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Trumpeter and composer Miles Davis had a marvelously productive career. He attracted the most talented jazz musicians many of whom went on to create evolving expressions of jazz as the most technically advanced and, for some, the most appealing music of the 20th century. Davis attracted the best musicians available so that innovation was an eclectic group effort.
Miles began recording in 1946 with Charlie Parker. He formed his first quintet in 1955 which became well known but dissipated in the early 60's. By 1963 the Miles Davis quintet was renewed with saxophonist George Coleman, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams. Wayne Shorter replaced Coleman in 1964. By 1969, electronic instruments dominated the album “In a Silent Way”, an innovative fusion album. In a Silent Way was composed of two side-long suites, a quiet album would influence the development of ambient music. It featured musicians who would develop fusion styles with their own groups in the 1970s: Shorter, Hancock, Corea, pianist Josef Zawinul, guitarist John McLaughlin, Holland, and Williams. Williams quit Davis to form his own fusion band after recording sessions for the album Bitches Brew in 1970 that abandoned traditional jazz. The album gave Davis a gold record, and created consternation within the jazz community that remains to this day; many critics and musicians remain critical of Davis after his forays into fusion."
The Miles album Kind of Blue (1959) has been described as the "greatest jazz album of all time." Pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers, and saxophonists John Coltrane and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley all contributed to tunes based on modal scales. Davis gave the players scales to guide their improvisation. Quincy Jones wrote: "I play Kind of Blue every day—it's my orange juice. It still sounds like it was made yesterday". Davis described his musical theory: "No chords gives you more freedom and space to hear things. When you go this way, you can go on forever. You don't have to worry about changes. It becomes a challenge to see how melodically innovative you can be. When you're based on chords, you know at the end of 32 bars that the chords have run out and there's nothing to do but repeat what you've just done—with variations. I think a movement in jazz is beginning away from the conventional string of chords... there will be fewer chords but infinite possibilities as to what to do with them."
Philip Pape wrote:" Very few albums can match this Miles Davis's 1959 classic, often considered the greatest album in the history of jazz. Backed by an exquisite combo, this is an essential recording even for those who don't listen to jazz. This recording was the beginning of modal jazz, and while Coltrane displays his free, unorthodox style and intense tone, Miles balances this with his contrasting smoothness and sparse phrasing. Cannonball colors Coltrane's sound with a rhythmically daring yet more melodic style of his own, characteristic of his traditional and ebullient phrasing. Bill Evans, whether accompanying or soloing, prefers a style more likened to the title of the album. He glides elegantly and profoundly on top of the driving yet laid back swing of Jimmy Cobb. Paul Chambers serves as the technically dynamic and harmonic foundation for the group, lending his exceptional skill to a tight rhythm section."
Robert Irving joined Miles Davis to create the album Decoy, released in 1983 and continued with Davis' touring band as the keyboardist and musical director. Irving listened to recordings of each night’s performance with Davis to find the bestimprovisatory expressions to be included in subsequent arrangements. An Irving- Davis 1985 album (You're Under Arrest) featured “Time after Time” and “Human Nature.” Irving appears to be the music intellectual and the glue that held the touring band together; he remained close to Davis until his death in 1991 Irving also collaborated with Bill Evans, who had arranged some of Davis’ most celebrated recordings. The title piece Decoy of the 1983 album is credited to Irving and, for me, became an anthem piece that expresses a special kind of articulate, virtuoso anger. The trumpet solo calls out for liberation. The entire piece describes Davis (and many other jazz musicians), an angry man who suffered all the indignities of being an educated, talented black man in the white supremist nation, the USA.
Miles Lineage A collection of Jazz classics
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