Miles Davis

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For the singer born Miles Davis, see Miles Jaye.
Miles Davis
Miles Davis by Palumbo.jpg
Davis photographed by Tom Palumbo in his New York City home, c. 1955–1956
Background information
Birth name Miles Dewey Davis III
Born (1926-05-26)May 26, 1926
Alton, Illinois, US
Died September 28, 1991(1991-09-28) (aged 65)
Santa Monica, California, US
Genres Jazz
  • Musician
  • bandleader
  • composer
Years active
  • 1944–1975
  • 1980–1991
Associated acts Miles Davis Quintet, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Philly Joe Jones, Sonny Rollins, Paul Chambers, Red Garland, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Heath, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Parker, Wayne Shorter, Conte Candoli, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, George Coleman, Sam Rivers, Hank Mobley, Fats Navarro, Freddie Webster, J. J. Johnson, Max Roach, Al Haig, Thelonious Monk, Clifford Brown, Curley Russell, Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Duke Ellington, John Lewis, Kenny Clarke, Thad Jones, Ahmad Jamal, Art Blakey, Jimmy Cobb, Wynton Kelly, Dave Brubeck, Dave Holland
Notable instruments
Martin Committee

Miles Dewey Davis III (May 26, 1926 – September 28, 1991) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. He is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th century music. Davis adopted a variety of musical directions in his five-decade career which kept him at the forefront of a number of major stylistic developments in jazz.[1]

Born and raised in Illinois, Davis left his studies at The Juilliard School in New York City and made his professional debut as a member of saxophonist Charlie Parker's bebop quintet from 1944 to 1948. Shortly after, he recorded the Birth of the Cool sessions for Capitol Records, which were instrumental to the development of cool jazz. In the early 1950s, Davis recorded some of the earliest hard bop music while on Prestige Records but did so haphazardly due to a heroin addiction. After a widely acclaimed comeback performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955, he signed a long-term contract with Columbia Records and recorded the 1957 album 'Round About Midnight.[2] It was his first work with saxophonist John Coltrane and bassist Paul Chambers, key members of the sextet he led into the early 1960s. During this period, he alternated between orchestral jazz collaborations with arranger Gil Evans, such as the Spanish music-influenced Sketches of Spain (1960), and band recordings, such as Milestones (1958) and Kind of Blue (1959).[3] The latter recording remains one of the most popular jazz albums of all time,[4] selling over 4 million copies in the US.

Davis made several line-up changes while recording Someday My Prince Will Come (1961), his 1961 Blackhawk concerts, and Seven Steps to Heaven (1963), another mainstream success that introduced bassist Ron Carter, pianist Herbie Hancock, and drummer Tony Williams.[3] After adding saxophonist Wayne Shorter to his new quintet in 1964,[3] Davis led them on a series of more abstract recordings often composed by the band members, helping pioneer the post-bop genre with albums such as E.S.P (1965) and Miles Smiles (1967),[5] before transitioning into his electric period. During the 1970s, he radically experimented with rock, funk, African rhythms, emerging electronic music technology, and an ever-changing line-up of musicians, including keyboardist Joe Zawinul, drummer Al Foster, and guitarist John McLaughlin.[6] This period, beginning with Davis' 1969 studio album In a Silent Way and concluding with the 1975 concert recording Agharta, was the most controversial in his career, alienating and challenging many in jazz.[7] His million-selling 1970 record Bitches Brew helped spark a resurgence in the genre's commercial popularity with jazz fusion as the decade progressed.[8]

After a five-year retirement due to poor health, Davis resumed his career in the 1980s, employing younger musicians and pop music sounds on albums such as The Man with the Horn (1981) and Tutu (1986). Critics were generally unreceptive but the decade garnered the trumpeter his highest level of commercial recognition. He performed sold-out concerts worldwide while branching out into visual arts, film, and television work, before his death in 1991 from the combined effects of a stroke, pneumonia and respiratory failure.[9] In 2006, Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,[10] which recognized him as "one of the key figures in the history of jazz".[10] Rolling Stone described him as "the most revered jazz trumpeter of all time, not to mention one of the most important musicians of the 20th century,"[9] while Gerald Early called him inarguably one of the most influential and innovative musicians of that period.[11]

Early life[edit]

The house at 1701 Kansas Anvenue in East St. Louis, Illinois where Davis lived from 1939 to 1944.

Miles Dewey Davis III was born on May 26, 1926 into an affluent middle class African-American family in Alton, Illinois, fifteen miles north of St. Louis.[12][13] He had an older sister, Dorothy Mae (b. 1925), and a younger brother, Vernon (b. 1929). His father, Miles Dewey Davis II of Arkansas, was a successful dental surgeon who earned three college degrees, and his mother Cleota Mae Davis (née Henry), also of Arkansas, was a music teacher and violinist.[14][13] They owned a 200-acre estate near Pine Bluff, Arkansas that housed a profitable pig farm where Davis and his siblings would ride horses, fish, and hunt.[15][14] In 1927, the family moved to East St. Louis, Illinois, living on the second floor of a commercial building in a predominantly white neighborhood behind a dental office. By 1941, his parents divorced.[16] From 1932 to 1934, Davis attended John Robinson Elementary School, an all-black institution,[13] followed by Crispus Attucks School where he performed well in mathematics, music, and sports.[14] As a youngster Davis developed his earliest appreciation for music, citing the the blues, big bands, and gospel music.[15]

In 1935, Davis received his first trumpet as a gift from John Eubanks, a friend of his father,[17] and later took weekly lessons with his father's patient, teacher and musician Elwood Buchanan.[12] His mother objected the choice of instrument as she preferred her son took up the violin.[18] Against the fashion of the time, Buchanan stressed the importance of playing without vibrato and encouraged him to adopt a more clear, mid-range tone; Davis claimed he would slap his knuckles every time he started using heavy vibrato.[18][12][19] Davis would carry his clear signature tone throughout his career. He once remarked on its importance to him, saying, "I prefer a round sound with no attitude in it, like a round voice with not too much tremolo and not too much bass. Just right in the middle. If I can't get that sound I can't play anything."[20] In 1939, the family moved to 1701 Kansas Avenue in East St. Louis. For his thirteenth birthday held that year, Davis' father bought his son a new trumpet,[17] and Davis began to play in local bands, earning as much as $85 a week.[12] Around this time, Davis took additional trumpet lessons from Joseph Gustat, principal trumpeter of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.[17]

In 1941, the 15-year-old Davis began at East St. Louis Lincoln High School where he joined the school's marching band directed by Buchanan and entered music competitions. Davis claimed the contests he did not win was largely down to prejudice over his race, but cited such experiences to become a better musician.[14] Davis proceeded to improve his understanding of music after a drummer he played with around this time suggested Davis play a passage from the previous night, yet Davis was unable to comprehend what he meant. "That hit me ... I went and got everything, every book I could get to learn about theory".[21] It was at Lincoln High where Davis met his first girlfriend, Irene Cawthorn. Davis had formed his own group by this time, performing in various local venues such as Elks Club and Huff's Beer Garden with hits such as "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller.[22] A portion of his earnings went towards his sister's education at Fisk University.[16] Davis also befriended trumpeter Clark Terry, who also suggested he play without vibrato and performed together in various capacities for several years.[17][16] In 1943, at Buchanan's recommendation and Cawthorn's persuasion, Davis filled a vacant spot in Eddie Randle's Rhumboogie Orchestra, also known as the Blue Devils, and eventually became its musical director which involved the scheduling of rehearsals and hiring newcomers.[23][16] Davis later acknowledged his tenure as one of the most important of his career.[21] During this time, Sonny Stitt tried to persuade him to join the Tiny Bradshaw band, then passing through town, but Davis' mother insisted that he finish his final year of high school before he could tour. He said, "I didn't talk to her for two weeks. And I didn't go with the band either".[24] In January 1944, Davis finished his studies at East St. Louis Lincoln High School and graduated in absentia in June. The following month, Cawthorn gave birth to a daughter, Cheryl.[16]

In July 1944, Billy Eckstine and his big band, which featured Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Art Blakey, visited St. Louis for a series of performances. They needed a stand-in after third trumpeter Buddy Anderson was too ill to attend.[12] They invited Davis, who accepted and played with the group for two weeks at Club Riviera.[16][25] The experience was a profound one on Davis, after which he "had to be in New York, where the action was".[26] However, his mother wished for him to continue with his education and study the piano or violin at Fisk University with his sister, which Davis declined.[24]


1944–1948: New York City and the bebop years[edit]

Tommy Potter, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, Max Roach, August 1947

In September 1944, Davis accepted his father's idea of studying at the Institute of Musical Arts, later known as the Juilliard School, in New York City.[16] Davis passed his audition and attended classes in music theory, piano and dictation,[27] but soon lost focus and spent much of his time in the club scene and locating Parker, despite being advised against doing so by several people he met in his search, including Coleman Hawkins.[25][28] After finally locating his idol, Davis became one of the cadre of musicians who held nightly jam sessions at two Harlem nightclubs, Minton's Playhouse and Monroe's. The group included many of the future leaders of the bebop revolution such as Fats Navarro, Freddie Webster, and J. J. Johnson. Established musicians including Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke were also regular participants. In December 1944, Davis reunited with Cawthorne and their daughter when they relocated to New York City, the three living in the same building as Parker who eventually became a room mate.[25][16]

In mid-1945, Davis failed to register for the year's autumn term of study at Juilliard and dropped out after three semesters[15][29][16] as he wished to commit to jazz performance full time.[30] His father advised his son to avoid sounding like everyone else and find his own style yet remained supportive and continued to send over money until Davis could earn enough on his own.[31] Davis later criticized the school's classes for centering too much on the classical European and "white" repertoire, but credited the institution for his education in music theory and improving his trumpet playing technique. Davis began playing professionally, performing in several 52nd Street clubs with Hawkins and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and, on 24 April 1945, recorded his first sessions in a recording studio as part of Herbie Fields's group with Henry "Rubberlegs" Williams,[16] his first of many as a sideman.[25] Davis' first recording as leader came in 1946 with an occasional group named the Miles Davis Sextet plus Earl Coleman and Ann Hathaway—one of the rare occasions when Davis is heard accompanying singers.[32] Davis would not record another session as leader until 1947.

Davis on piano with Howard McGhee (trumpet), Joe Albany (pianist, standing) and Brick Fleagle (guitarist, smoking), September 1947

After Gillespie split from Parker's quintet in 1945, Davis took his place in October and the group performed a residency at various clubs on 52nd Street. On November 26, Davis took part several recording sessions as part of Parker's group Reboppers that also involved Gillespie and Roach,[16] displaying hints of the style he would become known for. During a take of Parker's signature song "Now's the Time", Davis takes a melodic solo, whose unbop-like quality anticipates the cool jazz period that followed. In 1946, Davis played in a big and small band led by Benny Carter in St. Louis and travels with the group for performances in California. During his time on the west coast, Davis performed with Parker who had also travelled there with Gillespie.[33] During a stop in Los Angeles, Parker suffered from a nervous breakdown that landed him in hospital for several months, leaving Davis stranded. Davis secured a spot on Eckstine's California tour which eventually brought him back to New York City in late 1946.[33][34] In March 1946, Davis played in studio sessions with Parker and began a collaboration with bassist Charles Mingus that summer, during which Cawthorne gives birth to Davis' second child, son Gregory, in East St. Louis before reuniting with Davis in New York the following year.[33]

Following the break-up of Eckstine's band in early 1947, Davis secured work by playing in a big band led by Gillespie and Illinois Jacquet, and joining a new quintet led by Parker in April that also included Roach. Together they performed live with Duke Jordan and Tommy Potter for much of the year, including several studio sessions.[33] In one session that May, Davis penned the tune "Cheryl", named after his daughter. Davis' first session as a leader followed in August 1947, playing as the Miles Davis All Stars that included Parker, pianist John Lewis, and bassist Nelson Boyd; together they recorded "Milestones", "Half Nelson", and "Sippin' at Bells".[35][33] After touring Chicago and Detroit with Parker's quintet, Davis returned to New York City in March 1948 and joined the Jazz at the Philharmonic tour which included a stop in St. Louis on April 30.[33]

1948–1950: Miles Davis Nonet and birth of the cool[edit]

In August 1948, Davis declined an offer to join Duke Ellington's orchestra as he had entered rehearsals with a new, nine-piece band with pianist and arranger Gil Evans and baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, taking an active role that soon became his own project.[36][33] Evans' Manhattan apartment had become the meeting place for several young musicians and composers such as Davis, Roach, Lewis, and Mulligan who were unhappy with the increasingly virtuoso instrumental techniques that dominated the bebop scene.[37] This led to the formation of The Miles Davis Nonet which featured a more unusual line-up with a French horn and tuba. The objective was to achieve a sound similar to the human voice, through carefully arranged compositions and by emphasizing a relaxed, melodic approach to the improvisations. In September, the band completed their sole engagement as the openers for Count Basie at the Royal Roost for two weeks. Davis had to persuade the venue's manager to word the advertising sign as "Miles Davis Nonet. Arrangements by Gil Evans, John Lewis and Gerry Mulligan". He prevailed only with the help of Monte Kay, the club's artistic director. Davis rejoined Parker's quintet soon after, but relationships within the quintet were growing tense mainly due to Parker's erratic behavior caused by his drug addiction.[33] Early into his tenure with Parker, Davis had adopted a lifestyle of drug abstinence, a vegetarian diet, and spoke of the benefits of water and juice.[38] Matters worsened when Davis and Roach objected to the addition of pianist Duke Jordan[28] and preferred to hire Bud Powell. The situation culminated in December 1948 when Davis quit,[33] claiming he was not being paid.

Davis' split from Parker marked the beginning of a period when he worked mainly as a freelancer and sideman in some of the most important combos in the New York City jazz scene. His nonet remained active until the end of 1949; after landing a recording deal with Capitol Records they recorded sessions in January and April 1949, including the singles "Move" and "Boplicity" which sold little but became influential pieces of music on the "cool" or "west coast" style of jazz.[33] The line-up changed throughout the year and included the additions of tuba player Bill Barber, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, who had been preferred to Sonny Stitt as his style was considered too bop-oriented, pianist Al Haig, trombone players Mike Zwerin with Kai Winding, French horn players Junior Collins with Sandy Siegelstein and Gunther Schuller, and bassists Al McKibbon and Joe Shulman. One track featured singer Kenny Hagood. The presence of white musicians in the group angered some black players, many of whom were unemployed at the time, yet Davis rebuffed their criticisms.[39]

In May 1949, Davis performed with the Tadd Dameron Quintet with Kenny Clarke and James Moody at the Paris International Jazz Festival, his first trip abroad. Davis was fascinated by Paris and its cultural environment, where black jazz musicians, and African Americans in general, often felt better respected than they did in America. During his trip, Davis began a love affair with singer and actress Juliette Gréco which would last for several years. Upon his return to New York City, Davis could only secure little amounts of work, which included a short engagement with Powell in October 1949. To make matters worse, his heroin addiction worsened.[33] Recording sessions with his nonet for Capital Records continued until April 1950; much of it remained unreleased until the issue of Birth of the Cool (1956), its name given to the cool jazz movement that had developed and the musical direction the group had taken.

1950–1955: Hard bop and the "Blue Period"[edit]

The first half of the 1950s was a period of great personal difficulty for Davis, helped by his depression upon his return to New York City from Paris, him feeling under-appreciated by music critics, and the unravelling of his liaison with a former St. Louis school mate who lived with him in New York City, with whom he had two children. In 1950, Davis toured with Eckstine and Billie Holiday, during which he was charged with heroin possession in Los Angeles and later acquitted.[40] On 17 January 1951, Davis performed with Parker in a studio session for a quintet led by Norman Granz. Later that day, Davis recorded his first studio recordings for the independent jazz label, Prestige Records. He secured the sessions after label owner Bob Weinstock became a fan of the material his nonet had performed and secured him with a three-year contract.[41] Davis chose Lewis, trumbone player Bennie Green, bassist Percy Heath, saxophonist Sonny Rollins, and drummer Roy Hanes; together they recorded what became some of Miles Davis and Horns (1956) which included a second session from February 1953 with a different line-up. Davis would play in sessions for other artists in March, June, and September 1951.[40] The following month, Davis recorded his second session for Prestige as band leader, the material of which was later released on The New Sounds (1951), Dig (1956), and Conception (1956).[42]

During his heroin addiction, Davis supported his habit partly with his music and partly by living the life of a hustler, exploiting prostitutes and receiving money from friends. By 1953, his addiction began to impair his playing ability and his drug habit became public in a Down Beat interview with Cab Calloway, who Davis never forgave as it brought him "all pain and suffering".[43] After learning of his father's support, Davis returned to St. Louis and stayed with him for several months to aid his recovery.[43] Though he continued to score heroin out of boredom, Davis caught up with Roach and Mingus in September 1953 who were on their way to Los Angeles for performances. Davis joined them, but the trip caused numerous arguments and problems.[44] Davis returned to his father's home, "determined to kick my habit ... that was the only thing on my mind".[45] He locked himself inside the guest house and stayed inside "for about seven or eight days" until he had gone through the painful and illness-inducing withdrawals. After the ordeal, Davis "sat down and started thinking about how I was going to get my life back together".[46]

After kicking his heroin addiction Davis stayed in Detroit for around six months, avoiding New York City where it was easy to score drugs. Though he did take heroin during his stay, he was healthy enough to resume live performances in local venues, playing with drummer Elvin Jones and pianist Tommy Flanagan as part of Billy Mitchell's house band at the Blue Bird club. He was also "pimping a little" at this time.[47] A widely related story, attributed to Richard "Prophet" Jennings,[48][49] was that Davis stumbled into Baker's Keyboard Lounge out of the rain, carrying his trumpet in a paper bag under his coat, walked to the bandstand and interrupted Roach and Clifford Brown in the midst of performing "Sweet Georgia Brown" and played "My Funny Valentine" before leaving. Davis was supposedly embarrassed into getting clean by this incident. Davis later disputed this account, stating that Roach had invited him to play and that his decision to finally quit heroin was unrelated to the incident, citing his idol boxer Sugar Ray Robinson as an inspiration to get clean and resume his career.[50]

In February 1954 a clean Davis returned to New York City, feeling good "for the first time in a long time" and mentally and physically stronger, and joined a gym.[51] He informed Weinstock and management at Blue Note Records that he was ready to record music with a quintet, which he was granted and set the task of recording more music than before to make up for lost time. Davis considered two albums with sessions recorded from this time, Miles Davis Quartet (1954) for Prestige and Miles Davis Volume 2 (1956) for Blue Note, as "very important" to him as he felt his performances were particularly strong.[52] Davis was paid roughly $750 for each album and denied to give away all his publishing rights.[53] By now he had abandoned the bebop style and got to know the music of pianist Ahmad Jamal, whose approach and use of space greatly influenced Davis.[54] When Davis returned to the studio in June 1955 to record Miles Davis Quartet and sought a new pianist, he wished for someone who played like Jamal and picked Red Garland.[54]

A wah-wah mute for the trumpet which Davis started to use in the mid-1950s. It became his signature sound and used it for the rest of his career.

Between 1951 and 1954, Davis released many records on Prestige with varied line-ups, many with Rollins and Blakey. Such albums include Blue Haze (1956), Bags' Groove (1957), Walkin' (1957), and Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants (1959), recorded after Davis' recovery from heroin addiction. They document the evolution of Davis' style and sound, including the fixture of the Harmon mute, also known as a wah-wah mute, onto his trumpet and placed close to the microphone which became his signature sound, and more spacious, melodic, and relaxed phrasing. Davis assumed a central position in what is known as hard bop, a contrast to bebop as hard bop included slower tempos and a less radical approach to harmony and melody, often adopting popular tunes and American standards as starting points for improvisation. Hard bop also distanced itself from cool jazz with its harder beat and blues-inspired music.[55] A few critics have named Walkin' (1957) the album that created the hard bop genre.[20]

In this period, Davis gained a reputation for being distant, cold, and withdrawn, and for having a quick temper. Davis later wrote that in 1954, Leonard "was the most important thing in my life besides music" and even took on his "arrogant attitude".[56] Factors that contributed to this reputation included his contempt for the critics and specialized press, and some well-publicized confrontations with the public and with fellow musicians. A near fight with Thelonious Monk during the recording of Bags' Groove received wide exposure in the specialized press.[57] In mid-1954, Davis reunited with Gréco for the first time since 1949 after she arrived in New York City for film prospects; the two had been in occasional contact since Davis left Paris. Though Davis was too busy to move to Spain with Gréco, the two "remained lovers for many years".[58]

Davis had an operation to remove polyps from his larynx in October 1955.[59] Even though he was not supposed to speak at all, he had an argument with somebody and raised his voice. This outburst damaged his vocal cords forever, giving him the characteristic raspy voice that came to be associated with him. "[It was] in February or March 1956 that I had my first throat operation and had to disband the group while recovering. During the course of the conversation I raised my voice to make a point and fucked up my voice. I wasn't even supposed to talk for at least ten days, and here I was not only talking, but talking loudly. After that incident my voice had this whisper that has been with me ever since."[28] The "nocturnal" quality of Davis' playing and his somber reputation, along with his whispering voice,[60] earned him the lasting moniker of "prince of darkness", adding a patina of mystery to his public persona.[61]

1955–1959: First great quintet and sextet[edit]

Main article: Miles Davis Quintet

In July 1955, Davis landed a last-minute booking to perform with his quintet at the second annual Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island on July 17. With a line-up of Monk, Heath, drummer Connie Kay, and horn players Zoot Sims and Gerry Mulligan, the performance was well received and marked a turn in fortune for Davis in the eyes of critics. In the 1955 Down Beat reader's poll, Davis tied first place with Gillespie in the trumpet category.[62] Following the success at Newport, Davis wrote "things began to happen to me".[63] He recorded a session for Mingus for his Debut label and performed a gig at Café Bohemia, New York City which included himself, Rollins, Garland, Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. This was followed by another session for Prestige in August.[64] Davis' final albums for the label followed: Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (1957), Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (1958), Workin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (1959), and Steamin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (1961), each being instrumental in establishing Davis' quintet as one of the best on the scene.

In mid-1955, Davis recruited players for what became known as his "first great quintet" of Garland, Chambers, Jones, and tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, who was chosen after the unsuccessful attempt to recruit Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. Neither of Davis' picks were widely known at the time, nor had they received a great deal of exposure. The line-up complete, Davis secured a deal with Columbia Records after he met producer George Avakian following his Newport performance. After Avakin learned of Davis' existing contract with Prestige, he entered negotiations with Weinstock to buy him out of his deal that involved "a whole lot of money ... It was a good position, people talking good about you all over the place instead of bad-mouthing you".[63] The five debuted on record with the widely received 'Round About Midnight (1957). Their live repertoire included a mix of bebop mainstays, jazz standards from the Great American Songbook and pre-bop eras, and traditional tunes. The prevailing style of the group was a development of the Davis experience in the previous years—Davis playing long, legato, and essentially melodic lines, while Coltrane, who during these years emerged as a leading figure on the musical scene, contrasted by playing high-energy solos.

Davis' quintet disbanded for the first time in 1957 following a series of personal problems that Davis blamed on Jones' and Coltrane's drug addictions.[65] After a series of gigs at Cafe Bohemia with a modified line-up that included Rollins and drummer Art Taylor, Davis travelled to France where he recorded the score to Louis Malle's film Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1958). With the aid of French session musicians Barney Wilen, Pierre Michelot, and René Urtreger, and American drummer Kenny Clarke, the group recorded the soundtrack without relying on written material, instead the group improvised as they watched the film on a screen in the studio. In 1958, a performance of Les Ballets Africains from Guinea sparked Davis' interest in modal jazz, a new concept in jazz at the time that was dominated by the chord-change based music of bebop. Such music from the ballet featured the kalimba played for long periods of time on a single chord, weaving in and out of consonance and dissonance.[66]

Upon his return to New York City in early 1958, Davis revived his quintet after Jones and Coltrane had kicked their drug habits, and successfully recruited Adderley in the process. Now a sextet, the group recorded material released on Milestones (1958), an album anticipating the new modal directions Davis gave his music. Following Milestones, Davis fired Garland and, shortly afterwards, Jones, again over behavioral issues and replaced them with pianist Bill Evans, a young white musician with a classical background, and drummer Jimmy Cobb. With this revamped formation, Davis had the group tour extensively which was followed by an album, 1958 Miles, also known as 58 Sessions. Evans had a unique, impressionistic approach to the piano, and his musical ideas had a strong influence on Davis. After eight months of touring, however, Evans was burned out and left. He was replaced by Wynton Kelly who brought a swinging, bluesy approach that contrasted with Evans' more delicate playing.

1957–1963: Recordings with Gil Evans and Kind of Blue[edit]

From 1957 to 1962, Davis recorded a series of albums with arranger and composer Gil Evans, often playing the flugelhorn in addition to his trumpet. Miles Ahead (1957) showcased his playing with a big band and a horn section and included and "The Maids of Cadiz" by Léo Delibes, the first piece of European classical music that Davis recorded. Evans devised orchestral passages as transitions between each track were joined together with with studio editing, turning each side of the album into a seamless piece of music.[67] Porgy and Bess (1959) features arrangements of pieces from George Gershwin's opera of the same name which included Chambers, Jones, and Adderley. Sketches of Spain (1960) featured songs by contemporary Spanish composers Joaquín Rodrigo and Manuel de Falla with originals from Evans with a Spanish flavor. The theme continued on Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall (1961) which includes Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. The pair's final album was Quiet Nights (1962), a collection of bossa novas released against their wishes; Evans stated it was only half an album and blamed the record company; Davis blamed producer Teo Macero, to whom he did not speak for more than two years.[68] Davis noted later that "my best friend is Gil Evans";[69] their work was featured in the box set Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (1996) which won a Grammy Award for Best Historical Album and Best Album Notes in 1997.

In March and April 1959, Davis re-entered the studio with his working sextet to record what is widely considered his magnum opus, Kind of Blue. He called back Bill Evans, months away from forming what would become his own seminal trio, for the album sessions, as the music had been planned around Evans' piano style.[70] Both Davis and Evans were acquainted with the ideas of pianist George Russell regarding modal jazz; Davis from discussions with Russell and others before the Birth of the Cool sessions, and Evans from study with Russell in 1956.[71][72] Davis, however, had neglected to inform current pianist Wynton Kelly of Evans' role in the recordings; Kelly subsequently played only on the track "Freddie Freeloader" and was not present at the April dates for the album.[70] "So What" and "All Blues" had been played by the sextet at performances prior to the recording sessions, but for the other three compositions, Davis and Evans prepared skeletal harmonic frameworks that the other musicians saw for the first time on the day of recording, to allow a fresher approach to their improvisations. The resulting album has proven both highly popular and enormously influential. According to the RIAA, Kind of Blue is the best-selling jazz album of all time, having been certified as quadruple platinum (4 million copies sold).[73] In December 2009, the US House of Representatives voted 409–0 to pass a resolution honoring the album as a national treasure.[74][75]

The trumpet Davis used on the recording is currently displayed in the music building on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. It was donated to the school by Arthur "Buddy" Gist, who met Davis in 1949 and became a close friend. The gift was the reason why the jazz program at UNCG is named the "Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program."[76]

In August 1959, after recording at the Birdland nightclub in New York City for the armed services, Davis took a break outside the club. As he was escorting a blonde woman across the sidewalk to a taxi, Davis was told by a patrolman to "move on".[77] After Davis explained that he was working at the club and refused to move,[78] the officer proceeded to arrest Davis and grabbed him as Davis tried to protect himself.[77] Witnesses said the patrolman punched Davis in the stomach with his nightstick without provocation.[77] Two detectives held the crowd back, while a third approached Davis from behind and beat him in the head. Davis was arrested and taken to jail where he was charged for assaulting an officer before he was taken to hospital where he received five stitches.[77] By January 1960, Davis was acquitted of disorderly conduct and third-degree assault.[66] He tried to pursue the case by bringing a suit against the New York City Police Department, but eventually dropped the proceedings[citation needed] in a plea bargain so he could recover his suspended cabaret card, then a required document for performers in order to work at New York City nightclubs.[77] Davis later stated the incident "changed my whole life and whole attitude again, made me feel bitter and cynical again when I was starting to feel good about the things that had changed in this country".[66]

Davis persuaded Coltrane to play with the group on one final European tour in the spring of 1960. Coltrane then departed to form his classic quartet, although he returned for some of the tracks on Davis’ 1961 album Someday My Prince Will Come. After Coltrane, Davis tried various saxophonists, including Jimmy Heath, Sonny Stitt, and Hank Mobley. The quintet with Hank Mobley was recorded in the studio and on several live engagements at Carnegie Hall and the Black Hawk jazz club in San Francisco. Stitt's playing with the group is found on a recording made in Olympia, Paris (where Davis and Coltrane had played a few months before) and the Live in Stockholm album.

On December 21, 1960, Davis married Frances Taylor, who left the Broadway production of West Side Story for him.[79] Their marriage lasted until their divorce came through in February 1968; the relationship involved numerous incidents of Davis' domestic violence towards Taylor. Davis later wrote, "Every time I hit her, I felt bad because a lot of it really wasn't her fault but had to do with me being temperamental and jealous".[80][81][82]

In 1963, Davis' longtime rhythm section of Kelly, Chambers, and Cobb departed. He quickly got to work putting together a new group, including tenor saxophonist George Coleman and bassist Ron Carter. Davis, Coleman, Carter and a few other musicians recorded half the tracks for an album in the spring of 1963. A few weeks later, 17-year-old drummer Tony Williams and pianist Herbie Hancock joined the group, and soon afterward Davis, Coleman, and the new rhythm section recorded the rest of Seven Steps to Heaven.

The rhythm players melded together quickly as a section and with the horns. The group's rapid evolution can be traced through the Seven Steps to Heaven album, In Europe (July 1963), My Funny Valentine (February 1964), and Four and More (also February 1964). The quintet played essentially the same repertoire of bebop tunes and standards that earlier Davis bands had played, but they tackled them with increasing structural and rhythmic freedom and, in the case of the up-tempo material, breakneck speed.

Coleman left in the spring of 1964, to be replaced by avant-garde saxophonist Sam Rivers, on the suggestion of Tony Williams. Rivers remained in the group only briefly, but was recorded live with the quintet in Japan; this configuration can be heard on Miles in Tokyo! (July 1964).

By the end of the summer, Davis had persuaded Wayne Shorter to leave Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and join the quintet. Shorter became the group's principal composer, and some of his compositions of this era (including "Footprints" and "Nefertiti") have become standards. While on tour in Europe, the group quickly made their first official recording, Miles in Berlin (September 1964). On returning to the United States later that year, ever the musical entrepreneur, Davis (at Jackie DeShannon's urging) was instrumental in getting the Byrds signed to Columbia Records.[83]

1964–1968: Second great quintet[edit]

By the time of E.S.P. (1965), Davis’ lineup consisted of Wayne Shorter (saxophone), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums). The last of his acoustic bands, this group is often referred to as the "second great quintet".

A two-night Chicago performance in late 1965 is captured on The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965, released in 1995. Unlike their studio albums, the live engagement shows the group still playing primarily standards and bebop tunes. Although some of the titles remain the same as the tunes played by the 1950s quintet, the quick tempos and musical departure from the framework of the tune are dramatic. It could be said that these live performances of standards are as radical as the studio recordings of new compositions on the albums listed below.

The recording of Live at the Plugged Nickel was not issued anywhere in the 1960s, first appearing as a Japan-only partial issue in the late 1970s, then as a double-LP in the U.S.A. and Europe in 1982. Instead, E.S.P. was followed by a series of studio recordings: Miles Smiles (1966), Sorcerer (1967), Nefertiti (1967), Miles in the Sky (1968), and Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968). The quintet's approach to improvisation came to be known as "time no changes" or "freebop," because they abandoned the more conventional chord-change-based approach of bebop for a modal approach. Through Nefertiti, the studio recordings consisted primarily of originals composed by Shorter, with occasional compositions by the other sidemen. In 1967, the group began to play their live concerts in continuous sets, each tune flowing into the next, with only the melody indicating any sort of demarcation. Davis’ bands would continue to perform in this way until his retirement in 1975.

Miles in the Sky and Filles de Kilimanjaro—which tentatively introduced electric bass, electric piano, and electric guitar on some tracks—pointed the way to the subsequent fusion phase of Davis’ career. Davis also began experimenting with more rock-oriented rhythms on these records. By the time the second half of Filles de Kilimanjaro was recorded, bassist Dave Holland and pianist Chick Corea had replaced Carter and Hancock in the working band, though both Carter and Hancock occasionally contributed to future recording sessions. Davis soon began to take over the compositional duties of his sidemen.

1968–1975: Electric Miles[edit]

Davis in 1971

Davis’ influences included 1960s rock and funk artists such as James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament-Funkadelic,[10] many of whom he met through Betty Mabry (later Betty Davis), a young model and songwriter Davis married in September 1968 and divorced a year later. The musical transition required that Davis and his band adapt to electric instruments in both live performances and the studio. By the time In a Silent Way had been recorded on February 18, 1969, Davis had augmented his quintet with additional players. At various times Hancock or Joe Zawinul were brought in to join Corea on electric keyboards, and guitarist John McLaughlin made the first of his many appearances with Davis. By this point, Shorter was also doubling on soprano saxophone. After recording this album, Williams left to form his group Lifetime and was replaced by Jack DeJohnette.

Six months later, an even larger group of musicians including DeJohnette, Airto Moreira, and Bennie Maupin recorded the double LP Bitches Brew, which became Davis' biggest selling album after it reached gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1976 for 500,000 copies sold. This album and In a Silent Way were among the first fusions of jazz and rock that were commercially successful, building on the groundwork laid by Charles Lloyd, Larry Coryell, and others who pioneered a genre that would become known as jazz fusion. Throughout 1969, Davis' touring band included Shorter, Corea, Holland, and DeJohnette; the group never completed a studio recording which became subsequently known as Davis' "lost quintet".[85][86] The group's live repertoire included material from Bitches Brew, In a Silent Way and the 1960s quintet albums, with an occasional jazz standard.[citation needed]

In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew feature extended compositions, some over 20 minutes in length, that were never played straight through in the studio but rather formed from several takes. Davis and Macero selected musical motifs from recorded extended improvisations and pieced them together to form a track. Bitches Brew made extensive use of studio recording techniques including multitrack recording and tape loops.[87]

In March 1970, Davis began performing at rock venues and opening for rock acts, which helped Columbia market Bitches Brew to counterculture audiences. According to biographer Paul Tingen, "Miles's newcomer status in this environment" led to "mixed audience reactions, often having to play for dramatically reduced fees, and enduring the 'sell-out' accusations from the jazz world", as well as being "attacked by sections of the black press for supposedly genuflecting to white culture".[88] Several live albums (with a transitional sextet/septet including Corea, DeJohnette, Holland, percussionist Airto Moreira, and saxophonist Steve Grossman that expanded to encompass Keith Jarrett on electronic organ by June 1970) were recorded at these performances: Live at the Fillmore East, March 7, 1970 (March 1970), Black Beauty (April 1970), and Live at the Fillmore East (June 1970).[10]

By the time of Live-Evil in December 1970, Davis’ ensemble—though retaining the exploratory imperative of Bitches Brew—had transformed into a much more funk-oriented group. Davis began experimenting with wah-wah effects on his horn. A new sextet including DeJohnette, Jarrett, Moreira, Gary Bartz and erstwhile Stevie Wonder bassist Michael Henderson—often referred to as the "Cellar Door band" (the live portions of Live-Evil were recorded at a Washington, D.C., club by that name)—is documented in the six-CD box set The Cellar Door Sessions, which was recorded over four nights in December 1970 (and included one night with John McLaughlin); however, the ensemble disbanded before recording a studio album.[citation needed]

Earlier in 1970, Davis contributed extensively to the soundtrack of a documentary about the African-American boxer heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. Himself a devotee of boxing, Davis drew parallels between Johnson, whose career had been defined by the fruitless search for a Great White Hope to dethrone him, and Davis’ own career, in which he felt the musical establishment of the time had prevented him from receiving the acclaim and rewards that were due him.[citation needed] The resulting album, 1971's Jack Johnson, contained two long pieces that featured musicians (some of whom were not credited on the record) including guitarists John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharrock, Herbie Hancock on a Farfisa organ, and drummer Billy Cobham. McLaughlin and Cobham went on to become founding members of the Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1971. In 1972, Davis was introduced to the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen by Paul Buckmaster, leading to a period of new creative exploration. Biographer J. K. Chambers wrote that "the effect of Davis' study of Stockhausen could not be repressed for long... Davis' own 'space music' shows Stockhausen's influence compositionally."[91] His recordings and performances during this period were described as "space music" by fans, by music critic Leonard Feather, and by Buckmaster, who described it as "a lot of mood changes—heavy, dark, intense—definitely space music."[92][93]

Davis' septet in November 1971; left to right: Gary Bartz, Davis, Keith Jarrett, Michael Henderson, Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, James Mtume, and Charles "Don" Alias

During this period, Davis was committed to making music for the young African-American audience drawn to the more commercial, groove-oriented idioms of popular music that dominated the epoch; by November 1971, DeJohnette and Moreira had been replaced in the touring ensemble by drummer Leon "Ndugu" Chancler and percussionists James Mtume & Don Alias.[94] On the Corner (1972) blended the incipient influence of Stockhausen with funk elements in a trenchantly improvisatory milieu. The album was highlighted by the appearance of saxophonist Carlos Garnett. Critics were not kind to the album; in his autobiography, Davis stated that critics could not figure out how to categorize it, and he complained that the album was not promoted to the right crowd. Columbia tried selling the album to the old jazz generation who didn't really understand it instead of the younger crowd that Miles intended the album for.[citation needed]

After recording On the Corner, Davis put together a new group, with only Henderson and Mtume returning from the Jarrett-era band. It included Garnett, guitarist Reggie Lucas, organist Lonnie Liston Smith, tabla player Badal Roy, sitarist Khalil Balakrishna, and drummer Al Foster. It was unusual in that only Smith was a major jazz instrumentalist; as a result, the music emphasized rhythmic density and shifting textures instead of individual solos. This group, which recorded in Philharmonic Hall for the album In Concert (1972), was unsatisfactory to Davis. Through the first half of 1973, he dropped the tabla and sitar, took over keyboard duties, and added guitarist Pete Cosey. The Davis/Cosey/Lucas/Henderson/Mtume/Foster ensemble would remain virtually intact over the next two years. Initially, Dave Liebman played saxophones and flute with the band; in 1974, he was replaced by Sonny Fortune, who was eventually supplanted by Sam Morrison during the band's final American engagements in 1975.

This was music that polarized audiences, provoking boos and walk-outs amid the ecstasy of others. The length, density, and unforgiving nature of it mocked those who said that Miles was interested only in being trendy and popular. Some have heard in this music the feel and shape of a musician's late work, an egoless music that precedes its creator's death. As Theodor Adorno said of the late Beethoven, the disappearance of the musician into the work is a bow to mortality. It was as if Miles were testifying to all that he had been witness to for the past thirty years, both terrifying and joyful.

John Szwed on Agharta (1975) and Pangaea (1976)[95]

Big Fun (1974) was a double album containing four long improvisations, recorded between 1969 and 1972. Similarly, Get Up with It (1974) collected recordings from May 1970 to October 1974. Notably, the album included "He Loved Him Madly", a tribute to Duke Ellington, as well as one of Davis’ most lauded pieces from this era, "Calypso Frelimo". It was his last studio album of the 1970s.

In 1974 and 1975, Columbia recorded three double-LP live Davis albums: Dark Magus, Agharta, and Pangaea. Dark Magus captures a 1974 New York City concert; the latter two are recordings of consecutive concerts from the same February 1975 day in Osaka. At the time, only Agharta was available in the USA; Pangaea and Dark Magus were initially released only by CBS/Sony Japan. All three feature at least two electric guitarists (Reggie Lucas and Pete Cosey, deploying an array of Hendrix-inspired electronic distortion devices; Dominique Gaumont is a third guitarist on Dark Magus), electric bass, drums, reeds, and Davis on electric trumpet and organ. These albums were the last he recorded for five years. Davis was troubled by osteoarthritis (which led to a hip replacement operation in 1976, the first of several), sickle-cell anemia, depression, bursitis, ulcers, and a renewed dependence on alcohol and drugs (primarily cocaine), and his performances were routinely panned by critics throughout late 1974 and early 1975. By the time the group reached Japan in February 1975, Davis was nearing a physical breakdown and required copious amounts of alcohol and narcotics to make it through his engagements. Nonetheless, as noted by Richard Cook and Brian Morton, during these concerts his trumpet playing "is of the highest and most adventurous order."[citation needed]

1975–1980: Hiatus[edit]

Although the Japanese performances have been lauded as the apogee of Davis’ experimental period, Pete Cosey would later assert that "the band really advanced after the Japanese tour."[96] Following his return from Japan, Davis undertook an arduous tour of the American Midwest opening for Herbie Hancock—who had commercially eclipsed his onetime bandleader with such efforts as Thrust (1974) and Man-Child (1975)—culminating in a series of club performances at the Bottom Line in New York City and Paul's Mall in Boston throughout the spring and summer. However, his precarious health was compounded by an ulcer-related hospitalization in March 1975 and the diagnosis of a hernia in August 1975. After a hometown performance at New York City's Schaefer Music Festival on September 5, 1975, Davis withdrew almost completely from the public eye for six years.[97]

In his autobiography, Davis openly wrote about his mental state during this period, describing his New York City apartment as a wreck, his heavy drug and alcohol use, and his sexual encounters with many women.[28][98] In March 1976, Rolling Stone reported rumors of his imminent demise citing his numerous health problems during his previous tour and lifestyle.[99] In December 1976, Davis renewed his recording contract with Columbia/CBS, but the label was initially reluctant to pay his usual large advances that they had done with his previous deals. This led to Davis' lawyer to enter negotiations with United Artists Records, causing Columbia to match the offer made by the rival label. They then established the Miles Davis Fund, paying the trumpeter on a regular basis thereafter. Pianist Vladimir Horowitz was the only other Columbia artist that had this status with the label.[100] Columbia continued to release compilation albums and previously unreleased material from Davis to fulfil contractual obligations. Though he had stopped playing the trumpet, Davis continued to compose intermittently and made three attempts at recording, including one with the assistance of Buckmaster and Gil Evans but turned out unproductive, with Evans leaving after not receiving promised compensation. In 1979, Davis placed in the yearly top-ten trumpeter poll of Down Beat.

Davis and Cicely Tyson in 1982

By 1979, Davis had rekindled his relationship with actress Cicely Tyson, with whom he overcame his cocaine addiction and regained his enthusiasm for music. The two married on November 26, 1981 in a ceremony officiated held in Bill Cosby's home in Massachusetts and officiated by politician and civil rights activist Andrew Young;[101][102] they ended the marriage in divorce that was finalized in 1989.[103]

In October 1979, Davis' contract with Columbia was up for negotiations. By this time, label president Clive Davis was replaced by George Butler, who had made several visits to Davis' home to for around the previous two years to encourage him back into the studio to record new material. To help his situation, Davis had Buckmaster come over to collaborate on new music.[104] Upon his arrival at Davis' home, Buckmaster organised an intervention for the trumpeter who by this time was living in squalor among pest and cockroach infestations and darkness, with his curtains constantly closed. His sister Dorothy took charge to clean his home with help from Buckmaster, Tyson, and neighbor Chaka Khan; Davis later thanked Buckmaster in helping him.[105]

1980–1985: Re-emergence[edit]

Davis had not played trumpet for the better part of three years, and found the process of reclaiming embouchure difficult. His first studio appearance since his hiatus took place on May 1, 1980.[106] A day later, Davis was hospitalised for a month over a leg infection.[107] Davis then recorded The Man with the Horn (1981) from June 1980 to May 1981, with Macero assuming his role as producer. The album sees Davis playing mostly wah-wah with a younger, larger band. The initial large band was eventually abandoned in favor of a smaller combo featuring saxophonist Bill Evans, not to be confused with pianist Bill Evans, and bass player Marcus Miller, both of whom would be among Davis' most regular collaborators throughout the decade.

The Man with the Horn received a poor critical reception despite selling fairly well. In June 1981, Davis returned to the stage, for the first time since 1975, for a ten-minute guest solo spot as part of Mel Lewis' band in a New York City club. This was followed by appearances with a new band, including a four-night run at Kik in Boston, followed by two shows at Avery Fisher Hall as part of the Kool Jazz Festival.[108] Recordings from a mixture of dates from 1981, including the Kix and Avery Fisher Hall gigs, were released on We Want Miles (1982),[109] which earned Davis a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance by a Soloist.[102]

By late 1982, Davis' band included French percussionist Mino Cinelu and guitarist John Scofield, with whom he worked closely on the album Star People. In mid-1983, while working on the tracks for Decoy, an album mixing soul music and electronica that was released in 1984, Davis brought in producer, composer and keyboardist Robert Irving III, who had earlier collaborated with him on The Man with the Horn. With a seven-piece band, including Scofield, Evans, keyboardist and music director Irving, drummer Al Foster and bassist Darryl Jones (later of the Rolling Stones), Davis played a series of European gigs to positive receptions. In December 1984, during his stay in Denmark, Davis was awarded the Léonie Sonning Music Prize. During the event, Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg had written a contemporary classical piece titled "Aura" for the event which impressed Davis to the point of returning to Denmark in early 1985 to record his next studio album, Aura (1989).[110] However, Columbia was dissatisfied with the recording and delayed its release for four years.

In May 1985, one month into a tour, Davis signed a new recording deal with Warner Bros. Records which included Davis signing over his entire publishing rights.[111][112] Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis publicly dismissed Davis' more recent fusion recordings as not being "'true' jazz", comments Davis initially shrugged off, calling Marsalis "a nice young man, only confused." This changed after Marsalis appeared, unannounced, onstage in the midst of Davis' performance at the inaugural Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 1986. Marsalis whispered into Davis' ear that "someone" had told him to do so. Davis responded by ordering him off the stage.[113] Davis had become increasingly irritated at Columbia's delay releasing Aura. The breaking point in the label-artist relationship appears to have come when a Columbia jazz producer requested Davis place a goodwill birthday call to Marsalis. The 1985 tour included a performance in London in July that saw Davis on stage for five hours. Jazz critic John Fordham concluded: "The leader is clearly enjoying himself".[114]

Davis released his final album for Columbia, You're Under Arrest, in September 1985. It included another brief stylistic detour, this time with his interpretations of Cyndi Lauper's ballad "Time After Time", and Michael Jackson's pop hit "Human Nature". Davis considered releasing an entire album of pop songs and recorded dozens of them, but the idea was scrapped. Davis noted that many of today's accepted jazz standards were in fact pop songs from Broadway theater, and that he was simply updating the "standards" repertoire with new material. 1985 also saw Davis guest-star on the TV show Miami Vice as pimp and minor criminal Ivory Jones in the episode titled "Junk Love" (first aired November 8, 1985).[115]

Davis collaborated with a number of figures from the British post-punk and new wave movements during this period, including Scritti Politti.[116] At the invitation of producer Bill Laswell, he recorded some trumpet parts during sessions for Public Image Ltd.'s Album, according to Public Image's John Lydon in the liner notes of their Plastic Box box set. In Lydon's words, however, "strangely enough, we didn't use [his contributions]." According to Lydon in the Plastic Box notes, Davis favorably compared Lydon's singing voice to his trumpet sound during these sessions.[117]

1986–1991: Later work and death[edit]

Davis at the Nice Jazz Festival, 1989

After taking part in the recording of the 1985 protest song "Sun City" as a member of Artists United Against Apartheid, Davis was featured on the instrumental "Don't Stop Me Now" by Toto for their album Fahrenheit (1986). For his next studio album, Davis intended to record as a collaboration with pop artist Prince, but the project was soon shelved. Instead, Davis chose to work with multi-instrumentalist Marcus Miller. The resulting album, Tutu (1986), was Davis' first to use modern studio tools including programmed synthesizers, sampling and drum loops, to create an entirely new setting for his music. Released in September 1986, its front cover features a striking portrait of Davis by Irving Penn.[112] The album was described as the modern counterpart of Sketches of Spain and, in 1987, won Davis his second of three Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist.

In 1988, Davis had a small part as a street musician in the Christmas comedy film Scrooged, starring Bill Murray. In November 1988, he was inducted into the Knights of Malta at a ceremony at the Alhambra Palace in Spain.[118] In 1989, he was interviewed on 60 Minutes by Harry Reasoner. During the last years of Davis' life, rumors spread that the trumpeter had contracted AIDS. Such news was printed in the February 21, 1989 edition of the tabloid magazine Star, prompting Davis' manager Peter Shukat to issue a statement the following day to deny the claim. Shukat revealed Davis had been in hospital for a mild case of pneumonia and the removal of a benign polyp on his vocal cords, yet was resting comfortably in preparation for his 1989 tours.[119] Davis later blamed one of his former wives or girlfriends for starting the rumor, decided against taking legal action,[120] and in 1991, spoke of his difficulties having sexual intercourse and other health problems.[121]

Davis at the North Sea Jazz Festival, 1991

Davis followed Tutu with Amandla (1989), another collaboration with Miller and George Duke plus the soundtracks to four films—Street Smart, Siesta, The Hot Spot (with bluesman John Lee Hooker), and Dingo. He continued to tour in the late 1980s with a band of constantly rotating personnel. Davis' last albums, both released posthumously, were the hip hop-influenced studio album Doo-Bop (1992) and Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux (1993), a collaboration with Quincy Jones for the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival where, for the first time in three decades, Davis performed songs from Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain. Some listeners and critics who had been disappointed with his experimental late period were happy that his career ended in such a way.[122][123][124]

In 1990, Davis received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.[125] In early 1991, he appeared in the Rolf de Heer film Dingo as a jazz musician. In the film's opening sequence, Davis and his band unexpectedly land on a remote airstrip in the Australian outback and proceed to perform for the surprised locals.

On July 8, 1991, Davis returned to performing material from his past at the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival with a band and orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones.[126] The set consisted of select arrangements from his albums recorded with Gil Evans.[127] The show was followed by a concert billed as Miles and Friends at the Grande halle de la Villette in Paris held two days later, featuring guest performances by artists he had worked with across his career, including John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock and Josef Zawinul.[127] During his stay in Paris, Davis was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.[125] Such retrospective concerts that Davis agreed to do in a short space of time led to the argument that the trumpeter knew he was dying, yet his road manager Gordon Meltzer believed Davis was unaware.[128] A week after Paris, Davis and his group performed at the Nice Jazz Festival, followed by a show in London on July 19.[129] Upon his return to the US, he stopped off in New York City to record material on his next album, Doo-Bop, and returned to California where he played at the Hollywood Bowl on August 25 which turned out to be his final live performance.[126][130]

Davis' grave in Woodlawn Cemetery

In early September 1991, Davis checked into St. John's Hospital near his home in Santa Monica, California, for routine tests.[131] During his stay in hospital, his doctors suggested the idea of a tracheal tube implant to relieve his breathing following his repeated bouts of bronchial pneumonia which provoked an outburst from Davis that led to a cerebral haemorrhage followed by a coma. On September 28, 1991, several days after, his life support system was turned off.[132] Davis was 65 years old. His death was initially reasoned as the combined effects of a stroke, pneumonia and respiratory failure.[10] According to Troupe, Davis was taking azidothymidine (AZT), a type of antiretroviral drug used for the treatment of HIV and AIDS, during his treatments in hospital.[121] A funeral service was held on October 5, 1991 at St. Peter's Church in New York City that was attended by around 500 friends, family members, and musical acquaintances, with many fans standing outside in the rain.[133] Davis was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York City, with one of his trumpets, close to the site of fellow jazz musician Duke Ellington.[134][133]

Views on his earlier work[edit]

Late in his life, from the "electric period" onwards, Davis repeatedly explained his reasons for not wishing to perform his earlier works, such as Birth of the Cool or Kind of Blue. In his view, remaining stylistically static was the wrong option.[135] He commented: ""So What" or Kind of Blue, they were done in that era, the right hour, the right day, and it happened. It's over [...] What I used to play with Bill Evans, all those different modes, and substitute chords, we had the energy then and we liked it. But I have no feel for it anymore, it's more like warmed-over turkey."[136] When Shirley Horn insisted in 1990 that Miles reconsider playing the ballads and modal tunes of his Kind of Blue period, he demurred. "Nah, it hurts my lip," was the reason he gave.[137]

Other musicians regretted Davis’ change of style, for example, Bill Evans, who was instrumental in creating Kind of Blue, said: "I would like to hear more of the consummate melodic master, but I feel that big business and his record company have had a corrupting influence on his material. The rock and pop thing certainly draws a wider audience. It happens more and more these days that unqualified people with executive positions try to tell musicians what is good and what is bad music."[138]

Legacy and influence[edit]

Statue in Kielce, Poland

Miles Davis is regarded as one of the most innovative, influential and respected figures in the history of music. The Guardian described him as "a pioneer of 20th-century music, leading many of the key developments in the world of jazz."[139] He has been described as “one of the great innovators in jazz”.[140] The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll noted: "Miles Davis played a crucial and inevitably controversial role in every major development in jazz since the mid-'40s, and no other jazz musician has had so profound an effect on rock. Miles Davis was the most widely recognized jazz musician of his era, an outspoken social critic and an arbiter of style—in attitude and fashion—as well as music".[141]

William Ruhlmann of AllMusic wrote that "To examine his career is to examine the history of jazz from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s, since he was in the thick of almost every important innovation and stylistic development in the music during that period [...] It can even be argued that jazz stopped evolving when Davis wasn't there to push it forward."[1] As an innovative bandleader and composer, Miles Davis has influenced many notable musicians and bands from diverse genres. Miles' influence on the people who played with him has been described by music writer Christopher Smith as follows:

Miles Davis's artistic interest was in the creation and manipulation of ritual space, in which gestures could be endowed with symbolic power sufficient to form a functional communicative, and hence musical, vocabulary. [...] Miles' performance tradition emphasized orality and the transmission of information and artistic insight from individual to individual. His position in that tradition, and his personality, talents, and artistic interests, impelled him to pursue a uniquely individual solution to the problems and the experiential possibilities of improvised performance.

His approach, owing largely to the African-American performance tradition that focused on individual expression, emphatic interaction, and creative response to shifting contents, had a profound impact on generations of jazz musicians.[142]

The westernmost part of 77th Street in New York City has been named "Miles Davis Way". He once lived on the block.

Davis's album Kind of Blue is the best-selling album in the history of jazz music. On November 5, 2009, U.S. Representative John Conyers of Michigan sponsored a measure in the United States House of Representatives to recognize and commemorate the album on its 50th anniversary. The measure also affirms jazz as a national treasure and "encourages the United States government to preserve and advance the art form of jazz music."[143] It passed, unanimously, with a vote of 409–0 on December 15, 2009.[144]

In 1986, the New England Conservatory awarded Miles Davis an Honorary Doctorate for his extraordinary contributions to music.[145] Since 1960 the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) honored him with eight Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and three Grammy Hall of Fame Awards.

In 2001 a two-hour documentary film by Mike Dibb entitled The Miles Davis Story (Dibb Directions/Channel 4 Television) won an International Emmy Award for arts documentary of the year.[146]

In 2010, Moldejazz premiered a play called Driving Miles, which focused on a landmark concert Davis performed in Molde, Norway, in 1984.

Miles Ahead, is a 2015 American music film directed by Don Cheadle, co-written by Cheadle with Steven Baigelman, Stephen J. Rivele, and Christopher Wilkinson, which interprets the life and compositions of Davis. It premiered at the New York Film Festival in October 2015. Starring Cheadle, the film also features Emayatzy Corinealdi as Frances Taylor, and a cast including Ewan McGregor, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Keith Stanfield.[147]




Year Film Credited as Role Notes
Composer Performer Actor
1958 Elevator to the Gallows Yes Yes Described by critic Phil Johnson as "the loneliest trumpet sound you will ever hear, and the model for sad-core music ever since. Hear it and weep."[150]
1972 Imagine Yes Himself Cameo, uncredited
1985 Miami Vice Yes Ivory Jones TV series (1 episode – "Junk Love")
1986 Crime Story Yes Jazz musician Cameo, TV series (1 episode – "The War")
1987 Siesta Yesa Yes
1988 Scrooged Yes Yes Street musician Cameo
1990 The Hot Spot Yes Composed by Jack Nitzsche, also featuring John Lee Hooker
1991 Dingo Yesb Yes Yes Billy Cross

^a Only one song is composed by Miles Davis in cooperation with Marcus Miller ("Theme For Augustine").
^b Soundtrack is composed by Miles Davis in cooperation with Michel Legrand.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. "Miles Davis Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved June 16, 2016. 
  2. ^ Yanow 2005, p. 176.
  3. ^ a b c "Miles Davis, innovative, influential, and respected jazz legend". African American Registry. Retrieved June 11, 2016. 
  4. ^ McCurdy 2004, p. 61.
  5. ^ Bailey, C. Michael (April 11, 2008). "Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop". All About Jazz. Retrieved June 20, 2016. 
  6. ^ Freeman 2005, pp. 9–11, 155–156.
  7. ^ Christgau 1997; Freeman 2005, pp. 10–11, back cover.
  8. ^ Segell, Michael (December 28, 1978). "The Children of 'Bitches Brew'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 
  9. ^ a b Macnie, Jim. "Miles Davis Biography". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 11 June 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "Miles Davis". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 1, 2016. 
  11. ^ Gerald Lyn, Early (1998). Ain't But a Place: an anthology of African American writings about St. Louis. Missouri History Museum. p. 205. ISBN 1-883982-28-6. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Cook 2007, p. 9.
  13. ^ a b c Early 2001, p. 209.
  14. ^ a b c d Orr 2012, p. 11.
  15. ^ a b c The Complete Illustrated History 2007, p. 17.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Early 2001, p. 211.
  17. ^ a b c d Early 2001, p. 210.
  18. ^ a b The Complete Illustrated History 2007, p. 19.
  19. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 32.
  20. ^ a b Kahn
  21. ^ a b The Complete Illustrated History 2007, p. 23.
  22. ^ Arons, Rachel (March 21, 2014). "Slide Show: American Public Libraries Great and Small". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 24, 2014. [permanent dead link]
  23. ^ Orr 2012, p. 12.
  24. ^ a b Orr 2012, p. 13.
  25. ^ a b c d Cook 2007, p. 10.
  26. ^ The Complete Illustrated History 2007, p. 29.
  27. ^ The Complete Illustrated History 2007, p. 32.
  28. ^ a b c d The Autobiography.[page needed]
  29. ^ Early 2001, p. 38.
  30. ^ Early 2001, p. 68.
  31. ^ Orr 2012, p. 144.
  32. ^ "See the Plosin session database". 1946-10-18. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Early 2001, p. 212.
  34. ^ On this occasion, Mingus bitterly criticized Davis for abandoning his "musical father" (see The Autobiography).
  35. ^ Cook 2007, p. 12.
  36. ^ Mulligan, Gerry. I hear America singing: "Miles, the bandleader. He took the initiative and put the theories to work. He called the rehearsals, hired the halls, called the players, and generally cracked the whip."
  37. ^ Cook 2007, p. 14.
  38. ^ Cook 2007, p. 2.
  39. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 117.
  40. ^ a b Cook 2007, p. 25.
  41. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 175, 176.
  42. ^ Cook 2007, p. 26.
  43. ^ a b Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 164.
  44. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 164, 165.
  45. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 169.
  46. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 170.
  47. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 171.
  48. ^ Crawford, Mark (January 1961). "Miles Davis: Evil genius of jazz". Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company: 69–74. ISSN 0012-9011. 
  49. ^ Nisenson 1982, pp. 88–89.
  50. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, pp. 173–174.
  51. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 174, 175, 184.
  52. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 175.
  53. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 176.
  54. ^ a b Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 190.
  55. ^ Open references to the blues in jazz playing were fairly recent. Until the middle of the 1930s, as Coleman Hawkins declared to Alan Lomax (The Land Where the Blues Began. New York: Pantheon, 1993), African-American players working in white establishments would avoid references to the blues altogether.
  56. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 183.
  57. ^ Davis had asked Monk to "lay off" (stop playing) while he was soloing. In the autobiography, Davis says that Monk "could not play behind a horn." Charles Mingus reported this, and more, in his "Open Letter to Miles Davis".
  58. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 184.
  59. ^ Szwed 2004.
  60. ^ Acquired by shouting at a record producer while still ailing after a recent operation to the throat – The Autobiography.
  61. ^ Davis began to be referred to as "the Prince of Darkness" in liner notes of the records of this period, and the moniker persists to this day; see, for instance, his obituary[dead link] in The Nation, and countless references in DVD [1], movies [2] and print articles [3].
  62. ^ Cook 2007, pp. 43–44.
  63. ^ a b Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 192.
  64. ^ Cook 2007, pp. 45.
  65. ^ The Autobiography
  66. ^ a b c Early 2001, p. 89.
  67. ^ Cook, op. cit.
  68. ^ Carr 1998, pp. 192–193.
  69. ^ Lees 2001, p. 24.
  70. ^ a b Kahn 2001, p. 95.
  71. ^ Kahn 2001, pp. 29–30.
  72. ^ Kahn 2001, p. 74.
  73. ^ RIAA database – Gold & Platinum search item Kind of Blue. Recording Industry Association of America Archived 2008-09-02 at WebCite. Retrieved on 2013-08-08.
  74. ^ "US politicians honour Miles Davis album | RNW Media". Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  75. ^ "US House of Reps honours Miles Davis album – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. December 16, 2009. Retrieved January 6, 2011. 
  76. ^ Rowe, Jeri (October 18, 2009). "Taking care of Buddy : : Greensboro & the Triad's most trusted source for local news and analysis". [dead link]
  77. ^ a b c d e "Was Miles Davis beaten over blonde?". Baltimore Afro-American. September 1, 1959. Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  78. ^ "Jazz Trumpeter Miles Davis In Joust With Cops". Sarasota Journal. August 26, 1959. Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  79. ^ "JJA Library". Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  80. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 228.
  81. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 290.
  82. ^
  83. ^ Einarson 2005, pp. 56–57.
  84. ^ Waters 2011, pp. 257–258.
  85. ^ Tom Moon (January 30, 2013). "A 1969 Bootleg Unearths Miles Davis' 'Lost' Quintet". NPR. 
  86. ^ Hank Shteamer (January 31, 2013). "Miles Davis". Pitchfork Music Festival. 
  87. ^ Freeman 2005, pp. 83–84.
  88. ^ Tingen 2001, p. 114.
  89. ^ Kolosky, Walter (December 31, 2008). Miles Davis: Go Ahead John (part two C) – | Jazz Music – Jazz Artists – Jazz News. Retrieved on April 3, 2011.
  90. ^ Freeman 2005, p. 92.
  91. ^ Chambers 1998, p. 246.
  92. ^ Carr 1998.
  93. ^ Tingen, Paul (1999). "The Making of The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions". Retrieved April 15, 2017. 
  94. ^ "roio » Blog Archive » MILES – BELGRADE 1971". Archived from the original on July 21, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  95. ^ Szwed 2004, p. 343.
  96. ^ Tingen 2001, p. 167.
  97. ^ 1 Laurent Cugny. "1975: the end of an intrigue? For a new periodization of the history of jazz" (PDF). Université Paris-Sorbonne. Université Paris-Sorbonne. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 29, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2016. 
  98. ^ Carr 1998, p. 330.
  99. ^ Carr 1998, p. 332.
  100. ^ Carr 1998, p. 329.
  101. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 348.
  102. ^ a b The Complete Illustrated History 2007, p. 180.
  103. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, pp. 390–391.
  104. ^ Carr 1998, p. 340.
  105. ^ Carr 1998, p. 343.
  106. ^ Morton 2005, p. 79.
  107. ^ Carr 1998, p. 349.
  108. ^ Morton 2005, p. 77.
  109. ^ Morton 2005, p. 78.
  110. ^ The Complete Illustrated History 2007, p. 183.
  111. ^ Cole 2005, p. 352.
  112. ^ a b The Complete Illustrated History 2007, p. 194.
  113. ^ Davis & Troupe 1990, p. 374.
  114. ^ Cole 2005, p. 353.
  115. ^ "Miami Vice" Junk Love (1985) at the Internet Movie Database
  116. ^ "Scritti Politti – Pop – INTRO". Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  117. ^ "Fodderstompf". Fodderstompf. March 10, 2009. Retrieved January 6, 2011. 
  118. ^ a b Gelbard 2012, pp. 73–74.
  119. ^ Stewart, Zan (February 22, 1989). "Jazz Notes: Manager Denies Miles Davis AIDS Report; Instruments Donated to Locke High School". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 15, 2017. 
  120. ^ Tingen 2001, p. 263.
  121. ^ a b Szwed 2004, p. 393.
  122. ^ "Miles Davis & Quincy Jones – Live At Montreux at Discogs". Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  123. ^ Ron Wynn. "Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux – Miles Davis,Quincy Jones | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  124. ^ "Miles Davis / Quincy Jones – Miles & Quincy: Live At Montreux CD Album". 1993-08-10. Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  125. ^ a b Cole 2005, p. 443.
  126. ^ a b The Complete Illustrated History 2007, p. 200.
  127. ^ a b Cole 2005, p. 404.
  128. ^ Cole 2005, p. 406.
  129. ^ Cole 2005, p. 407.
  130. ^ Cole 2005, p. 408.
  131. ^ Morton 2005, p. 149.
  132. ^ Morton 2005, p. 150.
  133. ^ a b Cole 2005, p. 409.
  134. ^ Davis & Sussman 2006.
  135. ^ Davis & Sultanof 2002, pp. 2–3.
  136. ^ Interview with Ben Sindran, 1986. Quoted in Miles Davis and Bill Evans: Miles and Bill in Black & White, September 2001, Ashley Kahn, JazzTimes
  137. ^ Interview to Shirley Horn. After 1990. Quoted in Miles Davis and Bill Evans: Miles and Bill in Black & White, September. 2001, Ashley Kahn, JazzTimes.
  138. ^ Interview to Bill Evans. Late 1970s. Quoted in Miles Davis and Bill Evans: Miles and Bill in Black & White, September. 2001, Ashley Kahn, JazzTimes.
  139. ^ Staff. "Miles Davis voted greatest jazz artist of all time". The Guardian. Retrieved June 16, 2016. 
  140. ^ "Music – Review of Miles Davis – The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions". BBC. September 30, 2003. Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  141. ^ "Miles Davis Biography". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on January 26, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2009. 
  142. ^ Smith, Christopher, "A Sense of the Possible. Miles Davis and the Semiotics of Improvised Performance", TDR, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Autumn 1995), pp. 41–55.
  143. ^ "House honors Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue"". Associated Press. December 15, 2009. Archived from the original on December 21, 2009. Retrieved December 21, 2009. 
  144. ^ "House Resolution H.RES.894". December 15, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  145. ^ "NEC Honorary Doctor of Music Degree". New England Conservatory. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved July 20, 2011. 
  146. ^ Deans, Jason, "Norton in Emmy triumph", The Guardian, November 20, 2001.
  147. ^ McNary, Dave (July 22, 2015). "Don Cheadle's 'Miles Ahead' to Close New York Film Festival". Variety. 
  148. ^ Feather, Leonard (June 15, 1989). "Miles Davis to Get Intimate in San Juan's Coach House". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 16, 2017. 
  149. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  150. ^ Phil Johnson, "Discs: Jazz—Miles Davis/Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud (Fontana)", Independent on Sunday, March 14, 2004.


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