Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Jazz Week,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Miles Davis started learning the trumpet at 13, and three years later he was playing professional gigs at a local music society, although his mother refused to let him officially join a band until he had finished high-school. Davis was from a wealthy ranch-owning southern family from Illinois, and his father was a dental surgeon. Although she was a music teacher, his mother is said to have hated the sound of the trumpet.

Davis attended the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York in 1944 but dropped out after his first year. He left Juilliard with an impeccable playing technique and knowledge of music theory that would prove indispensable in developing pioneering jazz styles later in his career.

Davis’ musical style went through many transformations in his long career (spanning half a century) in an attempt to always remain at the avant-garde of new musical currents. Throughout his career, only his accessible lyricism remained intact, defined by a clear and mesmerizing vocal quality, the intimacy of which was intensified through the often use of a Harmon mute. In essence, Davis wanted to stay as true to the human voice as was possible.

After helping to establish the Bebop genre alongside the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Charlie “Bird” Parker (with whom Davis had a tempestuous relationship), Davis vied away from the bebop scene and began to develop his signature sound, defined by its vocal quality and accessibility. “Cool Jazz” was the antithesis of Bebop, which produced somewhat incomprehensible bursts of music at impossibly high speeds. “Cool Jazz” wanted to bring the music back to the people. With the help of arranger Gil Evans, and several other like-minded artists, the Birth of the Cool(1956) was initiated.

Although many of Davis’ musical collaborators have been white (most notably Gil Evans), Miles Davis has been noted for his anti-white sentiments. For example, Davis’ departure from Julliard School of Music in 1945 was due to the educational focus on the white composer canon of Western music, in agreement with the widely used term “Dead White Males” (DWEM) in cultural criticism. As Davis wrote in Miles the Autobiography(1990): “I hate how white people always try to take credit for something after they discover it. Like it wasn’t happening before they found out about it. Then they try to take all the credit, try to cut everybody black out.” Unfortunately, the truth of this is undeniable and well documented in the music industry.

In the Jazz scene of the 1940s and ’50s, drug use was an unavoidable rite of passage. Miles Davis’ struggle with heroin addiction is paralleled in the life-stories of other famous Jazz musicians including Ray Charles and Charlie “Bird” Parker (whom Davis lived with at this time). Davis’ addiction to heroin was first made public in an interview with band-leader Cab Calloway, composer of “Minnie the Moocher” (1931), in a Down Beatinterview, something for which Davis never forgave Calloway. After this exposure as well as an arrest in Los Angles for possession, Davis moved back home to Illinois in order to recover from his addiction, but this was only the beginning of a long ordeal in which his own father had him arrested. After several false recoveries, Davis returned home to clean up for the last time and finally stopped using for good in 1954.

Miles Davis sustained injuries when two gang-bangers opened fire on him when he was sitting in a car with a woman in Brooklyn, New York, in 1969. He subsequently offered a $10,000 reward for their apprehension, but the reward was never collected. In an interview, Davis claimed that both assailants had been killed. After Davis was hospitalized and treated, he was booked for marijuana possession.

Davis’ album Kind of Blue (released in 1959), is the best-known Jazz album ever recorded. After going platinum four times, it is also the best-selling Jazz album of all time, selling four times the amount of the album that comes in second place on the list: Head Hunters by Herbie Hancock (1973).

Miles Davis made his television acting debut in an episode of Miami Vice titled “Junk Love.” He was cast as a pimp named Ivory Jones, who shoots the breeze with Crockett and Tubbs in his famously husky tones.

Miles Davis permanently damaged his vocal chords in 1957 when he shouted at a colleague days after undergoing throat surgery.

During a routine appointment, doctors suggested Miles Davis have a tube implanted to relieve his breathing following repeated bouts of bronchial pneumonia. The jazz legend was so outraged that he gave himself an intracerebral hemorrhage. Davis fell into a coma and after several days on life support, he died on September 28, 1991.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Jazz Legends,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Over six full decades, from his arrival on the national scene in 1945 until his death in 1991, Miles Davis made music that grew from an uncanny talent to hear the future and a headstrong desire to play it. From his beginnings in the circle of modern jazz, he came to intuit new worlds of sound and challenge. While the vast majority of musicians – jazz, rock, R&B, otherwise – find the experimental charge and imperviousness of youth eventually running down, Miles forever forged ahead, trusting and following instinct until the end.

In doing so, Miles became the standard bearer for successive generations of musicians, shaped the course of modern improvisational music more than a half-dozen times. This biography attempts to explain those paradigm-shifts one after another, through his recordings and major life changes.

The factors leading to that process are now the foundation of the Miles Davis legend: the dentist’s son born in 1926 to middle-class comfort in East St Louis. The fresh acolyte learning trumpet in the fertile, blues-drenched music scene of his hometown. The sensitive soul forging a seething streetwise exterior that later earned him the title, Prince Of Darkness. The determined teenager convincing his parents to send him to New York’s famed Juilliard School of Music in 1944, a ploy allowing him to locate and join the band of his idol, bebop pioneer Charlie Parker.

It wasn’t long before the headstrong young arrival grew from sideman to leading his own projects and bands of renown, from the restrained, classical underpinning of the famous “Birth of the Cool” group (Miles’ first foray with arranger Gil Evans), to the blues-infused hardbop anthem “Walkin’”, to his first famous quintet (Coltrane, Chambers, Red Garland, Philly Joe Jones) with whom his recordings on muted trumpet helped him develop a signature sound that broke through to mainstream recognition. His subsequent jump from recording with independent labels (Prestige, Blue Note) to Columbia Records, then the Tiffany of record companies, propelled his career further from a limited jazz audience and a series of late ‘50s albums (Miles Ahead, Porgy & Bess, Miles Ahead, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain) secured his widespread popularity.

Miles’ group shifted and morphed through the early ‘60s until he settled for a four-year run with his classic quintet, a lineup that is still hailed today as one of the greatest and most influential jazz groups of all time. Their albums together — from Miles Smiles, ESP and Nefertiti, to Miles In The Sky, and Filles de Kilimanjaro — traced a pattern of unparalleled growth and innovation.

Had Miles stopped his progress at that point, he’d still be hailed as one of the greatest pioneers in jazz, but his creative momentum from the end of the ‘60s into the ‘70s would not let up. He was listening to the world around him — the amplified explosion of rock bands and the new, heavy-on-the-one funk of James Brown and Sly & The Family Stone. From the ambient hush of In A Silent Way, to the strange and unsettling – yet wildly popular Bitches Brew, he achieved another shift in musical paradigm and a personal career breakthrough.

Bitches Brew was controversial, a best-seller and attracted another, younger generation into the Miles fold. Thousands whose musical taste respected no categorical walls flocked to hear Miles, and a slew of fusion bands were soon spawned, led by his former sidemen: Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever. The studio albums that defined Miles’ kaleidoscopic sound in the ‘70s included a series of (mostly) double albums, from …Brew to 1971’s Live-Evil, ‘72’s On The Corner and ‘75’s Get Up With It. The covers listed populous line-ups that reached up to 11 musicians, adding new names to an ever-widening circle of on-call talent.

By the end of 1975, Miles was tired – and sick. A period of seclusion ensued, full years to deal with personal demons and health issues, bouncing between bouts of self-abuse and boredom. It was the longest time Miles had been off the public radar – only amplifying the appetite for his return.

When Miles reappeared in 1981, expectation had reached fever pitch. A final series of albums for Columbia reflected his continuing fascination with funk of the day (Rose Royce, Cameo, Chaka Khan and later, Prince), and the sounds of synthesizer and drum machines (Great Miles Shift Number 8). The Man With A Horn, We Want Miles and Decoy found him still working with Teo Macero and still surrounding himself with young talent, including bassist Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones). In 1985, his album You’re Under Arrest — with unexpected covers of recent pop charters (Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”) – brought the long Davis-Columbia association to a close. He embarked on a new relationship with Warner Bros. Records and producer Tommy LiPuma, scoring successes with Tutu (written in a large part by his bassist Marcus Miller), Music from Siesta (also with Miller), Amandla (featuring a new breed of soloists, including alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, tenor saxophonist Rick Margitza, guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly, keyboardist Joey DeFrancesco, and others) and Doo-Bop (his collaboration with hip hop producer Easy Moe Bee.)

Those titles proved Miles’ farewell, still pushing forward, still exploring new musical territory. Throughout his career, he had always resisted looking back, avoiding nostalgia and loathing leftovers. “It’s more like warmed-over turkey,” the eternal modernist described the music of Kind of Bluetwenty-five years after recording it. Ironically, in 1991, only weeks after performing a career-overview concert in Paris that featured old friends and collaborators from as early as the ‘40s, he died from a brain aneurysm.

Like his music, Miles always spoke with an economy of expression. And for Miles, it had to be fresh, or forget it. “I don’t want you to like me because of Kind of Blue,” he insisted. “Like me for what we’re doing now.”

Jazz Lair

“So What” By Miles Davis, Album: Kinda Blue 1959

Who Was Miles Davis? 

Instrumental in the development of jazz, Miles Davis is considered one of the top musicians of his era. Born in Illinois in 1926, he traveled at age 18 to New York City to pursue music. 

Throughout his life, he was at the helm of a changing concept of jazz. Winner of eight Grammy awards, Miles Davis died in 1991 from respiratory distress in Santa Monica, California.

Kind of Blue

Davis recorded several albums with his sextet during the 1950s, including Porgy and Bess and Kind of Blue, his final album of the decade, released in 1959. Now considered one of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded, Kind of Blue is credited as the largest-selling jazz album of all time, selling more than 2 million copies.

Davis continued to be be successful throughout the 1960s. His band transformed over time, largely due to new band members and changes in style. The various members of his band went on to become some of the most influential musicians of the jazz fusion era. These included Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul (Weather Report), Chick Corea (Return to Forever), and John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra).

This was the opening track on Kind Of Blue, which is arguably the biggest-selling Jazz album of all time. It was recorded by Miles Davis in 2 days giving only brief instructions to a new band – yet all tracks were recorded in one take. It is also counted by many as the greatest Jazz album of all time and ranks at or near the top of many “best album” lists. Rolling Stone magazine, for instance, placed it 12th on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

In 2007 this was voted the best-ever Jazz record in a poll of listeners of the UK radio station Jazz FM.

George Cole, who wrote The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991, explains why Davis is so important: “Miles Davis is to jazz is what Mozart is to classical music or The Beatles are to popular music. He is by far the most influential jazz musician of all time and it’s unlikely that anyone will ever supplant this position. He started out as a teenager playing bebop (a frenetic style of jazz) with the saxophonist giant Charlie Parker, and ended almost 50 years later, combining jazz with hip-hop. He recorded the best known album in jazz (Kind of Blue) while still in his early 30s and it contains the best known jazz track: ‘So What.'” (For more on Miles Davis,read our interview with George Cole.)

This was one of three tracks on Kind Of Blue that was originally recorded in the wrong key later to be tidied up on re-releases (the other two were “Freddie Freeloader” and “Blue in Green”).

Miles Davis in 1958. Credit…Dennis Stock/Magnum Photos

Vinyl box set edition of ‘The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions’ from The Miles Davis Quintet out 11/8


Los Angeles, CA (September 16, 2019)—Craft Recordingsis pleased to announce the release of the vinyl box set edition of The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions from The Miles Davis Quinteton November 8th. Celebrating the 70th anniversary of Prestige Records, the deluxe six-LP set presents the quintet’s marathon sessions for the iconic jazz label, recorded between 1955–56, which resulted in classic albums such as Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’, and Steamin’. Plus, the box set offers a bonus LP with audio from radio and TV appearances by the group. Pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI, the discs are housed in a collectible 20-page hardcover linen-wrapped portfolio-style book, featuring stunning photographs of Davis and the band, plus in-depth liner notes from esteemed jazz historian Bob Blumenthal. 
Miles Davis’ First Great Quintet was assembled in 1955—a pivotal year for the trumpeter and bandleader. Following a triumphant set at the Newport Jazz Festival, Davis was at the top of his game, and enjoying newfound recognition by industry leaders, critics, and fans alike. With a lineup that featured pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Philly Joe Jones and a relatively unknown tenor saxophonist named John Coltrane (replacing Sonny Rollins), the unit became the dominant small jazz group of the late ’50s and helped define the hard-bop genre. In his liner notes, Bob Blumenthal writes “The Miles Davis Quintet heard here was Davis’ means of seizing the moment when his physical health and his musical concepts were on an upswing…This is the band Davis organized when he wanted his recordings to stand for more than snapshots of his momentary interests.”
Over the course of a year—from November 1955 to October 1956—the quintet recorded three exceptionally productive sessions with famed engineer Rudy Van Gelder, simulating nightclub sets at Van Gelder’s Hackensack, New Jersey studio. The resulting 32 tracks—presented in chronological order in this collection—would make up five complete and significant albums: the quintet’s 1956 debut release, Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet, Cookin’ (1957), Relaxin’(1958), Workin’ (1959), and Steamin’ (1961). The quintet’s recording of “’Round Midnight” would represent this ensemble’s lone contribution to the album Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants (1959). The majority of these tracks are pop and jazz standards, along with several original compositions from Davis. Highlights include a rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight,” which Davis would adopt as a signature tune, a scorching drum solo from Jones on “Salt Peanuts,” Davis’ exquisite use of the Harmon mute on the intimate ballads “My Funny Valentine” and “It Never Entered My Mind,” Garland’s inspiring solo on “If I Were a Bell,” and a standout performance from the rhythm section on “Blues by Five.” 
Blumenthal writes that during this era, “Davis understood the potential of the new, longer 12-inch album format, and used it to create definitive performances in a variety of moods.” Adding, “The key was contrast, which began with the juxtaposition of Davis’ concision, Coltrane’s complexity, and Garland’s sparkle; extended to the textural variety the rhythm section provided each soloist; and was capped by the distinctive range of the band’s repertoire.”
Because much of the Quintet’s material was performed outside of the studio—in nightclubs and concert halls—a bonus LP is included, which features eight TV and radio appearances, including live performances at Café Bohemia, the Blue Note in Philadelphia and on Tonight Starring Steve Allen, offering a broader view of the group’s exceptional work together.
The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions was originally released as a CD box set in 2006, garnering wide critical acclaim. Jazz Times wrote that “To sit down with the 32 [tracks], from “Stablemates” to “My Funny Valentine,” is to fall in love all over again with irreplaceable music whose magic is utterly manifest yet elusive of description.” All Music proclaimed, “Miles freaks…will have to have this,” while Pop Matters declared the collection to be “Perfect.” Upon its release, it peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. 
Click here to pre-order The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions 6-LP box set. 
Disc 1
SIDE A1. Stablemates2. How Am I to Know?3. Just Squeeze Me
SIDE B1. There Is No Greater Love2. The Theme3. S’posin
Disc 2
SIDE A1. In Your Own Sweet Way2. Diane3. Trane’s Blues
SIDE B1. Something I Dreamed Last Night2. It Could Happen to You3. Woody’n You
Disc 3
SIDE A1. Ahmad’s Blues2. Surrey with the Fringe on Top3. It Never Entered My Mind
SIDE B1. When I Fall in Love2. Salt Peanuts3. Four4. The Theme (take 1)  5. The Theme (take 2)  
Disc 4
SIDE A1. If I Were a Bell2. Well You Needn’t3. ’Round Midnight
SIDE B1. Half Nelson2. You’re My Everything3. I Could Write a Book4. Oleo 
Disc 5
SIDE A1. Airegin2. Tune Up3. When Lights Are Low
SIDE B1. Blues by Five2. My Funny Valentine
Disc 6
SIDE A1. Steve Allen Intro*2. Max Is Making Wax aka Chance It*3. Steve Allen Intro 2*4. It Never Entered My Mind*5. Tune Up^6. Walkin’^
SIDE B1. Four#2. Bye Bye Blackbird#3. Walkin’#4. Two Bass Hit#
*11/17/55 The Tonight Show with Steve Allen^12/8/56 The Blue Note, Philadelphia, PA#5/17/58 Café Bohemia, New York, NY

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Miles Davis is my undisputed heavyweight champion of jazz, and Kind Of Blue is the best jazz album of all time…end of story. Before I ever thought about playing guitar, I was a trumpet player, and Miles was this mythical figure, impossibly cool and godly talented. Kind Of Blue came out in 1959, 2 years before I was born. It was a break from the bebop style that was immensely popular at the time in favor of a newer, modal style of improvisation. Davis had a crew of monster players, including the mighty John Coltrane and “Cannonball” Adderly on tenor and alto saxophones, respectively, and Bill Evans on piano. These sublimely talented soloists breathed creative fire into the 5 compositions on Kind Of Blue and essentially made jazz (indeed, music in general) history. This album is timeless and will continue to influence musicians and provide musical bliss for generations to come.

Written By Braddon S. Willliams

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