Saturday, May 26, 2007

Happy posthumous Birthday Miles Davis

Since I posted on Dylan's birthday, why not do the same for Miles Davis whose birthday is two days later? After all, he's a huge giant in music, too.

I became aware of Davis at the tender but late age of 17, when probably my brother mentioned Bitches Brew after I said I wanted to listen to more jazz. It was a combination of his autobiography and the albums 'Round About Midnight and Milestones that shook my music listening world. The book was a who's-who reference to jazz that I found infinitely liberating and informative. He was a pretty uncompromising character, but in his way, fair. And of course, talented. He wasn't just a great trumpet player, but an intuitively great organizer and band leader. Much of his genius was in knowing who to recruit. He also knew what sound to pursue in a manner that was uncanny. Even as early as Birth of the Cool (1950)when he was in his early twenties he was making his stamp. I'd list the great musicians he discovered and worked with if it wasn't so many. The Quintet: Davis, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones - were an unlikely bunch, but Miles melded them into one of the greatest bands ever. There list of Prestige and Columbus recordings are all masterpieces. And then he went on to do other great things: Kind of Blue, all the Gil Evans stuff, Bitches Brew and the rest of the fusion-jazz material. His albums were about the coolest things I'd ever heard. Like Dylan, Davis is one of the enormously innovative white flame artists that usually die young, but somehow managed to have a long career and lead several movements in music. Who has a bigger name in jazz?

1 comment:

odienator said...

I played the trumpet, and I wanted to be Miles Davis so badly. Truthfully, I had no desire to play trumpet--I wanted the sax--but my school didn't have one. So I picked up the trumpet and, three months later, managed to get a pathetic sounding G out of it. I figured, after all that, I should at least try to become a decent horn blower.

Davis' last album was an unusual hip-hop merger called "Doo Bop." It was very strange, but not out of character for Miles.