The Other Miles Davis

Miles Davis, Legendary Jazz Trumpeter

Miles Davis is widely considered to be one of the most acclaimed and influential jazz musicians of the 20th century, who was at the forefront of some of the major stylistic developments in jazz. Born into a middle-class family in Alton, Illinois in 1926, he started playing trumpet at the age of 13 and moved to New York in 1944 after receiving a scholarship to attend The Julliard School. It didn’t take Davis long to immerse himself in the New York scene, and he began playing alongside jazz greats like Charlie Parker. He released his first album, Birth of the Cool, in 1957. Davis assembled his first important band in 1955, together with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, and later Cannonball Adderly. At this point, Davis, influenced by the musical theory of George Russell, had begun playing in modes rather than standard chord changes, which led to his most famous album Kind of Blue in 1959. In 1968, Davis changed direction again with his electric jazz release In a Silent Way, and he pushed forward into this new territory with the release of Bitches Brew in 1969, deepening the electronic and rock elements in his music.

Miles Davis’s Paintings

In 1972, Davis was in a car accident and disappeared from the scene for some time as he recovered from the accident and his drug problem. It was in this period of musical inactivity that he turned to painting, which ended up being a big part of the last decades of his life. He once explained: “Painting is like therapy for me, and keeps my mind occupied with something positive when I’m not playing music.” He had always liked sketching and painting, but now it became a serious part of his life. He worked on his paintings every day when he wasn’t touring, approaching painting with the same obsessive creativity he applied to his music. Davis’s painterly style was vivid and bold, incorporating bright colours and geometric shapes, influenced by and evoking Kandinsky, Basquiat, Picasso and African tribal art. Davis was particularly interested in human faces and figures and explored these a great deal in his paintings.

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