The Jazzcat

Birthday Boy Miles Davis May 26th 1926

by on May.24, 2006, under News

Miles Dewey Davis III was

born on this date in 1926 (80 years ago today). He was a Trumpet player

– Composer – Bandleader…one of the most innovative, influential, and

respected figures in the history of American Music.

Born in

Alton, Illinois, Davis was a leading figure in the bebop style of jazz

and in combining styles of jazz and rock music. Davis began music

lessons after receiving a trumpet on his 13th birthday from his father.

Two years later he joined the musicians' union and began playing with a

local band on weekends. About this time he met trumpeter Clark Terry,

who helped and encouraged him. In 1944, after graduating from high

school, he went to New York City to study classical music at the

Julliard School of Music. While there, he also began playing with alto

saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and other

pioneers of the new jazz style known as Bebop.


1945, at the age of 19, he began playing in a combo led by Parker.

Earning a contract with Capitol Records, the band went into the studio

in January 1949 for the first of three sessions that had a profound

influence on the development of the cool jazz style on the West Coast.

In February 1957, Capitol finally issued the tracks together on an LP

called Birth of the Cool. Davis, meanwhile, had moved on to co-leading

a band with pianist Tadd Dameron in 1949, but the trumpeter's progress

was impeded by an addiction to heroin that plagued him in the early


His performances and recordings became more haphazard,

but in January 1951 he began a long series of recordings for the

Prestige label that became his main recording outlet for the next

several years. He managed to kick his habit by the middle of the

decade, and he made a strong impression playing “Round Midnight” at the

Newport Jazz Festival in July 1955, a performance that led major label

Columbia Records to sign him. The prestigious contract allowed him to

put together a permanent band, and he organized a quintet featuring

saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers,

and drummer Philly Joe Jones that began recording his Columbia debut,

Round About Midnight, in October.


he had a remaining five albums on his Prestige contract, and over the

next year he was forced to alternate his Columbia sessions with

sessions for Prestige to fulfill this previous commitment. The latter

resulted in the Prestige albums The New Miles Davis Quintet, Cookin',

Workin', Relaxin', and Steamin', making Davis' first quintet one of his

better-documented outfits. In 1957, Davis teamed with arranger Gil

Evans for his second Columbia LP, Miles Ahead. Playing flugelhorn,

released in 1958, the album was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of

Fame, intended to honor recordings made before the Grammy Awards were

instituted in 1959. In December that year, Davis returned to Paris,

where he added saxophonist Cannonball Adderley to his group, creating

the Miles Davis Sextet, which recorded the album Milestones in 1958.


July, Davis again collaborated with Gil Evans and an orchestra on an

album of music from Porgy and Bess. Back in the sextet, Davis began to

experiment, basing his improvisations on scales rather than chord

changes. This led to his next band recording, Kind of Blue, in 1959, an

album that became a landmark in modern jazz and the most popular disc

of Davis' career, eventually selling over two million copies, a

phenomenal success for a jazz record (in fact, about 5,000 copies of

this masterpiece are sold in every week around the world). In sessions

held in November of that year and March 1960, Davis again followed his

pattern of alternating band releases and collaborations with Gil Evans,

recording Sketches of Spain, containing traditional Spanish music and

original compositions in that style. By the time He returned to the

studio to make his next band album in March 1961, Coltrane was guest on

a couple of tracks of the album, called Someday My Prince Will Come.

The Davis quintet’s next recording preceded the two-LP set Miles Davis

in Person (Friday & Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk, San



the spring of 1963, Seven Steps to Heaven was recorded with an entirely

new lineup. The sessions included Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony

Williams. It was another pop chart entry that earned Grammy nominations

for both Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by a Soloist or Small Group

and Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by a Large Group. By 1964, the

final member of the classic Miles Davis Quintet of the 1960s was in

place with the addition of saxophonist Wayne Shorter to the team of

Davis, Carter, Hancock, and Williams. While continuing to play

standards in concert, this unit embarked on a series of albums of

original compositions, Sorcerer, Nefertiti, Miles in the Sky, and

Filles de Kilimanjaro.


Hancock, along with pianist Joe Zawinul and guitarist John McLaughlin,

participated on Davis' next album, In a Silent Way, 1969. With his next

album, Bitches Brew, Davis turned more overtly to a jazz-rock style. He

followed it with Miles Davis at Fillmore East, Jack Johnson, Live-Evil,

On the Corner, and In Concert all in 1971. Starting in October 1972,

when he broke his ankles in a car accident, Davis became less active in

the early 1970s, and in 1975 he gave up recording entirely due to

illness, undergoing surgery for hip replacement later in the year. Five

years passed before he returned to action by recording The Man With the

Horn in 1980 and going back to touring in 1981. By now, he was an elder

statesman of Jazz.

Those who supported his eclectic approach

had incorporated jazz, and his innovations into the music, at least. He

was also a celebrity whose appeal extended far beyond the basic jazz

audience. In 1990 Davis performed a leading role as a jazz musician in

the Australian motion picture Dingo 1991. His album Doo-Bop 1999,

released the year after his death, was one of the first to fuse jazz

with the hip-hop and rap music styles.


Sir Miles Dewey Davis III is

buried at Woodlawn cemetery in the Bronx, New York (right across the

road from Duke Ellington – not far from Illinois Jacquet & Jackie

McLean). His influence in American Music History is unparalleled – may

he rest in Peace.

Fire up your CD player with

Miles…enjoy the Beauty & Passion of this creative genius. Read

about his life/music (numerous books are available).



though you may be Kind of Blue..Summertime is just a few days away. The

Flamingo Sketches of life permeate the Solar spectrum, as we leave

temporary Footprints…So Near So Far !

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