Banner artwork by Dimitar TraychevFebruary 20, 2022
Artist “Impression” (Review): Miles Davis
To be an admirer of the music and musicianship of Miles Davis does not make me unique, rather the opposite, in many polls Miles Davis is the most popular and most influential Jazz musician of all times, or the least a top 3 contender. Naturally a lot has been written and said about Miles, from heavy music theoretical analytical essays to stories and anecdotes. I think I would be wasting my time trying to do so as well, so instead I’ll just write about my personal experiences with and opinions about his music. That might not be what you’re “used to” from Roel’s World, but isn’t that what a “blog” supposed to be, something personal?
The first time …
I had heard various versions of this Jazz Standard before (a “must-know” piece for any jazz musician, specially if one likes to partcipate at jam sessions), but the way Miles Davis played the theme just blew me away. His timing, articulation … gentle, almost fragile, but at the same time sounding very “self-aware” and “grounded”.
I fell in love with his trumpet sound and playing style instantly.
I had purchased the “Somethin’ Else” album because I had become a fan of Cannonball. After primarily listening to “old swingers” (like “The Hawk“, Webster and Hodges), some Jazz-Rock (like David Sanborn) and Funk legend Maceo Parker during my teenage years, I had just began “checking out” Charlie Parker (a friend who also plays the saxophone was a die-hard Parker fan) and I consequently ended up with Cannonball Adderley (my all time favorite alto saxophonist) whom I felt more “connected” with musically then with Charlie Parker, I have always preferred Hard bop over Bebop.
Back to Miles …
Up to “Somethin’ Else” I always preferred listening to Jazz recordings of saxophonists. I wasn’t too fond of brass, woodwind instruments were most pleasing to my ears. Miles changed that. His playing on “Somethin’ Else” made me aware brass instruments didn’t have to sound brass band like “Ra-Ta-Taaaa” or somewhat “clownish” (sorry, I’m not into entertainment “shows”) the way Louis Armstrong performed, it could also be played very gentle, almost “silky-soft” sounding (FYI: I had also not heard Chet Baker play yet back then).
One of the next albums I came home with was Kind of Blue, naturally a “must have” album for anyone with a Jazz albums collection. That album became my introduction to John Coltrane as well, as I mentioned already in my “Impressions” article about Coltrane.
What I liked most about Miles Davis, besides his sound (both with and without mute) was his phrasing. He lifted the “less is more philosophy” to another level.
When many Jazz musicians started playing ever more complex solos and harmonic progressions, Miles stayed with the “essence” in a manner no other did, as far as I had heard. At least, that was the impression I had.
Being not a very technical and “virtuous” musician myself this “approach” appealed very much to me.
His “out of the box” thinking, crossing “borders” between genres, always looking for “something else” … trying to reinvent himself … I just loved it, and still do of course. He belonged to a relative small group of “visionaries” (Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, to name a few) that changed Jazz.
Even more so then my saxophone “heroes” John Coltrane and Michael Brecker, Miles Davis influenced the way I started composing music.
Now, I don’t have any illusions about my own compositions / productions, they are “Miles Away” from what Miles Davis created. And I am totally fine with “scribbling in the sidelines” … I am grateful I “discovered” the music of Miles Davis years ago, what I created myself would not have sounded the way it does without.
I will finish this article by sharing a few of my favorite tracks by Miles Davis, besides the ones already shared in this article.