The World According to Keitho

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Sippin’ at Bell’s

Posted by keithosaunders on September 4, 2018

Here is an unconventional blues from Miles Davis called Sippin’ at Bells.  It comes from his very first session as a leader in 1947 and the band featured Charlie Parker (on tenor!) John Lewis – piano, Nelson Boyd – bass, and Max Roach on drums.

The other tracks are the original Milestones, (Miles would write a second Milestones ten years later – a modal tune based on two chords) Little Willie Leaps (based on the chords of Bronislaw Kaper’s All Gods Children Got Rhythm), and Half Nelson.  All four of the tunes on this date ended up becoming jazz standards.  Jazz musicians throughout the world know them and continue to play them.

Sippin’ at Bells, a 12 bar blues,  is notable for it’s unique, substitute chord laden progression.  Miles begins the song with an F major 7 (instead of a dominant 7) and if that is not radical enough, he immediately diverts to the key of Eb in measure two, using Fm7-Bb7.  In the fifth measure, instead of using the usual IV dominant 7, Davis employs a IV major 7, a striking diversion from the norm.

In 1949 the pianist Bud Powell would record his original, Dance of the Infidels.  Its chord progression is almost identical to that of ‘Bells,’ although its melody is completely different.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

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