I remember when I was a kid, my parents used to go to the Newport Jazz Festival. My dad would always come back talking about Miles Davis and how he'd kinda hang out in the background, come forward and play for a few minutes, then wander off backstage. I'm sure he also said a lot of other things about Miles, but for some reason this is the thing that stuck with me most....actually, I hadn't really thought about it much until I sat down to write about Davis for this posting.
For most, it is this enigmatic quality that first comes to mind when thinking of Miles Davis. Born in 1926, Davis played with Charlie Parker in the late 1940's. A decade later, he formed a quintet with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. This version of "Milestones" showcases the talents of Davis and Coltrane.
Although the group would see a change in several members over the next few years, he went on to record the legendary - and best-selling jazz album of all time - "Kind of Blue" in 1959. I'll let some people far more qualified than myself talk about this recording
Davis' second quintet consisted of himself, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, and Ron Carter. To say this was an all-star lineup would be an understatement. Here's "Agitation" from the album "E.S.P."
As with all musicians with any longevity, Davis changed his style from album to album, year to year. During the sixties he release "In a Silent Way" (actually one of my favorite albums) and "Bitches Brew", helping to usher in a new sound that would come to be known as "fusion". Although the title track of "In a Silent Way" is a beautiful, slowly-building piece, this video drops in on my favorite part, so i went with it
in 1972, Miles released "On the Corner", and album with a decidedly stronger focus on funk and rock. This was not necessarily seen as a positive thing by critics at the time. However, it proved the progressive nature of Davis as an artist.
Through the late seventies, Miles Davis actually disappeared from the scene. This was due to a number of factors including drugs, physical problems not related to drugs, and psychological issues. However, he resurfaced in the early eighties and recorded several more albums. Since this was actually during my youth, the one I remember was "Amandla", released in 1989. Here, you can also see his trademark style; he was known to show up in what would be considered "daring" getup at the time. Note that this extended even to his customized trumpet.
Davis passed away in 1991.