American composer and trumpet player Miles Davis is considered one of the key figures in the history of jazz. This many-faceted musician constantly explored new ground and his name is linked to all of the major developments in modern jazz: bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz and jazz-rock.
Miles Davis was born into a middle-class African-American family and grew up in St Louis. He was taught to play trumpet at the age of 13 by Elwood Buchanan. He started playing in public in 1942 and was a member of several "rhythm'n'blues" bands, where he not only developed his technique but also acquired a solid musical grounding. In 1944, he played with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, or "Bird", the leading proponents of bebop, then the latest current in jazz. Later he went to New York and enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music, but soon shook off the teaching and the "white" European repertoire taught there.
At the same time, he progressively joined the groups of many of the period's key singers and musicians, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, "Rubberlegs" Williams, Herbie Fields and Charles Mingus. In 1945, he joined Charlie Parker's quintet, began to write his own compositions (Donna Lee) and drew the attention of the arranger Gil Evans. It was Miles Davis's collaboration with Gil Evans that spawned "cool jazz"(Birth of the Cool, 1950).
After a battle with drugs, Miles Davis began delving into the sources of jazz again through hard bop, and worked with Sonny Rollins**, Thelonious Monk** and Art Blakeyou Horace Silver on recordings for the Prestige and Blue Note labels. He formed his first "classic" quintet, which went on to record a series of timeless albums in 1955 and '56. It was made up of John Coltrane (tenor sax), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers(double bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Around the same time as he was playing with Gil Evans' big band, he formed a sextet with two saxophones, played by John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley. After meeting the pianist Bill Evans, their flagship opus, in 1959, would be one of the most significant albums in the history of jazz, Kind of Blue.
During a tour in Paris in 1957, he met Louis Malle and, in the space of one night, improvised the soundtrack for his film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud.
In the early 1960s, after a few false starts, Miles Davis gathered new musicians to form what is generally considered to be one of the most inventive bands in the entire history of jazz: pianist Herbie Hancock**, drummer Tony Williams**, double bass player Ron Carter and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Their music took a new direction, freeing itself of the influences of the dominant currents, notably free jazz. (Miles Smiles)
In 1968, the winds of revolution swept over Miles Davis and his fellow musicians too. His band members got interested in "electric" instruments and psychedelic rock, represented mainly by Jimi Hendrix. This inspired Miles Davis to adopt a blend of jazz, rock, funk and rhythm'n'blues, a signature sound he retained until the end of his career _(Bitches Brew, 1970)._He now changed his image and performed in the greatest rock venues of the time, backed by a handful of rising stars, such as John McLaughlin, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett.
With On the Corner (1972), Miles Davis returned to the blues of his origins, and, backed by musicians from the Motown studios, created a sort of "free funk", heavily influenced by the blues, but improvised, before retiring from the stage in 1975 for health reasons. His last recording is the tribute to Duke Ellington, He Loved Him Madly.
After several years of silence in retirement, Miles Davis returned to the stage in 1980 with the album *The Man with the Horn*, and a new group formed of young musicians: Al Foster, Bill Evans, Mike Stern, Marcus Miller and Mino Cinelu. Their sound drew on the current trends: pop, rap, hip-hop and new technologies gave a new dimension to the musician's inspiration. Just before he died, in 1991, Miles would reach out one last time to rappers and hip-hop artists.
Seven landmark dates in the life of Miles Davis:
1949 Ushered in the "cool jazz" era with his recording of Birth of the Cool
1958 The Ascenseur pour l'échafaud soundtrack is a hit with French audiences
1959 Recorded Kind of Blue, considered one of the best albums in the history of jazz
1963-64 Founded the "second great quintet" with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams
1970 Recorded the Bitches Brew album, which introduces the era of electric jazz and paves the way for "jazz fusion"
1986 Recorded Tutu (written and arranged by Marcus Miller) for Warner Bros. and followed it up with almost one album per year.
2006 Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.