Just before his death in 1991, Miles Davis teamed up with rapper Easy Mo Bee to make a jazz/hip-hop album called "Doo Bop." This wasn't the first time Davis had done something utterly new -- his entire career was devoted to... [more]
Just before his death in 1991, Miles Davis teamed up with rapper Easy Mo Bee to make a jazz/hip-hop album called "Doo Bop." This wasn't the first time Davis had done something utterly new -- his entire career was devoted to jazz-faring exploration.
Playing with such supernovae as Charles Mingus, Max Roach, and John Coltrane, Davis developed new improvisational techniques based on modes rather than standard chord changes. His 1959 album, "Kind of Blue," is the quintessential example of this style: it explores new harmonic terrain, boasting a set of notes to which the blues-educated ear was completely unaccustomed. He built his solos from chords in the songs, not the overall key -- the result was a subtley, unpredictably shifting sound. But the constant shifting was soothing, not jarring, for Davis knew how to keep his music cool and laid-back.
The 1960s saw fruitful collaborations with Herbie Hancock, George Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, and Jack DeJohnette. In 1968 the jazz-rock fusion album "Miles in the Sky" and the brilliant, unrehearsed "Bitches Brew" heralded a new musical form. Miles was exploring the sounds of funk; he liked the steady base-line behind him. Miles' slurred, smooth sounds blended seamlessly with McLaughlin's torn strands of improvisation and DeJohnette's analog keyboard textures. The drawn-out songs of "Bitches Brew" moved into completely uncharted terrain, ecstatic and erratic terrain foreign to the world of Bebop. Miles was heavily criticized by some, gaped at in awe by others. But one thing was made undeniably clear: his appetite for innovation was stupendous.
Not even a devastating car accident in 1972, which broke both of Davis' legs, could keep him from pushing the frontiers of music. He continued to experiment with electronic media, distorting the sound of his trumpet with peddle-effects and expanding the effects of fusion. Despite the slew of criticism that followed every step he took, Miles continued to explore new techniques and to reinterpret his own style, evolving into an unpredictable jazzman, the likes of which we won't see again soon. [show less]