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Miles Davis Is Cool

from Crawdaddy Magazine

A Beginner’s Guide to Miles Davis

Photo by Jim Marshall

Miles Davis is cool, but you knew that already. Disputing the musician’s coolness is more arduous a process than proving the moon landing as a hoax. Miles Davis is cool because he branded an album Birth Of The Cool and nobody objected; because he wore sunglasses in inappropriately dark settings; because under those shades his eyes could pierce through titanium; because he turned his back to audiences of thousands while performing; because he ingested every drug available in the United States during his lifespan; because he complained about an arrest for marijuana possession on the grounds that he preferred cocaine. His is a timeless, transcendent cool, always grounded in his art, even when dressed like the test tube baby of Ronald McDonald and Parliament Funkadelic. Cool was his ethos, his brand, his platform to cross party lines, to turn fair-weather jazz fans into diehards and influence artists as disparate as the Allman Brothers, Pink Floyd, and Prince. For any musician, critic, enthusiast, or curious listener, Miles Davis is required listening.

Miles Davis grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois and kissed his first trumpet at 13 years old. He was a professional within four years, cutting his teeth with the locals and sitting in with bands traveling through the city. Davis graduated high school and feigned interest in the Julliard School Of Music to facilitate a move to New York. His true intention was less academic. During a previous stint in singer Billy Eckstine’s band, Davis played with saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and essentially followed them to NYC.

A sophisticated, complicated approach to melody and improvisation called bebop was developing in the after-hours clubs of Harlem. Parker spearheaded this new language as far back as 1939. By his 1944 arrival in the city, Davis seemed late to the game. Truly, his timing was remarkable.

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Posted on July 24, 2011 by Editor

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