A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“All Blues” is a jazz blues in 6/8 time that was first recorded by Miles Davis’ classic 1950s group for his album “Kind Of Blue.” It's one of the core group of tunes that Miles kept in his performing repertoire until the mid/late 1960s. "All Blues" is a very flexible tune that can work well with a variety of approaches. You can play “down home” blues, use modal technique, or even use a bebop vocabulary or play “out.” They all seem to fit the tune’s concept without stretching it beyond recognition.

Here are some recommended videos/recordings:
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album names wherever possible so you can listen to them on music streaming services, etc.)

Miles Davis: Kind Of Blue (1959)

Listen to how each soloist brings a unique approach to their solo. (This may sound “obvious,” but it’s amazing how many albums are recorded where everyone plays the same!)

Miles Davis: Live At The Plugged Nickel

Here’s the 1960s Miles Davis Quintet playing “All Blues” from their now-legendary engagement at Chicago’s Plugged Nickel jazz club. Hear how far they stretch the tune here, just 6 years after the original recording above.

Ernestine Anderson: Big City

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
This is a blues with a hint of jazz waltz, due to the 6/8 time signature. Have fun with the rhythm experiment with going into 4/4/ time at some point, with 2 beats of the new tempo equaling 3 beats of the old tempo.
You can many types of voicings, too, including traditional blues, rootless jazz voicings, modal voicings and chords voiced in 4ths. A lot of it will depend on who you’re playing with and the sound of their solos.
Also, be sure to spend extra practice time improvising over the D/Eb7 D7 section. You want to become as comfortable playing over those two measures as you do for the rest of the piece.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
All Blues: Journey Through The Real Book #8

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

Kind Of Blue and the economy of modal jazz
Includes a brief analysis of “All Blues”

Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece
The definitive book on how the Kind of Blue album was made.

Kind Of Blue Documentary (Part 1)

Kind Of Blue Documentary (Part 2)

Kind Of Blue Documentary (Part 3)

Transcription of Miles Davis’ “All Blues” trumpet solo by Jamie Breiwick

Kind of Blue: Transcribed score

All Blues playalong track

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