Today we’d like to honor the legacy of the great Miles Dewey Davis III. For it was on this very day in 1991 that the jazz trumpet legend died in a California hospital at the young age of 65..
Davis was given his first trumpet on the day he turned 13. Within just two years, he was a card-carrying member of the local musicians’ union in Saint Louis, Missouri. He left St. Louis for New York City in 1944 to pursue a degree in music at Juilliard, though he immersed himself in the world of professional jazz while still receiving his classical training. But in the clubs on 52nd Street in postwar Manhattan, a new sound was being born, and Miles Davis had a hand in its creation.
First came “cool jazz”, and then “hard bop,” a style he developed in the mid-1950s after losing several years because of a heroin addiction. The decade that followed was the period of Davis’s greatest popularity—a period during which he not only continued to break new musical ground on albums like Miles Ahead (1957), Kind of Blue (1959) and Sketches of Spain (1960), but also managed to introduce the world to many other jazz greats he employed as sidemen: John Coltrane, Red Garland, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock.
What ALL of us should remember: Miles Davis didn’t simply evolve as an individual musician. He drove the very evolution of the art form he worked in, pulling much of the jazz world along with him as he moved from one new sound to the next with utter disregard for the critical or “popular” reaction. Though the reception to some of the directions Miles Davis took was strongly negative, it never kept him from pursuing new ones.
R.I.P. Mr. Davis. Though your life was sadly cut too short, it is YOUR LEGACY that will continue to thrive…for generations to come.
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