Miles Davis

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Miles Davis was a jazz trumpet player, one of the most influential in the genre, famous for an ever evolving style that bridged bebop, cool jazz, modal jazz and the fusion of rock music and jazz.

He began his career playing with Charlie Parker - however he had trouble adapting to the immense technical complexity of bop and began to seek a style more suited to his soulful, melodic sensibility.

His development of cool jazz, a relaxed antidote to the frenetic pace of bebop, was influential, but arguably he found his voice following his encounter with the works of theorist George Russell. Beginning with the album Milestones in 1957, he began to explore modal jazz, a new approach to the idiom in which the chord structures were vastly simplified, allowing the soloist ample time to explore melodic ideas.

The apotheosis of this period came with 1959's Kind Of Blue, on which he, with pianist Bill Evans and tenor saxophone player John Coltrane, among others, created a haunting masterpiece. Most of the tracks are still popular at jazz jam sessions to this day.

For the next few years, he concentrated, in the studio at least, on albums with an orchestral backdrop provided by Gil Evans - an unfortunate corollary of this is that his work with Bill Evans' replacement Wynton Kelly is only documented on one studio album (Someday My Prince Will Come)[1].

In the early sixties the personnel of his group changed significantly - the young Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams (just 17 years of age on his first Davis album), developed the music into highly complex and virtuosic forms of expression, which, perhaps ironically, was far more technically complex than the bebop that Davis originally rebelled against.

Miles' 1970s work remains controversial - some regard his absorbtion of rock idioms as a sell-out, others as a brave willingness to move with the times.

After a brief retirement at the end of the 1970s, Davis continued performing until his death in 1991.

References

  1. Though he also appears for one track ("Freddie Freeloader") on Kind of Blue.
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