Miles Davis started recording more than 70 years ago and in that time, he completely revolutionalised the course of jazz. Today, we explore a few of the key tracks from the trumpeter’s extraordinary career.
‘Venus de Milo’
The first time that Miles Davis made his impact on the course of music was during the three studio sessions which took place between January 1949 and March 1950. He assembled a nine-piece lineup whose sessions produced a handful of singles for Capitol Records (later collected as an album called ‘Birth of the Cool’). The vivacious ‘Venus de Milo’ was one of the three tracks the group recorded that was composed by saxophonist, Gerry Mulligan. This track toned down the frenzy of bepop (a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos and virtuosic technique) and allied it to sophisticated big-band arrangements. This was one of the fusions of preceding forms that changed what would follow.
Europe had an intense effect on Davis and the music he produced. Whilst in France, we had felt respected as an artist in a way he hadn’t felt before. After this time, he was approached by a movie director during a US nightclub residency and was asked to compose music for a film and Davis accepted the challenge. The soundtrack to Malle’s Ascenseur pour l’Échafaud was recorded in just two days. On arrival at the studio, the band found loops of footage from the film being project and David suggested that they improvise whatever they played in relation to the images on the screen. The final product was tailor-made to blend with the black-and-white shots of the night-time city streets and indicate intense moods in shadowy rooms and stark close-ups.
‘Miles Runs the Voodoo Down’
The record featuring this track, ‘Bitches Brew’ scared the jazz purists away. This double LP was as extreme as Mile Davis got. Although often called out on the Jimi Hendrix influence, this track is purely Miles who’s reconnecting with his Mississippi blues roots. The track has a sense of fearlessness in every note, even in the career of a man who was brimming with standout moments and vociferous performances.
These are just three examples of what Miles Davis did to jazz (and to the entire future of music evolution)!
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