Miles Davis- The King Of Cool
“For me, music and life are all about style.”
As an avid listener of jazz, I feel it necessary to pay homage to not only one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, but a cultural icon... the man who later in his career was given the moniker "prince of darkness" for his cold, distant and somber whispering voice. The man who sported the ivy league look with that certain je ne sais quoi... he was a sartorial role model for all men. Managing to epitomize the ever changing eras whilst maintaining and crafting an individual style. The king of cool- Miles Davis.
Born in Illinois and raised in East St.Louis to a fairly affluent family, Miles Davis began taking trumpet lessons aged 12, and by the age of 16 was playing in local bars and out of town shows. After graduating from high school, Miles begun sitting in on Billy Eckstine's band which was playing in St.Louis at the time, the band consisted of the architects of the up and coming bebop movement, and undeniably the most prolific name's in jazz at the time; Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker. Miles fell completely under their spell and became enamoured by their playing ability.
Miles' father enrolled him at Julliard to study music, during which time Miles became even more fascinated with Jazz and eventually dropped out after criticizing Julliard for their mostly white, european "classic" repertoire. Miles began to play with Charlie Parker's quintet between 1946-1948, although the style was much faster paced than Miles' later perfected slower style and tone, this period of time did prove to be effective in growing Miles as a musician. Around about 1945 Dizzy parted ways with Charlie Parker and Miles was taken on as his replacement. They recorded several tracks together in the studio, during which time Miles began developing his signature 'cool jazz' , whilst touring Charlie Parker endured a nervous breakdown that landed him in the Camarillo State Mental Hospital for several months, leaving Miles stranded. This breakdown left the quintet in a fragile state, mostly due to Parker's well documented drug addiction at the time. This gave Miles the right footing to head back to New York and work as a freelancer with some of the most influential artists on the jazz scene.
In the early 50s whilst in Paris, Miles began a relationship with french actress Juliette Greco. Miles was fascinated by Paris and it's cultural environment, specifically how african american's received huge amounts of musical respect. Coming back to America put a lot of strain on Miles', bringing on a long period of depression which it has been said was triggered by his separation from Juliette. The critics began to criticize Miles' collaborations leaving him feeling underappreciated... this in itself has been hailed the trigger to his heroin addiction. Many of the crowd Miles was hanging out with also were sporting bouts of heroin abuse, possibly imitating the late Charlie Parker, Miles however supported his addiction partly with his music and partly by living the life of a hustler.
In order to straighten himself out and rid himself of the painful addiction, Miles stopped playing in New York and played mostly out in the mid-west where hard drugs were rarer to come by. He succeeded in ridding himself of the addiction sometime in 1954, by locking himself away in a room in his father's house until he'd endured the painful withdrawal.
Around the mid--fifties Miles began playing with lesser known John Coltrane, and in my opinion, his period of 'hard bop' is by far some of my favourite of his recordings. Hard bop was very similar to bebop except used much slower tempos often adopting traditional american standards as starting points for improvisations. It was in 1959 that Miles recorded the Lp that to this day is still the best selling jazz album of all time- Kind Of Blue... even voted by the US House of Representatives to honor the album as a national treasure. Anyone who has listened to this LP can see why, it is a masterpiece of jazz music.
Miles Davis went on to record several other albums and maintained a broad career from 1960 onwards. My personal favourite era of Miles is that between 1945-1960, most notably the mid-fifties Miles sound is something which I feel really captured the sound of the time, it echos of an accumulation of the New York jazz scene with subtle influences from Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and of course Dizzy Gillespie.
I now leave you with some of my favourite Miles Davis tracks on this sleepy Sunday afternoon...
I hope you've all enjoyed some jazz vibes.