After a triumphant performance of Thelonious Monk's classic 'Round Midnight at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, Miles became a hot commodity. He put together a permanent quintet that featured John Coltrane, Red Garland, "Philly Joe" Jones, and Paul Chambers. Miles had a gift for hearing the music in his head, and putting together a band of incredible musicians whose contrasting styles could result in meeting the end result he was looking for. He later added a 6th member, Cannonball Adderly and replaced Jones and Garland with Jimmy Cobb and Bill Evans. In the late 50s, his groups popularized modal jazz and changed the direction of jazz again. He made 2 more classics with the Sextet during this time, Milestones and Kind of Blue. After this time, most of his group left to form their own groups. This was a constant during Miles' career--he brought in the best up-and-coming musicians and after playing in his band and getting established, they formed their own groups. Among the bandleaders to have come from Miles band include: John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Red Garland, "Philly" Jo Jones, Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, (Shorter and Zawinul would go on to form the fusion group Weather Report) Keith Jarrett, Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, John McGlaughlin, Chick Corea, John Scofield, Kenny Garrett, Mike Stern, and Bob Berg.
During this time, Miles and Gil Evans collaborated again and made another unique record, Sketches of Spain, in which Miles plays Spanish Flamenco music backed by an orchestra. His tone is so beautiful and clear, it almost sounds like his trumpet is singing. After experimenting with different groups for 3 years, Miles, who was in his late 30s (old by jazz standards), fused his group with young players in order to bring in fresh ideas. In 1963, he put together his 2nd legendary quintet: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and 16 year old drumming protege Tony Williams. For 5 years, this group pushed the limits of freedom and made some fiery jazz! In 1968, Miles brought in Joe Zawinul as a 2nd keyboardist and around this time, started experimenting with electric instruments. He made the classic In a Silent Way and a year later, he added British guitarist John McGloughlin and replaced Tony Williams (who left to form his own band) with Jack DeJohnette, and he took jazz in yet a whole new direction with the record Bitches Brew, in which he fused Rock Music with jazz and went heavily into electric music. This record fired the first shot in the fusion revolution which took jazz to a whole new level of popularity.
In the early 1970s, Miles kept experimenting with the electric instruments and fusing more funk into his music. In 1976, a combination of bad health, cocaine use, and lack of inspiration caused Miles to go into a 5-year retirement. He conquered his cocaine habit, received new inspiration and returned in 1981 and made a series of records that I haven't heard. He did keep pushing music, as he was not one to rest on his laurels and play his old music. He started experimenting more with synthesizers and using studio techniques in his recordings. He won a series of Grammy Awards during this decade and continued turning out sidemen, such as Garrett, Stern, and Berg, listed above. Miles Davis died in 1991.
While he didn't play as high and as fast as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles made his mark by using
spacing (silent spaces) in his solos. He used a more relaxed style and played in a
lower register and played with a beautiful tone. This established his style, and
later on, he was "able to hear" the music in the higher register and played
faster and higher. Few trumpet players could match the quality of his tone and no
one has changed jazz as many times or spawned as many jazz leaders as Miles Davis.
If you are interested in purchasing Miles Davis' music, here are some tips: Unless you like funk, you might beware of Miles' later music. His music from the 1940s and 50s is really safe to start with and up to the middle 60s is still pretty safe. Some examples is the Miles Davis Quintet recordins, such as Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet, Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet, and Workin' with... and Walkin' with... Also, Milestones is excellent. Birth of the Cool, and Kind of Blue are both classics in anybody's book. I think Kind of Blue is the best jazz recording I ever heard. Some good 1960s recordings are Miles Smiles and Nefertiti. If you like Spanish flaminco music, then you MUST check out Sketches of Spain. When you get into the late 1960s recordings, such as In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, his band really gets "out there" and starts playing 20 minute songs with electric guitars, electric keyboards, and wah wah peddles for the trumpet. It's still very good music, but if you are new to jazz and want that "classic" jazz sound, I wouldn't recommend starting here. In the 1970s, Miles incorporates more rock and funk and continues through the 1980s, incorporating elements of hip hop into his music. Don't let this turn you off of all of Miles' music. If so, you are depriving yourself.
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