Man, I don't even know where to begin with the Prince of Darkness. Miles is pure Black magic. From Kind of Blue to Bitches Brew and beyond, I just can't get enough. He's got a signature "voice" that is always unmistakably Miles, often imitated but never duplicated. Ok, I've run out of clichés.
Seriously, though, Miles rules. Here's one of my favorite tracks by his 60s quintet, featuring (for those who don't already know) Miles Davis (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (sax), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums). This is especially lovely on a dark and rainy day like today:
I've been a Miles fan for about twenty years now. However, it took me some time--fifteen years--to finally appreciate the 1965-68 Second Great Quintet. I loved much of Miles Davis' musical output, but I never liked the 1965-68 Quintet that featured Wayne, Herbie, Ron, and Tony (yes, I'm on a first-name basis with these guys) as I did the other work in Miles' career. I loved these musicians in their separate realms, but not in Miles' group. My common view of the group was that Miles was just making noise, Tony only seemed to play the cymbals and nothing else, and Wayne was doing his worst Coltrane impression(!).
That was then.
Three years ago, I dug out my long-neglected copies of E.S.P.; Sorcerer; and Miles Smiles and for whatever reason, I finally "got" them! The music didn't sound cold and distant as I used to believe, the playing of all five men was fiery, magical, and at the same time I started thinking of the wondrous music they made as "Space Jazz", with that floating, lilting quality it had. It was both fiery and reflective. Everything sounded "right", and it only took fifteen years for me to realize it! I'm embarassed but thrilled that I've finally come around to Miles, circa 1965.
Miles is an interesting figure in jazz. While most of the great jazz musicians are known for being either amazing players or writers, Miles's talents were in the realm of conceptualizing new approaches to jazz and facilitating great group sounds.
OK, a Miles Davis contribution most of you probably haven't heard, playing trumpet on the 1988 Scritti Politti pop classic Oh Patti (starting at 2:53):
I don't think I'd ever heard a "Scritti Politti" song until this clip. They were only a name to me in the '80s. And could the instrumentation outside of Miles' trumpet be any more 1980s-sounding?
BTW, Miles playing on this doesn't surprise me--didn't know he even did--but during the '80s he covered Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" and Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time", to much controversy, of course.
Here's one of my favorite tracks by his 60s quintet...
Josh, did you ever notice echoes of Nefertiti in this? (see below)
I always wondered if John Williams was a fan, or if this was a coincidence? I love the crossover of jazz with modern orchestral music, and find that musical dialog thrilling. For instance, Wayne Shorter is a fan of JW and quoted Jurassic Park in his Footprints Live album, released in 2002.
I love Miles! I think if I was forced to pick a desert island favorite, mine would be In A Silent Way, but there's such a range of styles I'm still discovering him after first hearing Kind of Blue in my youth. That's another favorite, along with Bitches Brew, Miles Smiles and his score for Elevator to the Gallows. I recently enjoyed Mike Dibb's 2001 documentary The Miles Davis Story for a view into Miles' cantankerous personality and his relationships with friends and family.