The influence of Miles Davis is long and wide. He changed the course of jazz multiple times with his breakthrough albums and collaborations. Far more than a jazz musician, he transcended genres and developed young, new artists into legends, Pick an album and you will see a mouth-watering array of contributing musicians from Bill Evans, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, John Coltrane, Gil Evans, Wayne Shorter, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins to Tony Williams, Ron Carter, George Benson and many others. He took the jazz form to a new and wider audience and left a legacy few could match
So where do you start with buying his records? Yes, records! For me, Miles has to be heard on vinyl, nothing compares to the sound and feel of a jazz recording on thirty three rpm. The stand out recordings for anyone new to his music have to be In a Silent Way, Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain, Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson, Porgy and Bess and Birth of the Cool. There’s such a wonderful diversity in these records, he was famous for pushing his musicians to places they never imagined they were capable of and these recordings perfectly encapsulate that discipline.
Davis’ life was as remarkable as his music, his life gone far too early. He was beset with health problems, a man with an addiction to heroin, cocaine and alcohol, he survived a beating by police officers, an assassination attempt in 1969, multiple divorces, and a stroke before an enforced five year retirement for health reasons. But in typical Miles style his comeback in the 1980s saw his most commercially successful period to date. His albums made the charts, his concerts sold out globally and once again he showed the music world he had lost none of his relevance through the artists he played with and his sojourn into the arts, television and film.
For me, my appreciation of his music has grown over time. I first became aware of him through my love of the music of John McLaughlin and bought his albums for the sole purpose of hearing the guitarists parts. As time passed I began to pay more and more attention to the other instruments and my appreciation for what Davis achieved and the bands he formed grew and grew. If you listen to only one album then play Kind of Blue. It’s impossible to listen to that album and not think of a smoky jazz club tucked away in a basement on the corner of a street in London, Paris or New York in the fifties and sixties. Imagine seeing that played live for the first time. It must have been life-changing.
See my review of Bitches Brew here
Categories: The Music Lounge