July 31, 2021

Miles Davis | DNA Culture

“I know what I’ve done for music, but they don’t call me ‘legend’. They just call me Miles Davis.”

Miles Davis was born on May 25, 1926 in Alton, Illinois (United States). Son of Cleota Mae Henry of Arkansas, music teacher and violinist, and Miles Dewey Davis Jr., dentist. He had an older sister, Dorothy Mae, and a younger brother, Vernon. He grew up in an upper-class family.

He moved to the city of San Luis with his relatives. When he was 13 years old, a relative gave him a trumpet and since then he has fallen in love with the instrument. Later he was sent to New York, to study at the prestigious Juilliard School.

The Father of Modern Jazz, Miles Davis.

In 1945 he made his first recording; he dropped out of Music School and joined the Charlie Parker Quintet. A year earlier he had played in singer Billy Eckstine’s famous orchestra, which at the time included modern jazz figures such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Dexter Gordon.

He was one of the greatest innovators and pioneers of jazz. The playing of his trumpet had an unmistakable quality and characteristic thanks to the Harmon steel mute, which gave it an intimate and soft touch.

At the end of the 1940s, he met the arranger Gil Evans, with whom he would open the way to cool jazz and with whom he recorded Birth of the Cool, Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain. He surrounded himself with bebop musicians and founded hard bop, a revolutionary musical form that had important consequences.

John Coltrane – Cannonball Adderley – Miles Davis and Bill Evans Kind of Blue recording session 1958
John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and Bill Evans Kind of Blue recording session, 1958.

In 1959 Kind of Blue appeared. The recording took place at Columbia Records’ 30th Street Studio in New York in just ten hours spread over two days, on March 2 and April 22, 1959. He was accompanied by saxophonist John Coltrane and double bassist Paul Chambers, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley on alto saxophone, Jimmy Cobb on drums and Bill Evans on piano. The release occurred on August 17 by the Columbia record label in mono and stereo format. This work is considered as a master in the genre and with great influence in various genres such as rock and classical music. It is recognized as one of the greatest productions of all time.

The Father of Modern Jazz  "I know what I've done for music but they don't call me "legend".  They just call me Miles Davis"
The Father of Modern Jazz, Miles Davis, 1980.

Davis’s style, based on an anti-virtuosic way of understanding the trumpet, was always controversial. In the late 1960s he began experimenting with more rock rhythms and electric instruments and in the 1970s, he turned to the cooler sounds of funk. He was one of the most innovative musicians of his generation and helped to form young talents such as Tony Williams or Herbie Hancock.

Davis, in his later years, received care for his acute diabetes, and had undergone surgery on one hip. In the fifties he had problems with addiction to heroin and cocaine, for which he underwent a detoxification cure. Miles Davis passed away on September 28, 1991 in Santa Monica. He left more than 120 recordings, including several live from the tours he made especially in recent years in Europe.