When I run at the gym or outside, my favorite song, or at least one of my favorites, is “All Blues” (listen here) by Miles Davis. It uplifts me during a run with a unique energy that one would not expect from a 12 bar blues. The song, I agree, does not seem like a great workout song but it has pace and energy and it has Miles. And Coltrane. And Cannonball. And Bill Evans in the blues stratosphere. And Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb doing twirls on drums.
When I listen to the song, I usually do two things: I lock in on Bill Evans and follow him right through. He is the key to the song for me. He sets the mood from the beginning with the famous drill piano sound that opens the song. Though it seems as if Miles is in control by stating the theme; I say it is Bill Evans. You can tell when you get to the Evans’ solo that Evans is controlling it because the song slows down and while one expects Evans to go bold with his solo, he remains subtle, and almost invisible, floating through the blues effortlessly, maintaining the mood he has set and never getting beyond that feel. I urge you to play the song, lock in on Evans and follow him all the way; it changes the way you will hear and experience the song.
The second thing I always do is listen to the two incredible sax players: Cannonball Adderly and John Coltrane. Once you understand their aesthetics you will be able to pick them out. At times, I get the feeling that Cannonball knows that Coltrane is quite an incredible player so he makes sure you know that he is Cannonball and not Trane. He is strong, as Cannonball was known to be, and he is soulful, which is also typical of Cannonball. Trane, on the other hand, is starting to show those spiritual elements that would drive the rest of his career. This segment with these two solos is perhaps quite incredible coming after Miles and the rhythm section state the theme.
I drift into space when I am running and listen to “All Blues.” I also know that if I run all the way through the song, it is like a mile or more or a little less depending upon the pace. I am not a runner trying to make an Olympic team, so I like the steady flow the song gives, much like Ravel’s “Bolero.” The song has energy and it sustains.
If you work out, weights, ellipticals, cycle, treadmill, even outside, put on “All Blues,” and go. Sometimes I put it on repeat. And then get lost in the music.