- 1 Biography
- 1.1 Early life - 1926 to 1944
- 1.2 Bebop and the Birth of the Cool (1944 to 1955)
- 1.3 First Great Quintet and Sextet (1955 to 1958)
- 1.4 Recordings with Gil Evans (1957 to 1963)
- 1.5 Kind of Blue (1959 to 1964)
- 1.6 Second Great Quintet (1964 to 1968)
- 1.7 Electric Miles (1968 to 1975)
- 1.8 Last Decade (1981 to 1991)
- 1.9 Death
- 2 Awards
- 3 Discography
Widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Davis was at the forefront of almost every major development in jazz from World War II to the 1990s. He played on various early bebop records and recorded one of the first cool jazz records. He was partially responsible for the development of modal jazz, and jazz fusion arose from his work with other musicians in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Davis belongs to the great tradition of jazz trumpeters that started with Buddy Bolden and ran through Joe "King" Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, although unlike those musicians he was never considered to have the highest level of technical ability. His greatest achievement as a musician, however, was to move beyond being regarded as a distinctive and influential stylist on his own instrument and to shape whole styles and ways of making music through the work of his bands, in which many of the most important jazz musicians of the second half of the Twentieth Century made their names.
Davis was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006. He has also been inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame, Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame, and Down Beat's Jazz Hall of Fame.
Early life - 1926 to 1944
Miles Davis was born to a relatively affluent family in Alton, Illinois. His father, Dr. Miles Davis II, was a dentist, and in 1927, the family moved to East St. Louis. They also owned a substantial ranch in northern Arkansas, where Davis learned to ride horses as a boy.
Davis' mother, Cleota Mae (Henry) Davis, wanted her son to learn the piano — she was a capable blues pianist, but kept this fact hidden from her son. Miles' musical studies began at 13, when his father gave him a new trumpet and arranged lessons with local trumpeter Elwood Buchanan. Davis later suggested that his father's instrument choice was made largely to irk his wife, who disliked the instrument's sound. Against the fashion of the time, Buchanan stressed the importance of playing without vibrato, and Davis would carry his clear signature tone throughout his career. Buchanan was credited with slapping Davis' knuckles with a ruler every time he started using heavy vibrato. Davis once remarked on the importance of this signature sound, saying, "I prefer a round sound with no attitude in it, like a round voice with not too much tremolo and not too much Baseline bass. Just right in the middle. If I can’t get that sound I can’t play anything." Clark Terry was another important early influence and friend of Davis'. By the age of 16, Davis was a member of the musician's union and working professionally when not at school. At 17, he spent a year playing in bandleader Eddie Randle's "Blue Devils". During this time, Sonny Stitt tried to persuade him to join the Tiny Bradshaw band then passing through town, but Davis' mother insisted that he finish his final year of high school.
In 1944, the Billy Eckstine band visited St. Louis. Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were members of the band, and Davis was taken on as third trumpet for a couple of weeks because of the illness of Buddy Anderson. When Eckstine's band left Davis behind to complete the tour, the trumpeter's parents were still keen for him to continue formal academic studies.
Bebop and the Birth of the Cool (1944 to 1955)
In 1944, Davis moved to New York City, ostensibly to take up a scholarship at the Juilliard School of Music, but he neglected his studies and sought out Charlie Parker instead. His first recordings were made in 1945 with blues singer Rubberlegg Williams and tenor saxophonistHerbie Fields, and in the autumn he became a member of Parker's unofficial quintet, appearing on many of Parker's seminal bebop recordings for the Savoy and Dial labels. Davis's style on trumpet was distinctive by this point, but as a soloist he lacked the confidence and virtuosity of his mentors, and was known to play throttled notes, and to sometimes stumble during his solos.
By 1948, he had served his apprenticeship as a sideman, both on stage and record, and was beginning to blossom as a solo artist. Davis began to work with a nonet that featured then-unusual instrumentation such as the French horn and tuba. The nonet featured a young Gerry Mulligan and Lee Konitz. After some gigs at New York's Royal Roost, the nonet was signed by Capitol Records. Several singles were released in 1949 and 1950, featuring arrangements by Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan and John Lewis. This began his collaboration with Evans, with whom he would collaborate on many of his major works over the next 20 years. The sides saw only limited release until 1957, when 11 of the 12 were released as the album Birth of the Cool (more recent issues collect all 12 sides). In 1949, he visited Europe for the first time and performed at that year's Paris Jazz Festival in May. The response to modern jazz musicians in Paris was somewhat different to the United States, they had become something of a cult in the French capital, and Davis dated his problems with narcotics from this point. Playing in the jazz clubs of New York, Davis was in frequent contact with people who used and sold drugs. By 1950, like many of his contemporaries, he had developed a heroinaddiction.
Between 1950 and 1955, Davis mainly recorded as a leader for Prestige and Blue Note records in a variety of small group settings. Sidemen included Sonny Rollins, John Lewis, Kenny Clarke, Jackie McLean, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk,