Miles Davis (1926-1991) was a legendary trumpeter and composer who pioneered the genres of bebop and jazz fusion. Learn about his career, albums, and improvisational work in jazz, then test your remembrance of the lesson's details.
The name Miles Davis is synonymous with jazz. As a famous trumpeter and composer and winner of nine Grammy Awards, he sat on top of the world of jazz for decade upon decade. Born in 1926, Miles Davis started his music career at a young age. By the time he was 17, he even shared the stage with the legendary Dizzy Gillespie. Today, we'll take a look at his illustrious career, focusing on his compositions, his use of improvisation, and of course, his trumpet.
As a young man studying at the Juilliard School of Music, Davis spent his nights performing at Harlem clubs. During this time, Davis honed his skill of improvisation. Rather than sticking to prescribed sheets of music, the young Davis composed music in the moment. In short, he'd just let his trumpet share what he was feeling.
Speaking of his trumpet, he played it with an original flare. While trumpeters like Louis Armstrong usually played with vibrato or slight variations of one note or pitch used to produce a rich sound, Davis became famous for his fast, improvisational style. Earning the fitting name bebop, his compositions usually consisted of fast-paced, improvised harmonies and melodies.
Other musicians were awed by his unique style and flocked to him. In the 1950s, he played alongside famous musicians like Jimmy Cobb, Gil Evans, and John Coltrane and released albums such as Birth of the Cool and Porgy and Bess. In 1959, he released Kind of Blue, one of the best-selling jazz records of all time.
Always pushing the musical envelope, the late '60s saw Miles Davis compose works in the style of jazz fusion. Despised by some in the jazz community, jazz fusion can be summed up as a mixture of jazz and rock music. Regardless of how some felt about this new style, the late '60s saw Bitches Brew, a Davis jazz-fusion album soar. It even earned him the cover of Rolling Stone, making him the first jazz artist to receive this coveted honor.
'70s & '80s
Sadly, the 70s saw Davis fall back into a drug addiction that had haunted him for much of his adult life. During this decade, the prolific artist composed very little. Fortunately, he and his trumpet bounced back in the '80s. This time Miles Davis took on pop music. His 1985 album, You're Under Arrest, included jazz renditions of '80s pop hits. In it, Davis took on the music of pop icons like Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson.
Continuing to delight music lovers of all ages, Davis won a 1986 Grammy for his album, Tutu and a 1989 Grammy for his album, Aura. Not surprisingly, the early 1990s saw Davis honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tragically, the early 1990s also saw his death. In September of 1991, the King of Cool died at the age of 65.
Miles Davis, famous trumpeter and composer and winner of nine Grammy Awards, ruled the world of jazz for many years.
Born in 1926, by age 17, Davis had played his trumpet with legends like Dizzy Gillespie.
As a student of New York's Julliard School of Music, Davis became famous for his improvisation, in which he composed music in the moment. Rather than playing with vibrato, or slight variations of one note or pitch, Davis preferred bebop - fast-paced, improvised harmonies and melodies.
In the '50s, Davis released such works as Birth of the Cool, Porgy and Bess, and Kind of Blue, one of the best-selling jazz records of all time!
During the '60s, Davis composed in the style of jazz fusion, a mixture of jazz and rock music. Bitches Brew, a Davis jazz-fusion album, earned the artist the cover of Rolling Stone.
In 1985 he released You're Under Arrest which included jazz renditions of '80s pop hits.
Davis won a 1986 Grammy for his album Tutu and a 1989 Grammy for his album Aura. He also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Miles Davis died in 1991 at the age of 65.
All About Miles Davis
- Who Was Miles Davis? Miles Davis was a famous trumpeter and composer.
- What Were His Popular Songs? In the 1950s, he released Kind of Blue, one of the best-selling jazz records of all time. He also released Birth of the Cool, Porgy and Bess, Bitches Brew, You're Under Arrest.
- What Did He Accomplish? He won nine Grammy awards during his career, he was on the cover of Rolling Stone, and he earned the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
- When Did He Die? Miles Davis died in 1991.
Watch and review this lesson on Miles Davis in order to:
- Understand why Miles Davis was an important part of American music history
- Describe the bebop and jazz fusion musical styles
- Discuss his life events, including records released and awards received, throughout the '70s, '80s and early '90s