Miles Davis

1926 - 1991


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For nearly five decades Miles Davis (1926-91) was at the center of Jazz music, charting directions and introducing other legendary figures at a rate that is unmatched by his contemporaries in any art form. Davis grew up in relative affluence in East St. Louis Illinois and, after joining in with Billy Eckstine's big band while still in high school, came to New York to enrol at Juilliard. He quickly renewed contact with the bebop pioneers he had met in Eckstine's ranks, and by the end of 1945 had assumed the trumpet chair in Charlie Parker's quintet that he continued to hold for the next three years. It was a crucial move at the epicentre of the new direction in Jazz. Dizzy Gillespie had left Parker and Davis (still only 19 years old) assumed the hottest seat in Jazz music. Against the hard driving, fast and aggressive style of Parker, Miles developed a warmer and more polished style which suited the bebop format that both men were eager to pursue. These 3 years with Parker were crucial in Davis' development, not only as a musician, but also as a musical thinker and personality. It was here that Davis acquired the skill of surrounding himself with the best talent in town, a quality that would serve him well throughout the rest of his career.The numerous drug-related problems that Parker ran into during these years also allowed Davis to develop his leadership skills and gradually he became seen as a leader in his own right.
Davis's first venture as a band-leader was the innovative nonet he created in collaboration with arranger Gil Evans. This band, which included Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan
John Lewis, Max Roach and trombonist Kay Winding, provided the more subtle palette that soon became recognized as the "Birth of the Cool". Yet in smaller bands that Davis tended to lead in most of his work for the next several years, the emphasis was on a more assertive rhythmic edge and extended improvisation. A list of key collaborators in this 1951-54 period would have to include J.J Johnson, Sonny Rollins, John Lewis, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, Milt Jackson, Percy Heath, Kenny Clarke, Jimmy Heath and Art Blakey who together were laying the foundation for another stylistic variation, known as hard bop.
After a triumphant performance of "Round Midnight" in a jam session at the 1955 Newport jazz Festival, Davis was finally able to sustain a permanent band. The personnel: John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones. This unit, with the added participation of Cannonball Adderley and Bill Evans, became the dominant small jazz band of the late Fifties. It was this first Quintet that recorded a string of classic albums for Prestige including Cookin' , Workin', Relaxin', and Steamin'. In the following years Davis made subtle changes to his line-up, adding the alto sax of Adderley and gradually replacing Red Garland with Bill Evans and occasionally Wynton Kelly. In 1958 the classic Milestones followed and only a year later saw the release of The Essential Jazz album of all time Kind of Blue. This album clearly shows the influence that Bill Evans has on Miles Davis as well as Miles' own fresh thinking. Minimalism, impressionism and modality combine to create remarkable music that is improvisation of the highest order.
The Sixties found Davis putting together another seminal quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter; and Tony Williams. This band took modern combo concepts to the edge of freedom, then with the incorporation of electric instruments, launched the jazz-rock or fusion phenomenon. Working with larger; highly amplified bands from 1968 forward, and employing such future stars as Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack De Johnette, Joe Zawinul, Keith Jarrett, and john McLaughlin, Davis now concentrated on sound and rhythm more than ever. After a period of retirement in the late Seventies, he returned with another generation of leaders-to-be (John Scofield, Mike Stern, Kenny Garrett, Bob Berg) and remained jazz's most charismatic figure until his death.

Recommended recordings or download with
Kind of Blue Columbia 40579 Kind of Blue
Milestones Columbia 40837   Milestones
' 58 sessions Columbia 47835   '58 Sessions
Miles Ahead Columbia 40784   Miles Ahead
Sketches of Spain Columbia 40578   Sketches of Spain
Porgy and Bess Columbia 40647   Porgy and Bess
E.S.P. Columbia 46863   E.S.P.
Miles Smiles Columbia 48849   Miles Smiles
A Tribute to Jack Johnson Columbia 47036   A Tribute to Jack Johnson
The complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 Columbia 66955   Highlights from the Plugged Nickel
Columbia Years 55-85 SONY Legacy   The Complete Columbia Recordings
Seven Steps to Heaven Columbia   Seven Steps to Heaven
Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet OJC 190-2   Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet
Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet OJC 128-2   Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet
Steamin' with the Miles Davis Quintet OJC 391-2   Steamin' with the Miles Davis Quintet
Workin' with the Miles Davis Quintet OJC 296-2   Workin' With the Miles Davis Quintet
Seven Steps: Complete Columbia Recordings SONY Legacy
Complete Columbia Studio Sessions 65-68 SONY Legacy
Complete Columbia Recordings with John Coltrane SONY Legacy
At Newport Live '58 SONY Legacy
Round About Midnight SONY Legacy
Best of Miles Davis and John Coltrane SONY Legacy
The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions SONY Legacy
Live at Fillmore East SONY Legacy
Best of Sony
From Cool to Bop; The Anthology Cleopatra
Timeless Miles Davis Savoy jazz
Out of nowhere Zyx
Miles Davis Vol. 1 Emd/ Blue Note
Miles Davis Vol. 2 Emd/ Blue Note
Birth of the Cool Capitol Jazz 92862
Dig OJC 005-2
Bags Groove OJC 245-2
"Miles" The New Miles Davis Quintet OJC 006-2
Miles Davis All Stars / Walkin' OJC 213-2
Blue Moods OJC 043-2
Blue Haze OJC 093-2
Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants OJC 347-2
Collectors' Items OJC 071-2
The Complete Prestige Recordings OJC
Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud Verve