Jazz Biography Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Miles Davis

One cannot think of Jazz without thinking of Miles Davis. Davis is widely regarded as one of the foremost jazz trumpeters. However, it would be a mistake to believe that Davis' influence on the world of jazz was limited to his abilities as a trumpeter. Davis was recognized as a composer, a bandleader, and a keyboard player. In addition, Davis helped develop improvisational playing techniques, which incorporated modes. Finally, "Davis had an uncanny ability of always selecting great sidemen for his recording sessions. These recordings are full of original and creative sensitivity and are outstanding examples of jazz recordings made at that time." (The Official Miles Davis Website, 2001).

If Davis' mother had her way, jazz music today would be dramatically different. Davis was born to Miles Henry Davis, a dentist, and Cleota Davis. Cleota Davis was a blues pianist, but she kept that fact hidden from her son because she felt "that 'negro' music was not sufficiently genteel." (Wikipedia, 2005). Instead, Cleota wanted her son to learn the piano. However, Davis received his first trumpet at the age of nine. At thirteen, he began lessons with a local trumpeter and began seriously studying the trumpet. Davis showed tremendous skill as a trumpeter, and was even accepted at Julliard. However, an earlier experience with the Billy Eckstine band, when Davis was able to play trumpet in a band including such greats as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, left Davis determined to pursue a career in jazz. Although he moved to New York City to pursue a scholarship at Julliard, Davis became a member of Parker's quintet.

While jazz had as much of an influence on Davis as Davis had on jazz, one of the most negative aspects of the music scene had a tremendous influence on Davis; Davis became involved with drugs and spent half a decade as a heroin addict. However, Davis was not content to allow heroin to ruin his art or his life. With the help of his father, Davis kicked his heroin habit. However, Davis sobriety was not life-long. He later battled both cocaine and heroin addictions. In addition to his drug problems, Davis also contended with two chronic diseases: sickle cell anemia and diabetes.

At times, Davis personal life mirrored his life in jazz. He had three children, Cheryl, Gregory, and Miles, with the woman who was his childhood sweetheart, but never married her. (Frankling, 1986). In 1958, Davis and dancer Frances Taylor married. It was when they were divorcing that Davis became involved with actress Cicely Tyson. Davis then married soul singer Betty Mabry; while the marriage lasted on year, the divorce took almost three. It was after that marriage that Davis married longtime companion Cicely Tyson.

Miles Davis has been called "the major musical force of the second half of the 20th century." (Smith, 2003). This is because Davis has transcended labels and created music, without allowing himself to be limited by any genre or label. Davis began as a classical musician, but instead of pursuing his education at Julliard, Davis began working with Charlie Parker and Gil Evans. Together with Gil Evans, Miles recorded music that transformed the face of jazz from swing to cool jazz, as epitomized by the albums Miles Davis All Stars- Walkin, Blue Haze, Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants, and Bag's Groove. One of the unique aspects…

Sources Used in Document:


Frankling, K. (1986). Miles Davis: life size. Retrieved November 9, 2005 from Jazzhouse.org

Web site: http://www.jazzhouse.org/library/library2.php3?read=franckling1

The Official Miles Davis Website. (2001). Biography. Retrieved November 9, 2005 from MilesDavis.com

Web site: http://www.milesdavis.com/bio.htm

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