same as in chorus 1 and the piece ends with a held note by the horns and a cymbal roll on the drums.

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