The Miles album Kind of Blue really was one of a kind. A fascinating, confident adventure that came back with the treasure in abundance – and the whole story is documented really well in a book by Ashley Khan (see here). (Khan has also written an excellent book dealing with A Love Supreme.)
Of the tunes from this album that are still played regularly, So What has to be the king. To this day, some wonder “what can you do with it?” and others wonder “what can’t you do with it?” We played it recently and I suggested we use the intro, as originally done by Bill Evans and Paul Chambers – when do you ever hear that?
Someone has asked if I had a transcription, and as luck would have it, I do:
This beautiful moody scene-setting passage seems to me to somehow hang in the air, perhaps like pollen drifting in sunlight or smoke in a spotlight. Shame it isn’t played more often.
It has Gil Evans’ fingerprints all over it, with the DNA evidence possibly suggesting Bill’s paws too. The album hype was all about how loose and last-minute the recording session was, but without wishing to knock Miles or his amazing sidemen, I really don’t think this intro was just pulled out of the air in a moment of inspiration…
Incidentally, perhaps someone who knows about this kind of thing could get on Wikipedia and correct the statement “Freddie Freeloader is a standard 12-bar blues form”. It isn’t quite – it deliberately, slyly, sourly goes to a step below the expected final chord. Which to me is rather the whole point of the tune.
Almost to invoke the character – vacillating, promising a straight deal but falling short when payday comes. In the same vein of characterisation of a sponging hanger-on, the whole tune is really an accompanying riff without a melody…