Miles Davis

Miles Davis (May 26, 1926 — Sept. 28, 1991) was an American jazz trumpeter with a recording career that spanned nearly five decades.

Davis was born Miles Dewey Davis III on May 26, 1926, in Alton, Ill. He was the middle child of Miles Dewey Davis Jr., an affluent dentist, and Cleota Mae Henry, a violinist and music teacher. The family lived in East St. Louis, where Davis took an early liking to blues, gospel, and big-band jazz.

At age nine, Davis received his first trumpet and took lessons from jazz musician Elwood Buchanan, who taught a vibrato-free, mid-range style of playing that bucked the era’s prevailing trends. By age thirteen, Davis partook in local jazz bands. In high school, he played in the marching band and taught himself music theory. Before his graduation, he served as the music director for the Rhumboogie Orchestra (aka Eddie Randle and his The Blue Devils).

In July 1944, Davis scored a gig behind touring jazz vocalist Billy Eckstine in a band that included drummer Art Blakey, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and saxophonist Charlie Parker. After their two-week engagement at Club Riviera, Davis moved to New York City, where he studied music theory at the Juilliard School.

After relinking with Parker, Davis partook in nightly jam sessions at Milton’s Playhouse in Harlem alongside Kenny Clarke, Thelonious Monk, and Fats Navarro. On April 24, 1945, he made his recording debut in the backing band of saxophonist Herbie Fields. In the following months, he appeared on record behind Gillespie and Max Roach.

Davis premiered as a bandleader in August 1947 fronting the Miles Davis All Stars, featuring Parker, pianist John Lewis, and bassist Nelson Boyd. They cut three tracks: “Milestones,” “Half Nelson,” and “Sippin’ at Bells.” In the spring of 1948, Davis partook in the Jazz at the Philharmonic tour with an all-star ensemble. That fall, he assembled his first nonet, complete with French horn and tuba. They recorded a dozen tracks that were later compiled on the Capitol release Birth of the Cool (1957).

Selective discography:

  • Young Man With a Horn (1953)
  • Blue Moods (1955)
  • The Musings of Miles (1955)
  • Miles (1966)
  • ‘Round About Midnight (1957)
  • Cookin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet (1957)
  • Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (1958)
  • Milestones (1958)
  • Relaxin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet (1958)
  • A Kind of Blue (1959)
  • Workin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet (1959)
  • Sketches of Spain (1960)
  • Steamin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet (1961)
  • Seven Steps to Heaven (1963)
  • E.S.P. (1965)
  • Miles Smiles (1967)
  • Sorcerer (1967)
  • Nefertiti (1968)
  • Miles in the Sky (1968)
  • Filles de Kilimanjaro (1969)
  • In a Silent Way (1969)
  • Bitches Brew (1970)
  • A Tribute to Jack Johnson (1971)
  • On the Corner (1972)
  • Big Fun (1974 — recorded 1969–72)
  • Get Up With It (1974)
  • Water Babies (1977 — recorded 1967)
  • The Man With the Horn (1981)
  • Star People (1983)
  • Tutu (1986)


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