Miles Davis - A Short Biography
Miles Davis was born into a musical family on May 25th 1926, in Illinois, USA. Given a trumpet by his father on his 13th birthday, his talent with the instrument would lead to him becoming known as a ‘musical genius’. He would also use his talent to incorporate the flugelhorn and keyboards. A composer as well as a player, he has a reputation as one of the greatest leaders in the history of jazz.
Davis attended the prestigious Julliard School of Music in New York where he developed his talents further. Following this he started his recording career by joining Charlie 'Bird' Parker, with whom he had previously played in the Billy Eckstine Band.
During 1947 Davis came top in a DownBeat poll and continued to play and record with many greats of jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Illinois Jacquet and Gerry Mulligan.
1949 would be a defining time of Davis's career and jazz itself. He collaborated with arranger Gil Evans and a whole host of jazz giants, including Lee Konitz, Kenny Clarke and Kai Winding. Over 15 months, using Davis's now refined style of playing which was uncomplicated and understated compared to the bebop players of the time, they witnessed the change to a new style of jazz - Cool. The Birth of The Cool sessions were eventually released together in 1954.
During the early 1950s, due to a dependency on heroin, Davis's career was mostly suspended, although he did record a few sessions for prestige. The mid-late 1950's saw the return of Davis who was at this time no longer entirely dependent on heroin. His collaborations and albums created during this period would become some of the classics of jazz, even up to the present day. Some of these include 'Miles Ahead', 'Porgy and Bess' and the essential jazz classic 'Kind of Blue'.
At the beginning of the 1960s Davis was still seen as the leading innovative jazz musician and was still coming top in the jazz polls. This period would see Davis increasingly electrify his different groups, incorporating electric keyboards and an electric trumpet. With the increasing popularity of improvised rock music on the west coast, Davis noticed the potential of merging the rock rhythms with jazz. Two albums of this period were 'In a Silent Way' and 'Bitches Brew', which many would say was the invention of jazz rock.
In 1975, after a series of personal problems, including a relapse with drugs, a car accident and some trouble with the police, Davis made the decision that it was time to retire. However, this would not be the end of his career. He returned, after illness, 6 years later with a new band and a new album - The Man With The Horn. Later Davis would make-over pop songs in his own unique style and work along with some famous blues musicians, including John Lee Hooker. Davis was able to continue touring the world and recording, much to the pleasure of his fans, until different cases of ill health made this no longer possible.
Miles Davis died in September 1991, but even now, his music still influences jazz (and to a lesser degree, Rock) music today.