Thursday, May 26, 2011
Birth of the Cool
On this date in 1926, Miles Davis was born. Without a doubt, Davis was among the most influential of jazz musicians. He was a leading innovator from the post-Swing era to jazz fusion. His creative legacy not only remains a vital force in contemporary jazz, but has spread out to influence the broader musical tradition.
When I first started studying jazz, the music of Miles Davis was my guide. The early history of jazz is easy to follow. You start off with the roots of Ragtime and the blues, then enter into traditional jazz (New Orleans/Chicago style), which transforms into Swing and the Big Band era. Then it wraps up into bebop. After this point, things get a bit complicated. You have a mix of wildly diverse styles and techniques competing with each other.
However, this is the era of Miles Davis. And he explores the entirety of the jazz scene through his music. Just listen to his albums and you can hear the trends and techniques of the day.
So, let's get to the music
Really, the music speaks for itself, but I can't resist giving my two bits. Let's start off with Cool Jazz. This is the type of jazz with which I am most familiar. It became the dominant style on the West Coast, which is why it is often called "West Coast Jazz". Here in So Cal, it is still the typical style that you'll hear at the local jazz clubs and cafes.
Then we get into Davis' Hard Bop work.
Here is my favorite piece off of the classic Kind of Blue album. This album is considered by many to be the greatest of all jazz albums. I don't know if I agree with that, but it definitely is a contender for the title. For an appreciation of Modal Jazz, it is hands down the best.
Finally, we get to the Fusion era. While many jazz enthusiasts find Bitches Brew to be the definitive album of this style, I prefer the earlier In a Silent Way.
That's a brief sample of the music of Miles Davis. I whole-heartedly encourage you to explore this music and give it a deeper listening.
Here's a link to Miles Davis' Wikipedia page.