The Evolution of American Protest Music

Right now, American protest music sounds like this.

…we don’t believe you, cuz we the people… …a million dollar loan…

…If I don’t say something should I just lie still…

But it wasn’t always this way.

While today’s protest music serves the same purpose as music like this, the way it reaches the audience has reshaped the genre time and time again.

Early American protest songs like Yankee Doodle and John Brown’s Body were pretty simple.

The melodies came from songs people already knew.

The lyrics were repetitive and easy to remember and that made it easier for the songs to spread through the oral tradition.

But the rise of electrical sound recording in the 1920s changed the way music was created.

It allowed artists to use complex tunes and lyrics.

A famous example of that is Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit from 1939.

It was a powerful take on lynchings in the South.

People had a really strong response to the song — they either loved it or they hated it.

It was almost completely banned on the radio, which meant that most Americans heard about it, if they heard about it at all, through word of mouth.

But its omission from the radio didn’t take the song out of history.

After World War two, protest music changed again when folk music became popular through the radio.

Woodie Guthrie is probably one of the most famous folk music protest writers.

one of his most famous songs is This Land is Your Land, which he wrote as a protest song in response to this super popular song the time called god bless America Guthrie’s music became popular with the working class and went on to inspire musicians like Bob Dylan.

The times, they are a changin But Dylan himself edged away from the suggestion that he was a protest movement leader.

I got nothing to say about these things I write.

I just write em.

I don’t have to say anything about them.

I don’t write them for any reason.

There’s no great message.

If you want to tell other people about that, go ahead and tell em.

People turned to Dylan’s music for its unifying message despite his reluctance to be a part of any sort of movement.

But there were other artists, who were less coy than him.

And everybody knows about Mississippi / god damn Nina Simone wrote “Mississippi Goddam” in response to the 1963 murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Mississippi.

Mississippi goddam In it, she also sings about the bombing of the 16th street baptist church in Alabama that same year.

Alabama’s got me so upset The civil rights movement produced several notable pieces of protest music.

But the late 60s and early 70s also saw a lot of political unrest in the states.

So this is Marvin Gaye’s 1971 hit What’s Going On.

brother brother brother / there’s far too many of you dying… It was a part of the famous wave of protest music that followed the Kent State massacre when the National Guard opened fire and killed four unarmed students protesting the Vietnam War.

Later as the Vietnam war came to an end, protest songs in America re-focused on issues of class.

The shift coincided with the rise of VH1 and MTV in the 1980s which gave artists a visual medium to express themselves.

Hip-hop quickly gained notoriety, in part thanks to groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A.

Fuck the police / and that’s straight from the underground While hip-hop became a burgeoning space for political thought, a feminist punk rock movement also began to take shape.

the riot grrrl movement was led by all women bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater Kinney.

and it was in the early to mid nineties when all these women came together with a focus on making their music try to forward progressive agendas, specifically feminist ones All girls should have A real man Should I buy it? I don’t wanna Our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deadly terrorist attacks.

After 9/11 there was this huge pool of emotion and frustration that helped singers make some really good music.

But the lack of a unifying political movement left a millennial protest song resurgence sort of dead in the water.

But bands like Green Day gave a really good effort and the title track of their 2004 album American Idiot took aim at the war in Iraq Don’t wanna be an American idiot The election of Barack Obama in 2008 brought a different energy to protest music.

With the first black president in the White House, musicians took up the empowerment song.

Kendrick Lamar’s Alright became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter toward the end of Obama’s presidency.

Do you hear me / Do you feel me / we gon be alright And in this era social media became the biggest tool for sharing music.

That change is even more evident in the face of Donald Trump’s presidency.

A good example of that is Milck’s song called Quiet The songwriter, Connie Lim, used the internet to recruit a choir for the song which became an anthem for the Women’s March.

the purpose of protest music is to bring a movement together.

So as long as people continue to leverage these new tools that we have with social media and with the internet to make these songs, protest music will continue.

John Coltrane on Giant Steps

(“In a Sentimental Mood” by John Coltrane) – Do you live far outside of… wherever we are now? – Well I guess I’m about four or five miles down the road (laughs).

– [Frank] You really sound like Farmer John (laughs).

– Yeah man, when I come up here, I have to do all… to get everything I want to get…


You know, I got to the store and do all that because I don’t want to come back up here.

(jazz music) – [Frank] Where do you play at home? – [John] Anywhere.

There’s a room over the garage out there that I’m getting fixed now to… I think it’s going to be my practice room.

You know sometimes you build a room and it ends up you can still go in the toilet, so I don’t know, I hope I like it but… I keep a horn on the piano and I have a horn in my bedroom… the flute’s usually back there because when I go down tired, I lay down and practice and…

– About how many hours a day do you play, would you say? – Not too much at this time.

I find that it’s only when something is trying to come through you know that I really practice and then it’s just, I don’t know how many hours, it’s just all day.

(saxophone music) I did a foolish thing, I got dissatisfied with my mouth piece (laughs).

I had some work done on this thing and instead of making it better, it ruined it.

It really discouraged me, you know, a little bit because they were certain aspects of that playing that certain fast thing that I was reaching for that I couldn’t push because I had damaged this thing… so I just had to curtail it (laughs).

But at that moment, it was so vivid in my mind, the difference in what I was getting on the horn, as soon as I put that horn in my mouth, I could hear it.

I could feel it and I just stopped, I just went into other things.

In fact, soprano’s one of the reasons I started (laughs) getting dissatisfied with that tenor mouthpiece, see? Because the sound of that soprano was actually so much closer to me in my ear.

I didn’t want to admit this damn thing because I said well the tenor’s my horn, this is my baby but the soprano, there’s still something there, just the voice of it that I can’t… It’s just really beautiful.

I really like it.

(“My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane) – [Frank] The people I was staying with have a friend, a young lady, and she was downtown at one Malcolm X’s speeches and, lo and behold, who should plop down in the seat next to her but John Coltrane (laughs).

– [John] (laughs) Yeah.

– [Frank] Were you impressed with him? – [John] Definitely, definitely.

I felt I had to see the man.

I was quite impressed.

– [Frank] Some musicians have said there’s a relationship between some of Malcolm’s ideas and the music.

– [John] Well, I think that music, being expression of the human heart or the human being itself, does express just what is happening.

The whole of human experience at that particular time is being expressed.

(horn music) In any situation that we find in our lives, when there’s something we feel should be better, we must exert effort to try and make it better.

So it’s the same socially, musically, politically, in any department of your life.

I think music is an instrument.

It can create the initial thought pattern that can create a change, you see, in the thinking of the people.

(saxophone music) I want to be a force for good.

I mean I want to be a force for real good.

In other words, I know that there are bad forces.

I know that there are forces out here that bring suffering to others and misery to the world, but I want to be the opposite force.

I want to be the force which is truly for good.

(saxophone music) – [Frank] What were you looking for John, do you want some cigarettes or…? – [John] No, I’m just sitting up because my back is wet and I just need to get off the chair.

– [Frank] I don’t have any more of my prepared questions to ask you, or my improvised questions (laughs) to ask you.

I don’t know when I’ll ever get the chance to sit you down with a tape recorder again (laughs).

Do you have anything else to get on here? – [John] I think you man, well you just about covered it, I believe… just about covered it.

(jazz music) Subtitles by the community

How to play Latin Ballad Bolero Style – Jazz Piano Tutorial (BAH)

Hi! Today I will show you guys how you can play a style of music called: Bolero.

And this is a style of Latin music and it’s a lot played by jazz musicians and it’s a very calm and very relaxed way to play and when you do this right it could sound quite romantic.

So let me just give you a few bars of an example: As you can tell it’s quite easy, slow, relaxed and calm, and what I like to do when I play this music is to let the rhythm section do most of the rhythmical work and you just float on top of that.

And I’m going to show you a few things that you can do.

So, the first thing is to play very open chords and that’s the easiest thing to do.

So, let’s say you want to play a II-V for example a Bmi7 to E7 which is a II-V, II-V-I progression would be if I play like this and resolve it to A.

But now, let’s just play the II-V-II-V II-V to E and then same thing When you do that in this way what I like to do is to play the 7th only with my right hand and in octaves like this.

So, octaves in right hand and then you play it once more with your left hand like this.

So now this is the Bmi7 but you’re just playing the 7.

To this one which is the third of the E7 and then, same thing like this.

Together with the bass & drums it sounds like this: And the opposite way to play this is to play a very tight with many notes at the same time.

That gets a little bit of a warm sound.

So, I like to mix those two.

We’re going to demonstrate this later on.

But, when you do that what I like to do is to play a mix between A and B voicings with my left hand combined with rootless voicings with my right hand.

I have a different tutorial about rootless voicings, that you can check out on YouTube so I’m not going to go in depth with this.

The next principle of what I like to do is to play the block chords.

And the block chords are like this: For example.

I have a different tutorial on that as well so I’m not going to go and explain that either.

But I will explain one thing which I have not talked about before.

And this is based on the “scale-to-the-one-chord” principle that I’ve talked about before.

So, when you play for example at Dmi7 this is Dmi7 like this.

This is a basic Dmi7.

This is the second chord of…

thats what we call the II-chord.

It’s a II-chord, it’s a minor chord, but, it’s a chord to the Cmaj7.

So that means that you can, in this case, you can, smash down, whatever note you would like from the C scale and it will still fit.

So if I’m playing a Dmi7 I could play like this, or I could play it like this, like this, or like this, whatever, whatever you like.

It’s a little bit different than the block chords but it’s quite similar.

Now you can just smash down whatever chords from the scale, whatever notes from the scale, to fit in with that chord.

Even you can even do like this: So, when you do that together with the music and you combine that with A and B voicings and the block chords it could sound like this: And then, the next thing in that you can do is to go between the tonic to the + chord to the 6th to the 7th and this is a very common trick as well.

So, for eksample, let’s say you play in the key of G then you can go up so this is a G chord simple a G-triad and then even go to G+ and I also like to do like this so if could sound like this: And from there you go to now is the G+ so you play major thirds and then you go to the next step which is a G6.

The next step of it would be a G7.

And that leads to C.

So, if you’ve got the time, if it fits with the music of course, then you can add this trick.

And then, continue on C like this, doing the same thing and let me just try that with the band: And the last trick I want to give you is the “off-beat trick” which it’s basically that you’re going to play on off-beats so the bass is playing on one and three sometimes or just one and what you do then is to just to play on off-beat like: So it’s one and two and one and two and All right, let me just try that with the band: Putting it together with the BAH brothers We have written a tune for you that you can download if you go to the download section or if you click on the link under this video you can find this tune together with some play along tracks and exercises for this lesson.

Christian Scott: Performing Songs From The Centennial Trilogy | JAZZ NIGHT IN AMERICA

At a very young age I decided that I wanted to play music but that the intention behind why I was playing music was to try and figure out the best way to like heal my community.
All of that sort of started with me going to William Frantz Elementary School which is the first desegregated school in this country.
It was desegregated by a little girl at the time named Ruby Bridges.
I walked into those buildings and could still feel that energy was very palpable.
On some levels there was a want for you to be in that space, and on other levels there wasn’t.
Like all spaces that were desegregated, in New Orleans there was a lot of what we call “white flight,” so a lot of whites that had the ability to be able to leave left.
And because of a very topical thing, you know race, they viewed each other as sort of like these antagonizing forces.
They were like Nemesis to each other.
That never made sense to me even as a child I can see it’s like yo, like all of these people are enduring the same things and really if you’re paying close attention they are the same people.
The only space that I could see as a young person where people in that rung were getting along was when music was playing.
And so musically I am mixing current traditional Korean music with a harmonic type that comes from an Indian raga and a song form style that comes from a Polish folk song with the fervor of the Delta blues and a rhythm from the Saramaccan and French Guiana and these sort of places.
If I can show the marriage between their cultural expression, then I’m showing the marriage between their cultures and these people, because this is the idea that I hold close to my heart which is that all people can get along together and be together.

George Coleman – Jazz Saxophone Legend

When you start thinking about music, I mean, you could go on forever, and never play maybe the same thing completely the same way, you know.

With all these different keys, and different notes. If you just played maybe everything in Bb, you would be limited. 

So, they’d ask me, how are you able to play in those keys?

That’s what I used to do, because the piano was so out of tune, you had to, what they call…we got to cross!

That was the word they would say.

So, the guys would say, man did you have piano tuned?

It was like a joke, but it really wasn’t, the guy said, oh yeah, I had it painted the other day. I just put some fresh paint on it.

Ear training, which we talk about, which I’ll demonstrate on the piano sometime.

I’m going to play these minor chords that are random.

I might play [riff]

Then I’ll play this. [riff] 

And that’s very distant from that, in a sense, but it’s not.

It might be a tri-tone. Things like that, tri-tone substitutions. Then you get involved in the Lady Bird turnaround.

Bb. Db7. F#major. Then back to a B7 to Bb.

Because it’s harmony and rhythm, when you start talking about jazz.

You know, you got to play with a beat, you know? So, you got your triad pairs on all of those 7th chords. Back to the bridge.

Nothing has to be unintelligible, so to speak. You know, you don’t have to play a lot of this… You don’t have to do that.

You play something really crisp, and clean. I combine what I hear, and what I know. The knowledge is one of the most important things in playing this music, you know.

You can have a good ear, you can have a lot of talent, as far as hearing things, but it’s always good to know.

You know, always good to know what you’re playing and where you’re going.

The Most Feared Song in Jazz, Explained

This is John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. It’s considered one of the most important jazz albums of all time, it cemented John Coltrane as a legend among jazz saxophonists and composers, and it’s home to one of the most one of the most revered and feared compositions in jazz history.

The reason why the album’s title track is so iconic can be heard in its first few seconds. Coltrane wrote these unique chord changes for Giant Steps, and later went on to use them over traditional jazz standards. These chords came to be known as the Coltrane Changes — and improvising over them is considered a rite of passage for jazz musicians.

But, if you don’t understand a lick of music theory, it’s hard to see how this is so legendary. 

So there’s a moment in the Giant Steps recording that really illustrates just how demanding this song is. It happens when Tommy Flanagan, the pianist on the record, starts his solo. 

The story goes that John Coltrane brought in the music, he shows up ready to go and then calls he this really fast tempo. If you hear on the recording, Tommy Flanagan just cannot handle the chord progressions as they’re going by. His improvisation is very halted. And Tommy Flanagan’s just holding on for dear life. It really becomes apparent how much he struggled, when you hear Coltrane take off at lightning speed the second Flanagan stops.

And then it becomes one of the most legendary recordings of all time.

To understand why this was so difficult for even a highly trained pianist, we need to know three basic concepts and it all starts with this: the circle of fifths – it’s kind of like a color wheel for music. All twelve notes of the western musical scale are on it, but you might notice they’re a little mixed up That’s because they’re organized by a very special number in music… a fifth.

What’s a fifth? It’s like if you’re in the C-major scale, you go C, D, E, F, G – right? 1,2,3,4,5. From C to G is five notes, from G to D is five notes and… well you get the idea.

If you play through the circle you’ll traverse the entire keyboard starting on the lowest C and ending up on the highest C. It sounds much more harmonious than just playing all the notes in order. That’s because the fifth is a sound that our ears just like.

Whenever we’re hearing anything, whenever we’re hearing people sing… whenever we’re hearing people play music, we’re hearing these other notes, these overtones alongside the pitches that they’re playing. When I play this C, the first two loudest tones that are pushed through the air are both C, one is just an octave higher. But other tones travel to our ears as well. The third loudest is a G, which happens to be a fifth above C.

In 1973, Leonard Bernstein demonstrated this phenomenon live on a grand piano at Harvard. Listen closely after he hits that note.

Bernstein: What do we hear now? That G, right? A new tone. Again, clear as a bell. You want to hear it again?

These overtones are kind of like subliminal tones that you’re hearing alongside a regular note. And you’re hearing these overtones everywhere. A lot of western music is based on the power of the fifth, especially how it relates so strongly back to its home chord.

In the case of the key of C major we have the G chord resolving to C. And if you’re thinking about what the G chord represents, it represents kind of tension. You want this to resolve. When it finally does resolve, Adam: it creates this feeling of finality, it creates a feeling of home. That five to one relationship is present in a lot of chord progressions, including the most common one found in jazz.

The 2-5-1

The 2-5-1 essentially is like the backbone of most jazz music. Even in its most basic form it sounds super jazzy. So it comes as no surprise the Coltrane Changes are just chock full of them. Which might raise the question: Why was Tommy Flanagan caught off guard when he had to improvise over them?

Well, the Coltrane Changes aren’t in one key, they’re in three keys. They’re basically a musical MC Escher painting. So each one of these rungs on the circle of fifths represents every possible key center. The closer a key is to another, the more notes they have in common.

Like the C major and G major scale – they’re only different by one note, an F#. 

Okay, we need an analogy to describe this. The way that I like to think about keys is kind of like languages that you have to learn as a jazz improviser.

You have to be able to be fluent in a key. Like maybe C is Spanish and G is Portuguese. Those are very similar languages.

If that’s the case, like okay maybe C is Spanish and you have a distantly related language like maybe Japanese. Let’s say Japanese is B. There’s not much in common with those two languages. And it’s the same with keys. If you play those scales over each other… It sounds a lot more discordant. For the most part, most pop music is based around one of these key centers.  For instance, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut to the Feeling” is in A major. But some songs modulate to another key for dramatic effect. Like Beyonce’s “Love on Top.”

Part of the reason why it’s really exciting is because you’re going to a place that’s really distant on the circle of fifths. And you’re creating a new sense of home. Which is exactly what “Love on Top” does. But, it doesn’t just happen once, it happens every time she repeats the chorus towards the end of the song. And when you chart that sort of thing along the circle of fifths, patterns emerge.

These types of patterns are what fascinated John Coltrane in the late 1950s and ’60s as he was trying to push jazz harmony to its limits. This is his study of the circle of fifths. I think what makes Giant Steps really special is that it really just, it just documented an artist doing something super unique, super stylistic, and virtuosic at the same time.

Here’s the first 16 bars of Giant Steps again, with just the key changes highlighted. If you chart those changes on the circle of fifths it comes out as a pretty dramatic pattern. That’s because these keys are separated by major thirds, which divide an octave into 3 equal parts.

On the circle of fifths these three keys are as far apart as possible from each other. Giant Steps is kind of like you’re shifting from Spanish to Arabic to Japanese very quickly. By quickly, he means like every two beats in a song that’s nearly 300 bpm. It’s not only just like you’re saying one word per language, you’re having to construct a sentence out of the language.

And how does Coltrane make those disparate languages connect? With one of the most ubiquitous phrases in jazz, the five one. What he’s doing is taking some of the conventional ideas of tonal harmony,  the conventional relationships between the five chord and the one chord and applying it to this very chaotic circling, sort of chord progression that is the Coltrane Changes.

So if we were all in the same key, it would sound like this. But because we’re going from key center to key center, it sounds very different. This is why the Coltrane Changes are like this picture here. Even though you’re seeing things from a completely new perspective you still feel like you’ve made it home somehow.

When Tommy Flanagan saw the charts for Giant Steps he knew he wasn’t going to just have to play this chord progression – he was going to have to improvise over it. very quickly. That was probably so funny, he was probably like, “What?!”

It is a bit of a rite of passage to say that you not only can improvise on Giant Steps, but you can also improvise in all 12 keys. Now, generations of jazz musicians are approaching Giant Steps as the sort of pinnacle of improvisation.

Wait. I think I’ve got an analogy for this. It’s like you’re a cab driver and instead of only knowing one way to get somewhere, you have to know every back alley and side street just in case. It’s essentially like that. You still get to the same location, but it’s really interesting and you might see some really cool stuff in the neighborhood.

But ultimately I still think the music boils down to 5 1. People want to come back home.

Deals with the Devil: A Brief Musical History

If folktales are to be believed, the devil seems to have quite the interest in music.

Whether it’s the satanic imagery, that’s ever pervasive in metal

or the legendary fiddle duel in the Devil Went Down to Georgia, it would appear that the Prince of Darkness likes a good tune as much as you and I.

But, there’s one tale of the Devil in music, that captivates like no other and it’s one that’s been told for centuries — the deal with the Devil.

Nearly everyone knows this kind of story now, and that’s because it has a rich history dating back several centuries.

Let’s take a closer look.

Deals with the devil have appeared in Western mythology for a long time,

but they really first started catching on in the late 1500s

thanks to a man named Johann Faust.


Faust was a German Alchemist and magician,

who was alleged to have made a pact with the demon Mephistopheles in return for his soul.

His talent became famous after being documented in Christopher Marlowe’s play

“The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus”.

A hundred years later, the myth first made its way into music, thanks to Giuseppe Tartini.

In 1713 the Devil appeared to Tartini in a dream,

and Tartini made a pact for his soul.

In the dream he gave the devil a violin,

and the Devil performed the most beautiful Sonata he had ever heard.

Immediately upon waking up,

Tartini tried to write down what he heard

and created the “Violin Sonata in G”,

better known as the “Devil’s Trill Sonata”.

Despite the success of this piece,

Tartini wrote that his effort was

“… so inferior to what I had heard,

that if I could have subsisted on other means,

I would have broken my violin and abandoned music forever”.


It would seem that the Devil’s interest in violin didn’t wane,

as rumours of another violinist cohorting with the Devil

came about a century later.

Niccolò Paganini is considered by some to be the greatest violin virtuoso ever to have lived.

He started music at the age of 5 on the mandolin,

was composing by the age of 7

and performing live at 12.

And he was such a virtuoso,

that the public began to surmise that his talents must have come from dark dealings

On top of his skills,

Paganini had a pale lanky look

with long fingers and flaming eyes.

The legends of his performances are something else to behold.

Some reports say audience has made the sign of the Cross as they watched him perform

to protect themselves from evil.

Other stories have him continuing to play flawless notes on broken strings

and contorting his body into weird shapes while performing.

One fan even left a Vienna concert,

claiming he had seen the Devil aiding Paganini.

At the age of 54 Paganini died.

And one of the last things he did before he died,

was send away a priest,

who had come to perform last rites.

This cemented his association with the devil in many people’s minds.

Less than a hundred years later,

legends of the Devil meddling in musical affairs

started once more.

In the 1920s and 30s

pair of blues musicians in the Mississippi Delta

are alleged to have run-ins with the Devil.

First came Tommy Johnson —

a guitar virtuoso known for his eerie yodeling.

Johnson’s brother Liddell spread the legend of Tommy’s Faustian bargain.

One night, the story goes,

Tommy Johnson went to the crossroads

just before midnight

and played guitar until a big black man came up to him,

took his guitar and tuned it.

After that,

Tommy Johnson could play the guitar like no man alive.

Outside of the alleged deal with the Devil

and his influence on blues music,

Johnson’s life was rather uneventful though.

That can’t be said for Robert Johnson —

unrelated to Tommy —

another musician, who apparently made a Faustian bargain.

Johnson was one of the most impressive guitar players of his time

and one of the most important musicians of all time.

And when he was a young man in the late 1920s,

he started to play guitar,

but apparently he had no talent for it.

Fellow blues man Son House famously remembered how Johnson played the guitar:

“Such a racket you never heard!

It would make the people mad, you know.

They’d come out and say

‘Why don’t y’all go in and get that guitar away from that boy!

He’s running people crazy with it.’

I’d come back in and I’d scold him about it

Then one day Robert Johnson left Robinson Vale,

where he had been living.

When he came back, he was a changed man.

Johnson returned with incredible guitar skills.

Sliding around the neck seamlessly,

while maintaining steady rhythms.

Legend has it when Keith Richards first heard Johnson play,

he thought it was two guitar players.

Rumours started to grow that,

like Tommy Johnson before him,

Robert had sold his soul to the Devil

at midnight at a crossroads.

And if you listened to Robert Johnson’s music,

it’s easy to believe it, too.

Atop his virtuoso play

Johnson’s lyrics have a haunting desperation to them

and even sings of his relationship with the Devil.

“Hellhound on My Trail” is a masterful song,

that takes the trope of the rambling blues man

and puts a new spin on it.

The reason Johnson is a traveling wandering vagabond,

is because he’s got hellhounds following him.

You could even look at this song as the middle of a trilogy of songs

chronicling his run-in with the Devil.

“Cross Road Blues” is where he sells his soul,

and then the trilogy ends with “Me and The Devil Blues”,

which has some of the most haunting opening lines ever:

[Early this morning,]


[When you knocked upon my door]

[And I said “Hello, Satan,]

[I believe it’s time to go.”]

On August 16th, 1938

the Devil came for Robert Johnson’s soul.

Johnson was poisoned by a jealous husband

and died at just 27 years old.

Since Robert Johnson,

the Devil has continued his relationship with music,

but no Faustian bargain was like that of Paganini or Robert Johnson have been struck.

At least not that we know of.

Though it’s been nearly a century since Johnson,

so maybe it’s time

for the Devil to dip his toes back into the music game.

Miles Davis and Melodic Minimalism

Miles Davis is by far even more economical than Coltrane.

Almost like a Japanese parchment painting, where you just take the ink and that’s it, man.

It’s there and that’s it.

In “Freddie Freeloader”, Miles does something really beautiful. He gives me a melody of 2 notes.

See, he’s doing the 12 bar blues. It’s the 12 bar blues.

But he does something here:

he cadences on Ab7.

Ab7? Hey…

what key am I in?

Now there are 2 wonderful things that allow us here, as improvisors, to play around.

The first thing is this 6 to 5 resolution.

There’s no resolution to the 1 or to the 3.

It’s 6 to 5. Which means that my melodic gravity is not on 1 or 3. But in the upper part of the scale.

It’s up here.

And if I decide that it’s up here,

it has a whole other flavor. It’s not jazz, it’s not blues. It almost sounds Middle Eastern.

Which then allows me not only to expand on the melodic invention

but the rhythmnic invention, the stylistic invention.

All because basically what Miles has given us is a thematic palette

that does not sit in the stable interval, which is 1 and 3.

Now in all blues, he gives us:

Miles takes that basic pattern,

slows it down,

and uses it as the undercurrent.

And he lets us rock in 6/8 and then he gives us a melody.

Again, the melody is 1 note.

It goes up, and it comes down. What goes up must come down.

This melodic line, starting on the 3rd:

and he hits it again. He hits it a third time.

He’s in the upper part of the pentachord.

He goes to the 4 chord, but he lands on the A, which is the 13th.

And he moves up and down.

See, what goes up must come down. It’s very interesting.

OOH, that 7th! That dissonant. Lets us move.

What’s happening in this melody, even though it’s incredibly simple, is that it keeps moving

it keeps on wanting to go somewhere.

And that of course, then, when we begin to improvise, does the exact same thing.

Because now, we have something to move around with.

You see, I’m moving around

but I’m avoiding the G.

Why am I avoiding that G? Because the G is the tonic

and if I sit and I linger on that G, I have very few places to go.

There’s something else that Miles does that I love

is when he goes to the 5 chord, he doesn’t go down to the 4 chord, which of course would be traditional blues.

He goes… ah, he goes up to the flat 6, and then back to 5 and then back to 1.

And then he focuses there on 1, but his melody has landed on the A, which is the 9th.

It still isn’t settling.

And of course, as the improvisor, the less settled, the more I have to say.

Miles Davis: the Father of Trumpet Jazz

When one thinks of the term "Trumpet Jazz", one invariably thinks of Miles Davis, in my opinion the uncontested "Father of Trumpet Jazz".

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"Miles Dewey Davis III (May 26, 1926 – September 28, 1991) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. He is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th century music. Davis adopted a variety of musical directions in a five-decade career that kept him at the forefront of many major stylistic developments in jazz." –Wikipedia

Miles was born and raised in Illinois but studied at Julliard in New York and came onto the Jazz scene as the trumpeter in Charlie Parker's group. He went on to record for Capital Records, laying down some of the earliest Bebop music on Prestige records while battling a heroin addiction.

He busted out at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955 finally signing a long term contract with Columbia Records and working with John Coltrane as well as Gil Evans.
After the Bebop and Swing era Miles introduced a lot of ground breaking musicians with his recordings including Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette,  Michael Henderson, and many others. 
He continued to pioneer his own style of jazz fusion which included influences from Rock music, Motown and Soul, Bebop and Swing as well as Latin and other cultural styles.