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miles davis

Miles Davis

b. Miles Dewey Davis III, 26th May 1926, Alton, Ilinois, U.S.A.

d. 28th September 1991, Santa Monica, California, U.S.A.

Miles Davis career spanned 50 years. He was the archetypal figure representing the jazz genre.

His jazz interpretations span all styles from traditional jazz to rap.

Miles's career spanned th e 40's to the 90's and took so many twists and turns, it would leave many lesser musicians totally confused.

In a way, there are so many genre's out there. Soul, Jazz, Country, Folk, Rock, Classical....and then there was Miles.

Miles was born the son of a dental surgeon, Dr. Miles Dewey Davis, Jr., and a music teacher, Cleota Mae (Henry) Davis.

Miles Davis

miles at 8 years old

His early life base was in the black middle class of East St. Louis after the family moved there shortly after his birth.

He became interested in music during his childhood and by the age of 12 had begun taking trumpet lessons.

While still in high school, he started to get jobs playing in local bars and at 16 was playing gigs out of town on weekends.

At 17, he joined Eddie Randle's Blue Devils, a territory band based in St. Louis.

In 1944, just after graduating from high school, he saw and was allowed to sit in with Billy Eckstine's big band, which was playing in St. Louis.

The band featured trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and saxophonist Charlie Parker, the architects of the emerging bebop style of jazz.

Bebop was the new sound of the day, and Miles was to follow it's influences.

Miles left the Midwest to attend the Institute of Musical Art in New York City (since renamed Juilliard) in September 1944.

After his arrival in Manhattan, he played in clubs with Charlie Parker, and by 1945 he had abandoned his academic studies for a full-time career as a jazz musician.

He joined Benny Carter's band and made his first recordings as a sideman.

Miles played with Eckstine in 1946-1947 and was a member of Parker's group in 1947-1948, making his recording debut as a leader on a 1947 session that featured Parker, pianist John Lewis, bassist Nelson Boyd, and drummer Max Roach.

Miles Davis

In 1948 he organized a nine-piece band with an unusual horn section.

In addition to himself, it featured an alto saxophone, a baritone saxophone, a trombone, a French horn, and a tuba.

Utilising arrangements by Gil Evans and others, Miles played for two weeks at the Royal Roost in New York in September.

Earning a contract with Capitol Records, the band went into the studio in January 1949 for the first of three sessions which produced 12 tracks.

The band included Kai Winding, Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, J.J. Johnson, and Kenny Clarke.

In February 1957, Capitol finally issued the tracks together on an LP called 'Birth of the Cool'.

Miles, meanwhile, had moved on to co-leading a band with pianist Tadd Dameron in 1949, and the group took him out of the country for an appearance at the Paris Jazz Festival in May of that year.

In January 1951 he began a long series of recordings, despite the trumpeter's addiction to heroin, for the Prestige label that became his main recording outlet for the next several years.

He managed to kick his habit by the middle of the decade, and he made a strong impression playing 'Round Midnight' at the Newport Jazz Festival in July 1955, a performance that led major label Columbia Records to sign him.

The new contract allowed him to put together a permanent band, and he organized a quintet featuring saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones that began recording his Columbia debut, 'Round About Midnight', in October.

He had a remaining five albums on his Prestige contract, and over the next year he was forced to alternate his Columbia sessions with sessions for Prestige to fulfill this previous commitment.

The latter resulted in the Prestige albums 'The New Miles Davis Quintet', 'Cookin', 'Workin', 'Relaxin', and 'Steamin'.

In May 1957, just three months after Capitol released the 'Birth of the Cool' LP, Miles again teamed with arranger Gil Evans for his second Columbia LP, 'Miles Ahead'.

Playing flugelhorn, Davis fronted a big band on music that extended the 'Birth of the Cool' concept.

Released in 1958, the album was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, intended to honor recordings made before the Grammy Awards were instituted in 1959.

In December 1957, Davis returned to Paris, where he improvised the background music for the film 'L'Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud (Escalator to the Gallows)'.

'Jazz Track', an album containing this music, earned him a 1960 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Performance, Solo or Small Group.

He added saxophonist Cannonball Adderley to his group, creating the Miles Davis Sextet, which recorded the album 'Milestones' in April 1958.

Shortly after this recording, Red Garland was replaced on piano by Bill Evans and Jimmy Cobb took over for Philly Joe Jones on drums.

In July, Miles again collaborated with Gil Evans and an orchestra on an album of music from 'Porgy and Bess'.

Back in the sextet, he began to experiment basing his improvisations on scales rather than chord changes.

This led to his next band recording, 'Kind of Blue', in March and April 1959, an album that became a landmark in modern jazz and the most popular disc of Davis' career, eventually selling over two million copies.

In sessions held in November 1959 and March 1960, Miles again followed his pattern of alternating band releases and collaborations with Gil Evans, recording 'Sketches of Spain', containing traditional Spanish music and original compositions in that style.

The album earned Miles and Gil Grammy nominations in 1960 for Best Jazz Performance, Large Group, and Best Jazz Composition, 'More Than 5 minutes'; they won in the latter category.

By the time Miles returned to the studio to make his next band album in March 1961, Adderley had departed, Wynton Kelly had replaced Bill Evans at the piano, and John Coltrane had left to begin his successful solo career.

He was replaced by saxophonist Hank Mobley (following the brief input of Sonny Stitt).

John Coltrane guested on a couple of tracks of the album, called 'Someday My Prince Will Come'.

The record made the pop charts in March 1962, but it was preceded into the bestseller lists by the Davis quintet's next recording, the two-LP set 'Miles Davis in Person (Friday & Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk, San Francisco)', recorded in April.

The following month, Miles recorded another live show, as he and his band were joined by an orchestra led by Gil Evans at Carnegie Hall in May.

The resulting 'Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall' was his third LP to reach the pop charts, and it earned Miles and Gil a 1962 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Performance by a Large Group, Instrumental.

Miles and Evans teamed up again in 1962 for what became their final collaboration, 'Quiet Nights'.

The album was not issued until 1964, when it reached the charts and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by a Large Group or Soloist with Large Group.

'Quiet Nights' was preceded by Davis' next band release, 'Seven Steps to Heaven', recorded in the spring of 1963 with a new lineup consisting of saxophonist George Coleman, pianist Victor Feldman, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Frank Butler.

During the sessions, Feldman was replaced by Herbie Hancock and Butler by Tony Williams

The album found Miles making a transition to his next great group, of which Carter, Hancock, and Williams would be members.

It was another pop chart entry that earned 1963 Grammy nominations for both Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by a Soloist or Small Group and Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by a Large Group.

The quintet followed with two live albums, 'Miles Davis in Europe', recorded in July 1963, which made the pop charts and earned a 1964 Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by a Small Group or Soloist with Small Group, and 'My Funny Valentine', recorded in February 1964 and released in 1965, when it reached the pop charts.

By September 1964, the final member of the classic Miles Davis Quintet of the 1960's was in place with the addition of saxophonist Wayne Shorter to the team of Davis, Carter, Hancock, and Williams.

The group began with a series of albums of original compositions contributed by the band members, commencing in January 1965 with 'E.S.P.'.

This was followed by 'Miles Smiles' (1967 Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by a Small Group or Soloist with Small Group [7 or Fewer]), 'Sorcerer', 'Nefertiti', 'Miles in the Sky' (1968 Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by a Small Group or Soloist with Small Group), and 'Filles de Kilimanjaro'.

By the time of 'Miles in the Sky', the group had begun to turn to electric instruments, prior to Davis' next rush of blood to the head.

By the final sessions for 'Filles de Kilimanjaro' in September 1968, Herbie Hancock had been replaced by Chick Corea and Carter by Dave Holland.

However, Hancock, along with pianist Joe Zawinul and guitarist John McLaughlin, participated on Miles' next album, 'In a Silent Way' (1969), which returned the trumpeter to the pop charts for the first time in four years and earned him another small-group jazz performance Grammy nomination.

Bitches Brew

With his next album, 'Bitches Brew', Miles reverted to a more jazz-rock style.

'Bitches Brew', released in March 1970, reached the pop Top 40 and became Davis' first album to be certified gold.

It also earned a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Arrangement and won the Grammy for large-group jazz performance.

Miles followed up with such similar efforts as 'Miles Davis at Fillmore East' (1971 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Performance by a Group), 'A Tribute to Jack Johnson', 'Live-Evil', 'On the Corner', and 'In Concert', all of which reached the pop charts.

In the meantime, Davis' former band members formed their own groups.

Corea formed Return to Forever, Shorter and Zawinul led Weather Report, and McLaughlin and former Davis drummer Billy Cobham organized the Mahavishu Orchestra.

Commencing in October 1972, Miles broke his ankles in a car accident and, subsequently, became less active in the early 1970's, and in 1975 he gave up recording entirely due to illness, undergoing surgery for hip replacement later in the year.

Five years passed before Miles returned to action by recording 'The Man With the Horn' in 1980 and getting back to touring in 1981.

Miles performed on the worldwide jazz festival circuit and recorded a series of albums that made the pop charts, including 'We Want Miles' (1982 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance by a Soloist), 'Star People', 'Decoy', and 'You're Under Arrest'.

In 1986, after 30 years with Columbia, he switched to Warner Bros. Records and released 'Tutu', which won him his fourth Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance.

On this album Miles collaborated with his protege Marcus Miller.

In 1988, Miles made a brief cameo appearance in the movie vehicle 'Scrooged', where he performed as a street busker (very briefly), performing 'We Three Kings'.

Scrooged 1988

Scrooged 1988 'scrooged' 1988

'Aura', an album he had recorded in 1984, was released by Columbia in 1989 and brought him his fifth Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance by a Soloist (on a Jazz Recording).

On 8th July 1991, Miles joined an orchestra led by Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival to perform some of the arrangements written for him in the late 1950's by Gil Evans.

In September 1991, Davis went into hospital for, what he described to his friends, as a 'tune-up'.

On the 28th of that month, he died from pneumonia and respiratory failure.

Miles DavisMiles Davis

'Doo-Bop', his last studio album, appeared in 1992.

It was a collaboration with rapper Easy Mo Bee, and it won a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Instrumental Performance, with the track 'Fantasy' nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.

Released in 1993, 'Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux' won Davis his seventh Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance.

Ironically, Davis, the epitome of jazz over the last 50 years, will be remembered for his comment he made during the Eighties.... 'Jazz is dead'.

His music will never be.

For further information on the great man, click here.

Miles DavisMiles Davis

Real Player


First Miles (Savoy Records 1945)

Birth of the Cool (Blue Note Records 1949)

And Horns (Original Jazz Records 1951)

Blue Period (Prestige Records 1951)

Conception (Original Jazz Records 1951)

The New Sounds of Miles Davis (Prestige Records 1951)

Diggin' (Prestige Records 1951)

Dig (Prestige Records 1951)

Collector's Items (Prestige Records 1951)

Live at the Barrel, Vol. 2 (Prestige Records 1952)

Miles Davis Plays the Compositions of Al Cohn (Prestige Records 1953)

Miles Davis Featuring Sonny Rollins (Prestige Records 1953)

Blue Haze (Original Jazz Records 1953)

Bags Groove (Original Jazz Records 1954)

Miles Davis Quintet [Prestige 185] (Prestige Records 1954)

Miles Davis & the Modern Jazz Giants (Prestige Records 1954)

Walkin' (Original Jazz Records 1954)

Green Haze (Prestige Records 1955)

The Musings of Miles (Original Jazz Records 1955)

Odyssey (Prestige Records 1955)

Milt and Miles (Prestige Records 1955)

Miles Davis and Milt Jackson Quintet / Sextet (Original Jazz Records 1955)

Circle in the Round (Columbia /Legacy Records 1955)

Round About Midnight (Columbia Records 1955)

Cookin' (Original Jazz Records 1955)

The New Miles Davis Quintet (Prestige Records 1955)

Miles (Prestige Records 1955)

Miles Davis & Horns 51-53 (Original Jazz Records 1955)

Miles & Monk at Newport [live] (Columbia Records 1955)

Workin' (Original Jazz Records 1956)

Steamin' (Original Jazz Records 1956)

Relaxin' (Prestige Records 1956)

Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (DCC Records 1956)

Nouvelle Vague on CD [Original Soundtrack] (Philips Records 1956)

Miles Ahead (Columbia / Legacy Records 1957)

Milestones [Columbia] (Columbia Records 1958)

Miles Davis at Newport 1958 [live] (Columbia / Legacy Records 1958)

Porgy and Bess (Columbia / Legacy Records 1958)

Kind of Blue (Columbia / Legacy Records 1959)

Sketches of Spain (Columbia / Legacy Records 1959)

Directions (Columbia Records 1960)

Friday at the Blackhawk [live] (CBS Records 1960)

Friday at the Blackhawk, Vol. 2 [live] (CBS Records 1960)

Friday and Saturday Nights in Person [live] (Columbia Records 1961)

In Person: Friday Night at the Blackhawk [live] (Columbia Records 1961)

Miles Davis in Person, Vol. 1 [live] (Columbia Records 1961)

Miles Davis in Person, Vol. 2 [live] (Columbia Records 1961)

In Person: Saturday Night at the Blackhawk [live] (Columbia Records 1961)

At Carnegie Hall [live] (Columbia / Legacy Records 1961)

Miles in St Louis [live] (VGM Records 1961)

In Person at the Blackhawk [live] (CBS Records 1961)

Someday My Prince Will Come (Columbia Records 1961)

Quiet Nights (Columbia / Legacy Records 1962)

Sorcerer (Columbia / Legacy Records 1962)

Miles at Antibes [live] (CBS Records 1962)

Seven Steps to Heaven (Columbia Records 1963)

Miles in Antibes [live] (CBS Records 1963)

Four & More [live] (Columbia Records 1964)

My Funny Valentine [live] (Columbia Records 1964)

Miles in Tokyo [live] (Columbia Records 1964)

Miles in Berlin [live] (CBS Records 1964)

In Europe [live] (CBS Records 1964)

E.S.P. (Columbia / Legacy Records 1965)

Live at the Plugged Nickel (CBS Records 1965)

Miles Smiles (Columbia / Legacy Records 1966)

In Berlin [live] (Columbia Records 1966)

Nefertiti (Columbia / Legacy Records 1967)

Miles in the Sky (Columbia / Legacy Records 1968)

Filles de Kilimanjaro (Columbia Records 1968)

In a Silent Way (Columbia Records 1969)

Bitches Brew (Columbia / Legacy Records 1969)

Big Fun (Columbia / Legacy Records 1969)

Live-Evil (Columbia / Legacy Records 1970)

A Tribute to Jack Johnson (Columbia Records 1970)

Black Beauty: Miles Davis at Fillmore West [live] (Columbia / Legacy Records 1970)

Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the... (Columbia/Legacy Records 1970)

On the Corner (Columbia / Legacy Records 1972)

Get Up with It (Columbia / Legacy Records 1972)

Miles Davis in Europe Lincoln Center [live] (Columbia Records 1972)

In Concert: Live at Philharmonic Hall (Columbia Records 1972)

Dark Magus [live] (Tristar Records 1974)

Pangaea [live] (Columbia Records 1975)

Agharta [live] (Columbia Records 1975)

We Want Miles (Columbia Records 1981)

The Man with the Horn (Columbia Records 1981)

Star People (Columbia Records 1982)

New Quintet (Original Jazz Records 1982)

Decoy (Columbia Records 1983)

Aura (Columbia Records 1985)

You're Under Arrest (Columbia Records 1985)

Tutu (Warner Records 1986)

Music from Siesta (Warner Records 1987)

Live Around the World (Warner Records 1988)

Miles in Montreux [live] (Jazz Door Records 1989)

Amandla (Warner Records 1989)

Dingo (Warner Records 1990)

Hot Spot (Antilles Records 1990)

Doo-Bop (Warner Records 1991)

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