Miles Dewey Davis III was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer who is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th century music.
He made his professional debut as a member of saxophonist Charlie Parker’s bebop quintet from 1944 to 1948, but quickly grew to lead his own projects and bands, recording the Birth of Cool sessions for Capitol Records.
In the early 1950s, Davis recorded some of the earliest hard bop music while on Prestige Records. In 1955 he signed a long-term contract with Columbia Records and recorded the 1957 album Round About Midnight with John Coltrane and bassist Paul Chambers. His distinctive muted trumpet sound, and a series of late ‘50s albums (Miles Ahead, Porgy & Bess, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain) propelled him into the mainstream and secured his widespread popularity.
Throughout the ‘60s he traced a path of unparalleled growth and innovation recording Miles Smiles, ESP, Nefertiti, Miles In The Sky, and Filles de Kilimanjaro.
Davis adopted a variety of musical directions in his five-decade career and he consistently pursued new worlds of sound, often shaping the course of modern improvisational music and major stylistic developments in jazz.
During the 1970s, he radically experimented with rock, funk, African rhythms and emerging technology, achieving a career breakthrough with the wildly popular ‘Bitches Brew’ that attracted a new, younger generation.
His fascination with funk continued through the 80s with the addition of synthesisers and drum machines to his repertoire. His final album with Columbia Records ‘You’re Under Arrest’ included unexpected covers of recent pop hits (Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”).
His final albums were published by Warner Bros, and continued to explore new musical terrain. They include Tutu, Music from Siesta, Amandla (featuring a new breed of soloists), and Doo-Bop with hip hop producer Easy Moe Bee.
He performed sold-out concerts worldwide while branching out into visual arts, film, and television work, before his death in 1991 from the combined effects of a stroke, pneumonia and respiratory failure. In 2006, Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which recognized him as “one of the key figures in the history of jazz”.
His family owned a 200-acre estate near Pine Bluff, Arkansas that housed a profitable pig farm where Davis and his siblings would ride horses, fish, and hunt.
About this Contributor
- Given name
- Miles Dewey
- Family name
- Birth date
- Death date
- Contributor type
BBC Proms 2019
Celebrate The Proms on Minute of Listening! One of the biggest events in the musical calendar, The Proms are a prestigious season…
Black History Month lesson plans
Celebrate Black History Month with this collection of lesson plans. There is one for each week of the month of October for…
Discover a treasure trove of music education resources created by the experts at Minute of Listening.