Even in the beginning he was already miles ahead. It’s very evident that Miles knew and lived by that old axiom if it’s named, then it’s outmoded. Miles Dewey Davis was born May 25, 1926 in Alton, Illinois and grew up in East St. Louis.
Miles collected records and for his 13th birthday was given his first trumpet. By age 16, Miles was playing professionally and received his first real taste of what playing jazz was like when Billy Eckstine’s band was traveling through and needed to replace a sick horn player. At that time, the band employed Diz and Bird and for two weeks Miles soaked it up!Undoubtedly, the fire had been ignited. After high school, Miles was off to study music and enrolled in Juilliard in September 1944. Practicing his ass off every day and feeding his mind every night Miles’ sound was taking shape. As a sideman, Miles recorded his first recording in New York with singer “Rubberleggs” Williams and later recorded “Now,s The Time” & “Ko-Ko” in Parker’s quintet.
Miles Davis was known to the general public primarily as a trumpet player. However, in the world of music he had a great deal of influence not only as a innovative bandleader but also as a composer. His music and style was important in the development of improvisational techniques incorporating modes rather than standard chord changes. Miles experiments with modal playing reached its apotheosis in 1959 with his recording of Kind Of Blue.
Brought up in the Bebop tradition and taught under the auspice of Bird and others, Miles was now ready to lead. After a few solo records, Miles transformed jazz into it’s next phase with his BIRTH OF THE COOL sessions, which were recorded 1949-50. These sessions took Bebop, with it’s fast running styled chords, which changed on every beat, to a more modal concept and chords that changed every other measure, like in the tune “Dig”. As a experiment, Miles formed a nine piece band, with Mulligan, Evans and Lewis as arrangers and incorporating Gunther Schuller on French Horn. This made the band have a lighter and more relaxing sound. Miles himself would frequently use the flugelhorn and muted trumpet.
This sound seemed natural to Miles’ tone. Instantly identifiable, Miles’ tone had rich middle register and/or cooing, crooning, muted or mewling, fierce as though shredding complacency or tender as a man treading on eggshells. Very contradictory to Miles’ temperament, this sound was so gentle and simple it rang of a secret side of Miles. Davis’ most radical veer from jazz tradition came in the late 60s and early 70s when, under the intoxicating influence of such artists as Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, Davis ushered in the age of fusion with a steamy electric concoction of bubbling funk, explosive rock and abrasive jazz.
The music ruffled the feathers of jazz purists who were unwilling to accept Davis’ vision for the ever-evolving genre. However, rock fans were blown away. The trumpeter’s 1970 fusion masterwork, Bitches Brew, sold over 4000,000 copies in a year, making it the biggest selling jazz album in history. Even though Davis died Sept.
28, 1991, the trumpeting jazz titan continues to impact the contemporary music world. In 1962, Davis was elected by the Readers into the Down Beat Hall of Fame.