Nardis (composition)

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Miles Davis on the cover of his 1958 album Milestones.

"Nardis" is a composition by American jazz musician Miles Davis. It was written in 1958, during Davis's modal period, to be played by Cannonball Adderley for the album Portrait of Cannonball.[1] The piece has come to be associated with pianist Bill Evans, who recorded it repeatedly.


From 1955 to 1958, Miles Davis was leading what would come to be called his First Great Quintet. By 1958, the group consisted of John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums,[2] and had just been expanded to a sextet with the addition of Cannonball Adderley on alto saxophone.

Coltrane's return to Davis’s group in 1958 coincided with the "modal phase" albums: Milestones (1958) and Kind of Blue (1959) are both considered essential examples of 1950s modern jazz. Davis at this point was experimenting with modes—i.e. scale patterns other than major and minor.[3]

In mid-1958, Bill Evans replaced Garland on piano and Jimmy Cobb replaced Jones on drums, but Evans too left after eight months, replaced by Wynton Kelly in late 1958.[4][5] This group backing Davis, Coltrane, and Adderley, with Evans returning for the recording sessions, would make Kind of Blue, often considered the greatest jazz album of all-time.[6][7][8][9] Adderley left the band in September 1959 to pursue his own career, returning the line-up to a quintet.[10]

In July 1958, Evans appeared as a sideman in Adderley's album Portrait of Cannonball, that featured the first performance of "Nardis", specially written by Davis for the session. While Davis was not very satisfied with the performance, he said that from then on, Evans was the only one to play it in the way he wanted. The piece would come to be associated with Evans's future trios, which played it frequently.[1]

[We're gonna] finish up featuring everyone in the trio with a Miles Davis number that's come to be associated with our group, because no one else seemed to pick up on it after it was written for a Cannonball date I did with Cannonball in 1958—he asked Miles to write a tune for the date [the album Portrait of Cannonball], and Miles came up with this tune; and it was kind of a new type of sound to contend with. It was a very modal sound. And I picked up on it, but nobody else did... The tune is called "Nardis."

— Interview at Ilkka Kuusisto's home, ca.1970, Bill Evans[11]

The use of the Phrygian mode and the minor Gypsy scale[12] in this tune is also present in other "Spanish" works from those dates, like Davis's Sketches of Spain.

Davis never recorded "Nardis", and Adderley only did once. George Russell recorded it on his album "Ezz-Thetics."

Bill Evans[edit]

Unlike Davis and Adderley, "Nardis" was an important part of Bill Evans repertoire, as it appears in many of his albums: Trio at Birdland (1960), Explorations (1961), The Solo Sessions, Vol. 1 (1963), Trio Live (1964), Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival (1968), Quiet Now (1969), You're Gonna Hear from Me (1969), "Live at the Festival" (1972), The Paris Concert: Edition Two (1979), Turn Out the Stars: The Final Village Vanguard Recordings (1980), and The Last Waltz: The Final Recordings (1980). It also appears on many of Evans's filmed appearances.[13]


Nardis makes use harmonically and melodically of the Phrygian dominant scale and the minor Gypsy scale (technically known as the double harmonic scale), and it is set in thirty-two-bar AABA form. Bill Evans usually played the piece in E major.

Chords in Nardis as played by Bill Evans
Section Harmony
A (mm.1-8) Em7 Em7 Fmaj7 B7 Cmaj7 Am7 Fmaj7 Emaj7 Em7
A (Mm.9-16) Em7 Em7 Fmaj7 B7 Cmaj7 Am7 Fmaj7 Emaj7 Em7
B (Mm.17-24) Am6 Fmaj7 Am6 Fmaj7 Dm7 Dm7 G7 Cmaj7 Fmaj7
A (Mm.25-32) Em7 Em7 Fmaj7 B7 Cmaj7 Am7 Fmaj7 Emaj7 Em7 (B7)


  1. ^ a b Pettinger.
  2. ^ Richard Cook. It's About That Time: Miles Davis On and Off Record. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-19-532266-8, pp. 44-45.
  3. ^ Milestones – Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  4. ^ Cook, pp. 93-95, 110.
  5. ^ Miles Davis and Bill Evans: Miles and Bill in Black & White, Sept. 2001, Ashley Kahn, JazzTimes.
  6. ^ The All-TIME 100 Albums. Retrieved on August 19, 2008.
  7. ^ The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on August 19, 2008.
  8. ^ Rateyourmusic's 'Top Albums of All-Time'. Rate Your Music. Retrieved on August 19, 2008.
  9. ^ – Kind of Blue review notes. Retrieved on August 19, 2008.
  10. ^ Cook, p. 123.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Evans explicitly deems the work as very "modal", see quote.
  13. ^ Among others: London (19/March/1965); Oslo (1966), Helsinki (1970); Umbria Jazz (1978); Jazz Manteniance Shop (1980).


  • Pettinger, Peter (2002) [1999]. Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings (New ed.). Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-09727-1.