Upcoming Black History Posts
  • Anna Maria Weems
  • The Pittsburgh Courier
  • Prudence Crandall
  • Anna Ella Carroll
  • Shirley Graham
  • Henry Blair
  • James Amos Porter
  • Elmer Simms Campbell
  • Arna Wendell Bontemps
  • Ambrose Caliver
  • Nannie Helen Burroughs
  • George H. White
  • Caterina Jarboro
  • Rosa Parks
Categories

Miles Davis

Miles Davis

Miles Davis

What is cool? At its very essence, cool is all about what’s happening next. In popular culture, what’s happening next is a kaleidoscope encompassing past, present and future: that which is about to happen may be cool, and that which happened in the distant past may also be cool. This timeless quality, when it applies to music, allows minimalist debate with few exceptions, that which has been cool will always be cool.

For nearly six decades, Miles Davis has embodied all that is cool – in his music (and most especially jazz), in his art, fashion, romance, and in his international, if not intergalactic, presence that looms strong as ever today.

2006 The year in which Miles Davis was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on March 13th is a land­mark year, commemorating the 80th anniversary of his birth on May 26, 1926, and the 15th anniversary of his death on September 28, 1991. In between those two markers is more than a half-century of brilliance – often exasperating, brutally honest with himself and to others, uncompromising in a way that transcended mere intuition.

In carrying out what always seemed like a mission, Miles Dewey Davis III musician, composer, arranger, producer, and band leader was always in the right place at the right time, another defining aspect of cool. Born in Alton, Illinois, and raised in East St. Louis, where his father was a dentist, Miles was given his first trumpet at age 13. A child prodigy, his mastery of the instrument accelerated as he came under the spell of older jazzmen Clark Terry, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Eckstine, and others who passed through. He accepted admission to the Juilliard School in 1944, but it was a ruse to get to New York and hook up with Bird and Diz. Miles was 18. Cool.

Within a year, he accomplished his goal. He can be heard on sessions led by Parker that were released on Savoy in 1945 (with Max Roach), 46 (with Bud Powell), 47 (with Duke Jordan and J.J. Johnson), and 48 (with John Lewis). In 1947, the Miles Davis All-Stars (with Bird, Roach, Lewis, and Nelson Boyd) debuted on Savoy. His years on 52nd Street during the last half of the 1940s brought him into the bop orbit of musicians whose legends he would share before he was 25 years old.

At the turn of the decade into 1950, as Miles led his first small groups, an associ­a­tion with Gerry Mulligan and arranger Gil Evans ushered in The Birth of the Cool (Capitol), a movement that challenged the dominance of bebop and hard-bop. Miles subsequent record dates as leader in the early 50s (on Blue Note, then Prestige) helped introduce Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, Horace Silver, and Percy Heath, among many others, establishing Miles role as the premier jazz talent scout for the rest of his career.

An historic set at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955 resulted in George Avakian signing Miles to Columbia Records, and led to the formation of his so-called ‘first great quintet,’ featuring John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones (the Round About Midnight sessions). Miles 30 years at Columbia was one of the longest exclusive signings in the history of jazz, and one that spanned at least a half-dozen distinct generations of changes in the music virtually all of which were anticipated or led by Miles or his former sidemen.

Over the course of those 30 years, service with Miles became an imprimatur for the Who’s Who of jazzmen. Kind Of Blue, undisputedly the coolest jazz album ever recorded, was done in 1959 with the second edition of Miles ‘first great quintet’ principally Coltrane, Chambers, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, and Jimmy Cobb who stayed together until 1961.

After several intermediate groups (which featured such giants as Hank Mobley, Wynton Kelly, Victor Feldman, and George Coleman), Miles second great quintet slowly coalesced over 1963-64, into the lineup of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams (who was 17 years old when he joined Miles). They recorded with producer Teo Macero and toured around the world together until 1968, achieving artistic and commercial success that was unprecedented in modern jazz.

1968 was a cataclysmic year of sea change for Miles and for America, a year of upheaval the escalation of the war in southeast Asia, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and the rise of the Black Power movement were among the factors that pushed Miles music toward a more insistent electric (amplified) pulse. At the same time, Miles dug the triple-whammy he heard in the music of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly Stone. What began in 1968 with Miles quintet quietly adopting electric piano and guitar, blew up into a full-scale rock band sound on 1969’s breakthrough double-LP Bitches Brew (which landed him on the cover of Rolling Stone, the first jazzman to appear on the magazine’s front-page. Very cool.)

At the core of Bitches Brew, whose sessions took place the week after the Woodstock festival in August 1969, there was the final small group known as the ‘third great quintet’ Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette augmented by John McLaughlin, Larry Young, Joe Zawinul, Bennie Maupin, Steve Grossman, Billy Cobham, Lenny White, Don Alias, Airto Moreira, Harvey Brooks, and former quintet members Hancock and Carter.

Six months later in February 1970, Miles kicked off the Jack Johnson sessions, shuffling many of those same players over the next two months, plus Sonny Sharrock, Steve Grossman, Michael Henderson, Keith Jarrett and others. In no uncertain terms, the jazz-rock fusion movement had been launched full-tilt, and the spirit of Miles permeated the three dominant bands who rocked the stages (as he did) of the Fillmores East and West (et alia) through the 70s and beyond Weather Report, Return To Forever, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

His freewheeling lifestyle and high-energy forays into funk and R&B grooves somehow dovetailed with a period of declining health in the early 70s, until Miles finally went underground in 1975, after playing (what turned out to be) his final gig at New York’s Central Park Music Festival that summer. A series of live LPs (domestic and imported from Japan) and other archival releases from the 50s and ’60s were made available over the next five years to fill the void.

Into the ’80s, Miles’ reputation as talent scout extraordinaire went unquestioned. He surfaced stronger than ever in 1981 on The Man With the Horn with a top-tier lineup of young players – Mike Stern, Marcus Miller, Bill Evans (no relation), Al Foster, and Mino Cinelu (all of whom went on to success­ful careers). It was Miles’ first LP to skirt the Billboard album chart’s Top 50 since Bitches Brew, and the band was recorded live for the follow-up double-LP, 1982’s We Want Miles. They remained stable (abetted by John Scofield) in 1983 on Star People. The lineup then morphed on 1984’s Decoy, as Miller was replaced by Daryll ‘Munch’ Jones, Robert Irving III was added on synthe­siz­ers and programming, and Branford Marsalis shared saxophone parts with Evans.

Miles’ final album for Columbia Records was released in 1985, the cryptically titled You’re Under Arrest. It (re)-introduced Miles’ nephew Vince Wilburn into the lineup (he played briefly on The Man With the Horn), as Bob Berg took over the big chair from Evans and Marsalis. The album debuted two ballads that would be staples of Miles’ performances for the rest of his career, Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature� and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.�

The following year, Miles began recording for Warner Bros., a prolific period that yielded one new album every year (the first four co-produced with Marcus Miller): Tutu (1986), Music From Siesta (1987, a film soundtrack collabora­tion with Miller), Live Around the World (1988), Amandla (1989), Dingo (1990, an orchestral collabora­tion with Michel Legrand), and his final studio album. the hip-hop informed Doo-Bop (1991), whose title tune gave Miles a posthumous Rap/R&B hit single in 1992.

“Miles Dewey Davis III – trumpeter, visionary, and eternal modernist – was a force of nature,� wrote Ashley Kahn (author of Kind Of Blue: The Making Of the Miles Davis Masterpiece, Da Capo, 2000) in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame dinner journal on the occasion of Miles’ induction. “With an ear that disregarded categories of style, he sought out new musical worlds, and generations followed in his footsteps. While the creative rush and experimental charge that come to most musicians in youth eventually run down, Davis held an exploratory edge for most of his 65 years. It had to be fresh, or forget it.�

Beyond his defiant stance, his piercing glare, his amorous conquests and one-of-a-kind fashion statements – there was and always will be one eternal truth: the music of Miles Davis.

In 1996, five years after his death, Columbia/Legacy issued the first deluxe multi-disc box set in The Miles Davis Series, the 6-CD Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings, (collaborations from 1957-’68). It went on to win three Grammy Awards – Best Historical Album, Best Album Notes, and Best Recording Package (Boxed) – the second of only three times in Grammy history that trifecta was ever achieved.

Legacy’s Miles Davis Series was unofficially inaugurated in 1997 with five double-CD live digipaks, including Black Beauty: Miles Davis at Fillmore West (April 1970, when Steve Grossman replaced Wayne Shorter) and Miles Davis at Fillmore (at the New York venue, June 1970, with Keith Jarrett in the new lineup), along with In Concert: Live At Philharmonic Hall (New York, September 1972); Dark Magus: Live At Carnegie Hall (New York, March 1974); and Live-Evil (New York, February & June 1970; and Washington, DC, December 1970).

1998 brought the next two box sets: the Grammy Award-winning 6-CD Miles Davis Quintet 1965-’68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings; and the Grammy Award-winning 4-CD Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (of 1969-’70). The fourth box set was issued in 2000, the 6-CD Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961, which won two Grammy Awards, for Best Boxed Recording Package and Best Album Notes.

In 2001, one decade after his death – and in honor of his 75th birthday celebra­­tion – Legacy formally (re-)launched The Miles Davis Series, with the original motion picture soundtrack album for Columbia Pictures’ Finding Forrester (starring Sean Connery and directed by Gus Van Sant), consisting almost entirely of Miles Davis music. Five new digitally remastered titles followed: ‘Round About Midnight (with four bonus tracks from the original 1955-56 sessions, not heard on the original 1957 LP); Milestones (with all three known alternate takes from the 1958 LP sessions); Miles Davis At Newport (the full-length performance from the 1958 jazz festival); Jazz At The Plaza (also from 1958, unreleased until 1973, but out-of-print for nearly two decades); and Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Best Of The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961, a single-CD of tracks from the box set.

Later on in 2001 came The Essential Miles Davis, the double-CD 23-track collec­tion gathered from the discographies of the six companies for whom Miles did his most important recordings (Savoy, Capitol, Prestige, Blue Note, Columbia, and Warner Bros.). The Columbia archives then surrendered a live concert treasure long considered to be a crucial ‘missing link’ in the Miles Davis iconography, with the release of the double-CD It’s About That Time: Miles Davis Live At Fillmore East (March 7, 1970). It was followed – on the fateful in-store day of September 11, 2001 – by the triple-CD box set The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions, covering those 1967-’69 dates. In 2002, the three albums that came out of those sessions were restored, the classic In A Silent Way, and expanded editions of Filles De Kilimanjaro and Water Babies.

The Miles Davis Series returned in 2003, with the 5-CD box set The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions, chronicling those February-June 1970 studio dates that intro­duced John McLaughlin. (The resulting album, 1971’s A Tribute To Jack Johnson, was reissued in January 2005, in conjunction with the Ken Burns PBS documentary, Unfor­giv­able Blackness: The Rise And Fall Of Jack Johnson.) Meanwhile, August 2004 brought the sixth box set, the 7-CD Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings Of Miles Davis 1963-1964, the largest volume ever produced in the series.

In 2005, Legacy commemorated the 50th anniversary year of Miles’ original signing to Columbia in 1955, starting with the timely (February) release of My Funny Valentine for the first time on CD in the U.S. (recorded February 1964 at Lincoln Center’s Philharmonic Hall in New York). One week later came the ‘DualDisc’ configuration of Kind Of Blue, with the CD side containing the original album plus its only existing alternate take (“Flamenco Sketches�), and the DVD side containing a 25-minute mini-documentary, Made In Heaven.

As with its predecessor, the Seven Steps box set ‘broke out’ several titles as newly expanded editions in March 2005: Seven Steps To Heaven, Miles Davis In Europe, Four & More (the follow-up to My Funny Valentine), and Miles In Tokyo and Miles In Berlin (both issued for the first-time in the U.S.). May brought ’Round About Midnight: Legacy Edition, the deluxe 2-CD version of Miles’ first full-length Columbia LP plus bonus tracks on disc one; with disc two comprising the Newport Jazz Festival perform­ance of “’Round Midnight� (with Thelonious Monk) from 1955, plus the previously unissued 1956 Pasadena concert.

2005 concluded with the September release of the 6-CD box set, The Cellar Door Sessions 1970, six complete performance sets at the Washington, D.C. nightclub in December 1970, by the lineup that starred Miles, Keith Jarrett, Gary Bartz, Michael Henderson, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira, and (on the final night) guitarist John McLaughlin.

Altogether since 1997, the Miles Davis Series has reissued digitally remastered and restored versions (many of them expanded editions) of: ‘Round About Midnight (1957), Miles Ahead (1957), Porgy and Bess (1958), Milestones (1958), Miles Davis At Newport (1958), Jazz At The Plaza (1958), Kind Of Blue (1959), Sketches Of Spain (1960), Someday My Prince Will Come (1961), Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall – The Complete Concert (1961), In Person: Friday Night At the Blackhawk (1961), In Person: Satur­day Night At the Blackhawk (1961), Quiet Nights (1962), Seven Steps To Heaven (1963), Miles Davis In Europe (1963), Miles In Tokyo (1964), Miles In Berlin (1964), My Funny Valentine (1965), E.S.P. (1965), Miles Smiles (1966), Four & More (1966), Sorcerer (1967), Nefertiti (1967), Miles In the Sky (1968), In A Silent Way (1969), Filles De Kilimanjaro (1969), Bitches Brew (1970), A Tribute To Jack Johnson (1971), On the Corner (1972), Big Fun (1974), Get Up With It (1974), Water Babies (1976), and Aura (1985).

Various collections include four packages culled from the respective boxed sets, the single-CD The Best Of Miles Davis & Gil Evans, the double-CD The Best Of the Miles Davis Quintet 1965-’68, the single-CD Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Best Of The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961, and the single-CD The Best Of Seven Steps To Heaven; plus Miles Davis Love Songs (a 1999 Valentine’s Day special) and 2003’s Love Songs 2; the 2-CD The Essential Miles Davis; the Miles Davis/Ken Burns JAZZ compilation; Blue Miles; Blue Moods – Music For You; The Best Of Miles Davis; and Miles Davis Jazz Moods – Cool; and Cool And Collected. The Miles Davis Story, the first major documentary to be produced on Miles in nearly 15 years, was issued in 2002 on VHS and interactive DVD formats.

The 8 critically acclaimed box sets of The Miles Davis Series comprise:

  • Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (released in 1996), the 6-CD box set which won Grammy Awards for Best Historical Album, Best Album Notes, and Best Recording Package;
  • Miles Davis Quintet 1965-’68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (February 1998), the 6-CD box set which won the Grammy Award for Best Album Notes;
  • The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (October 1998); the 4-CD boxed set which won the Grammy as Best Boxed Recording Package;
  • Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961 (February 2000), the 6-CD box set which won Grammy Awards for Best Boxed Recording Package and Best Album Notes;
  • The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions (September 2001), the 3-CD box set;
  • The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (August 2003), the 5-CD box set which won the Grammy Award for Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package;
  • Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings Of Miles Davis 1963-1964 (August 2004), the 7-CD box set; and
  • The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (September 2005), the 6-CD box set.
Black AMerica News

Hospital: Doc Gave Near-Death Patients Excessive Pain MedsCOLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An intensive care doctor ordered “significantly excessive and potentially fatal” doses of pain medicine for at least 27 near-death patients in the past few years after families a [...]

Sisters On Shutdown Furlough Start A Cheesecake Business [Video]Jaqi Wright and her sister, Nikki Howard, are furloughed federal employees who have found a way to bounce back during this partial government shutdown, which began Dec. 22. 800,000 federal employees a [...]

Army Wife And Her Alleged Lover Arrested In Husband’s MurderIt’s likely that some of Sergeant Tyrone Hassel’s last thoughts were about his wife and their baby boy. When he went to bring her a plate of food from a New Year’s Eve party he had no idea that would [...]

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Jumps Into 2020 Presidential RaceNEW YORK (AP) — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand entered the growing field of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders Tuesday, telling television host Stephen Colbert that she’s launching an exploratory commit [...]

At Least 15 Dead In Nairobi Hotel Terrorist Attack; Al-Shahab Claims ResponsibilityNAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Extremists stormed a luxury hotel in Kenya’s capital on Tuesday, setting off thunderous explosions and gunning down people at cafe tables in an attack claimed by Africa’s deadlie [...]

House Rebukes Rep. Steve King After Racist RemarksWASHINGTON (AP) — A Democratic measure rebuking Republican Rep. Steve King for his comments about white supremacy won easy approval Tuesday in the House. In a twist, the nine-term Iowa congressman was [...]

Fake News: Clemson QB Did Not Say He Loved White House Fast Food MealPosts circulating on social media Tuesday quoted Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence after the team’s visit to the White House as saying: “President Trump got all our favorite foods. It was the best m [...]

UNC Removes Confederate Pedestal From Campus OvernightCrews removed remnants of a Confederate statue from North Carolina‘s flagship public university early Tuesday, hours after the school’s outgoing chancellor ordered that the empty pedestal be put into [...]

Illinois Man Receives Posthumous Clemency In Stabbing CaseSPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Just days before he left office, former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner granted posthumous clemency to a man imprisoned for a stabbing that a serial killer later confessed to commi [...]

Man Leaves 2 Pounds Of Weed In Uber, Tries To Retrieve It From CopsPlenty of people leave things behind in Ubers and have the driver return whatever they left to them; but this Pennsylvania man would have been better off just forgetting about it. WXPI reports that th [...]

Utah Mall Shooting That Wounded 2 Was Gang DisputeMURRAY, Utah (AP) — A shooting at a suburban Salt Lake City mall that sent hundreds of panicked shoppers fleeing started as an argument between rival gang members inside the mall and later erupted in [...]

Son Sentenced For Killing, Dismembering Mom In HawaiiHONOLULU (AP) — A man who admitted to killing and dismembering his mother during an argument in their Honolulu apartment has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. Yu Wei Gong was charged with murder a [...]

California Appeals Justice Facing Sex Misconduct DisciplineLOS ANGELES (AP) — A California state appeals court justice was accused Monday of repeatedly groping a colleague’s breasts, suggesting they have an affair and telling a police officer who served as hi [...]

Gunman Gets 84-Year Term In Chicago Honor Student’s KillingCHICAGO (AP) — A judge on Monday imposed an 84-year prison sentence on a Chicago man who fatally shot a 15-year-old honor student a week after she performed at President Barack Obama’s 2013 inaugurati [...]

White Mother Says She Didn’t Raise Adopted African Daughters To Be BlackA white writer for the Federalist, a conservative publication, has sparked outrage across social media with her essay about why she is raising her adopted African daughters as Americans — not “Black” [...]

Police Kill Armed Man At Oregon School Amid Custody DisputeEUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Police shot and killed a man who showed up Friday with a gun at an Oregon middle school amid a custody dispute, authorities said. No one else was injured. The man had been escorted [...]

Serena Williams Returns To Australian Open With Emphatic WinMELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Serena Williams jumped straight back in where she left off at the Australian Open, returning for the first time since winning the title in 2017 when she was pregnant with h [...]

TSA No-Shows Increase During ShutdownATLANTA (AP) — The number of airport security screeners failing to show up for work around the country is soaring as the partial government shutdown goes into its fourth week. No-shows among screeners [...]

Man Accused In Beating Death Of 3-Year-Old Over Juice Indicted On Murder ChargeNews Chanel 3 reports that a three-year-old girl was beaten to death by a man over juice. According to officials, Anthonisha Edwards was beaten to death because Tarenton Rogers, 25, thought she had ta [...]

Man Arrested After Stabbing Family Dog In The NeckDemarko Nichols, 23, was arrested after his family called 9-1-1 to report that he’d stabbed a dog. Nichols was reportedly charged with aggravated cruelty to animals on Sunday afternoon. A family membe [...]