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Miles Davis and the modern bebop style, 1948: studio and live performance

Let's take a look at two solos that may represent (in the sense of a synthesis) Miles modern bebop concept, playing with Charlie Parker in studio and with his own quintet at the Royal Roost in the fall of 1948.

The first solo we listen to comes from Miles last recording session with Charlie Parker for Savoy on September 24, 1948.


Miles plays his solo on 32 bars A A B A form.

A section is something like:

Bbmaj7 Gm7 | Cm7 F7 | Bbmaj7 Gm7 | Cm7 F7

Fm7 Bb7 | Ebmaj7 Ebm7 | Dm7 G7 | Cm F7

Bridge is something like:

Fm7 | Bb7 | Ebmaj7 | //

Gm7 | C7 | Cm7 | F7

Let's listen to Miles solo on take 1:

Here is begin of solo, first 4 bars of first eight-bars A section. On the first beat we hear Parker playing the end of his solo on F note. Miles starts on F note, then a short pick-up and then a long phrase on the third beat of bar 5. This phrase ends on the first beat of bar 11, inside the second eight-bars A-section.

Then he continues with another phrase covering the last four bars of the second eight-bars A-section, going to the bridge.

This is first half of the bridge, playing chords Fm7 | Bb7 | Ebmaj7

On the second half of bridge he starts a new long phrase which ends on the second bar of the last eight-bars A-section (playing Gm7 | C7 | Cm7 | F7 | Bbmaj7).

Then he plays an exit on the remaining of last eight-bars A-section

Now let's have a closer look to what Miles plays: first A-section, bars 5:7, phrase starting on 3rd beat of bar 5 ; we hear quite the same on second A-section, bars 13:15, same chords, phrase starting on 1st beat of bar 5 of this section, moving the same way as previous, before changing towards the bridge:

And still let's compare the way he plays this phrase across the end of first A-section and the beginning of second A-section, bars 8:11 with what he plays across the end of the bridge, bars 23:26, where previous phrase has been furtherly compressed .

In the exit phrase we hear a known tag that we find elsewhere, on a Dial recording session, on 1947, December 12, at the end of solo on Driftin' on a Reed, take 5 , at the end of J.J.Johnson trombone solo on Charlie's Wig, take 2, , and in second eigth-bars A-section on Crazeology, take 3 .

And a few days later, on another Dial recording session, on 1947, December 21 on Bird Gets The Worm, take 3 where the same phrase is played in Ab major.

And still back to another Dial recording session, on 1947, October 28 in last eigth-bars A-section on Dexterity, take 1 .

We find similar tag even in a wire-recording at Waukegan, at the end of 1947, on Dexterity and on Spotlite (#270) from Dean Benedetti Recordings, on July 7, 1948 , again in Ab major.

There is also a second take of Merry-Go-Round, and here Miles plays this long phrase that extends along bars 9:15 ; let's listen carefully to this phrase and we find out that it repeats itself (a fragment of 2 entire bars) note by note, after 3 bars and then .

The second solo we listen to comes from a live recording at the Royal Roost, on 1948 September 25, with Lee Konitz on alto and John Lewis on piano.

52nd Street theme

Harmonic structure is again 32 bars A A B A form. We'll focus on improvised bridge on open theme and on first chorus of Miles solo.

- improvised eight-bars bridge of open theme

- first eight-bars A section of first chorus where Miles opens in a similar way as in his solo on Constellation, take 2 (a Parker's tune on the same 52nd Street Theme chord progression) , recorded for Savoy on 1948, September 18.

We find the same on Parker's Klaunstance (built on The Way You Look Tonight), recorded for Savoy on 1947, December 21, where Miles plays the same melody (but here in Fmajor key).

Then we find this phrase which concatenates two identical twelve-notes phrases (one bar plus an half) which recur often in his Constellation solos.

- second eight-bars A section of first chorus in which again we hear almost identical the previous phrase

- eight-bars bars bridge of first chorus where we find the same phrase already heard in open theme bridge and also which is a shortened version of this heard in open theme bridge too .

- last eight-bars A section of first chorus where we find this tag which is almost the same as the opening of Miles solo on 52nd Street Theme at the Royal Roost on 1948, September 4, with Charlie Parker, and another tag already heard in the last chorus of Miles solo on Perhaps, take 7, recorded for Savoy on 1948, September 24 , and even in the open theme of Constellation, take 3 , take 4 and take 5 , recorded for Savoy on 1948, September 18.

We find this also during the exchanges with Charlie Parker on 52nd Street Theme (#214) , from Dean Benedetti Recordings of Charlie Parker, on March 31, 1948, at The Three Deuces.

And on The Squirrel, from Paris International Festival du Jazz, perhaps one of Miles most exciting among all existing recording, where Miles plays the same phrase for starting an F blues chorus (phrase is transposed in F major).

List of referenced discography:

- Charlie Parker: The Complete Savoy Sessions

- Charlie Parker: The Complete Dial Sessions

- Charlie Parker: The Complete Dean Benedetti Recordings

- Bird's Eyes: Last Unissued, Vol. 1/4

- Miles Davis: The Complete Live Recordings 1948-1955

Complete transcriptions of referenced Miles Davis solos are available on themusicofmiles

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