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Artist: Miles Davis

Miles Davis

Bio

Miles Davis (Miles Dewey Davis III, Alton, Illinois, May 26, 1926 – Santa Monica, California, September 28, 1991) was an American trumpeter, bandleader and composer. Widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Miles Davis was, with his musical groups, at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music, including bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, and jazz fusion. Many well-known musicians rose to prominence as members of Davis' ensembles, including saxophonists Gerry Mulligan, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, George Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Dave Liebman, Branford Marsalis and Kenny Garrett; trombonist J. J. Johnson; pianists Horace Silver, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, and Keith Jarrett; guitarists John McLaughlin, John Scofield and Mike Stern; bassists Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Dave Holland, Marcus Miller and Darryl Jones, ; and drummers Philly Joe Jones, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, and Al Foster. Miles Davis was born on May 26, 1926, to a relatively affluent family in Alton, Illinois. His father, Dr. Miles Henry Davis, was a dentist. In 1927 the family moved to East St. Louis, Illinois. They also owned a substantial ranch in northern Arkansas, where Davis learned to ride horses as a boy. Davis' mother, Cleota Mae (Henry) Davis, wanted her son to learn the piano; she was a capable blues pianist but kept this fact hidden from her son. His musical studies began at 13, when his father gave him a trumpet and arranged lessons with local musician Elwood Buchanan. Davis later suggested that his father's instrument choice was made largely to irk his wife, who disliked the trumpet's sound. Against the fashion of the time, Buchanan stressed the importance of playing without vibrato; he was reported to have slapped Davis' knuckles every time he started using heavy vibrato. Davis would carry his clear signature tone throughout his career. He once remarked on its importance to him, saying, "I prefer a round sound with no attitude in it, like a round voice with not too much tremolo and not too much bass. Just right in the middle. If I can’t get that sound I can’t play anything." Clark Terry was another important early influence. By age 16, Davis was a member of the
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Miles at the Fillmore - Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3 by Miles Davis - ArtistDirect

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03/25/2014
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Articles

Miles Davis: London, Hammersmith Odeon NME, May 1983

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MILES RUNS the voodoo down down down ... and here I am, somewhere way up in the high heights of the Odeon (gee I hate it up here), and just at the moment when the percussionist of the Miles Davis band has wound up a particularly pointless and blob-fingered routine of thrurmthrum panel-beating and the audience is going apeshit around me, I think and grieve on – is it the lost greatness of Davis or my misunderstanding of a giant, unmistakenly firing on some cylinders but still so hopelessly adrift in the shallows of what he and us expect 'Miles' to be now?

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Lester Bangs' confession that the pain of Davis' music would expose him to himself has a dreadful mirror image in the weeping lather of the current Davis band. What the trumpeter has created is a jazz-derived sound that operates as a shell for Miles-type music, Miles-type fluting solos, Miles-type modal riffs and Miles-type centrifugal, swirling noise, a big no-fun of musicianly torpor and teemingly busy hollows of intensity.

Last year I was disappointed that the Davis group didn't seem to be about anything, but this time the music played was more like less than nothing. A couple of the be-ba-boop tags which served as the life-sustaining force of whole sections of the set (pedal points, nothing!) sounded so stupidly trivial that it actively insulted the pared-down genius of, say, Wayne Shorter's legacy to the Davis mode. An hour and forty minutes of this mask of rippled surfaces gets to be shadowboxing towards exhaustion.

Some notes of commentary. Davis strode on with the familiar thrill of anticipation hanging heavy on a crowd a whisker under capacity, although plenty of personal hopes must've nosedived immediately on clocking the return of that terrible guitar behemoth Mike Stern. Rumours that the leader had regrouped a completely fresh team were unfounded, for this was the We Want Miles band plus a second guitarist in John Scofield. They drilled into the grain of a patented Milesian rhythm, a mogadon creation set to the cold industrial drone of post-jazzrock climes, and levered the beast up and down for the duration.

Any pretence at a blow-by-blow account can't be countenanced. This Miles-type assemblage permitted no renaissance spirit. It doesn't finally matter that Bill Evans managed a few pleasant variations on the Shorter blueprint, that Scofield pricked Stern's obese bubble of ego with a calmer intelligence, that the haze would occasionally disperse and something worthwhile begin to take shape. The brittle, organised competence of the Davis band sucked the sweetness from music already down to its last honeycomb.

I think, perhaps, that Davis has secured his ideal exit-point here. He has himself become the incarnation of post-Miles. His entertainer's garb was firmly shouldered this evening, frequently waving his instrument above his behatted head, stepping lithely if gingerly all over the stage, posing with Machiavellian cunning for the photographers.

He played long sequences of Miles-type trumpet. It was wrought in the accents of the pinchy, mewling tone that he adopted after In A Silent Way, trilling up to the cracked beauty of a very high note or stabbing unctuously at a difficult phrase. In the mawkishly isolated space at the front of the stage, bowed like one of those toy birds that dips its beak down into water, Davis would tweak at a lickerish concerto for his ballad style. The group ebbed away and we held our breath for the ascendant genius, the choked melancholy of that frail candle in the darkness ...

Once I thought I heard it. Otherwise I heard an empty bouquet of rhetoric. This isn't the impenetrable hoodoo jungle of On The Corner, the timeless space of Live/Evil, not even the chrome spurt and dagger of Man With The Horn. Davis has made himself the distillation of Miles, and it is a house of wax to which there is no key. Like Bangs, I know good jazz from bad when I hear it. Tonight, I heard nothing at all.

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