Jazz trumpeter, composer, and small-band leader, Miles Davis (May 26,1926-Sept. 28,1991) was in the jazz vanguard for more than two decades.
To examine his career is to examine the history of jazz from the mid-'40s to the early '90s. Miles was in the thick of almost every important innovation and stylistic development in the music during that period, and often led the way in those changes, both with his own performances and recordings and by choosing sidemen and collaborators who forged new directions.
Miles Dewey Davis III was the son of a dental surgeon, Dr. Miles Dewey Davis Jr., and a music teacher, Cleota Mae (Henry) Davis.He grew up in the black middle class of east St. Louis. Miles became interested in music during his childhood and by the age of 12 began taking trumpet lessons. While still in high school, he started to get jobs playing in local bars and at 16 was playing gigs out of town on weekends.
Davis first heard modern jazz at age 18 when Billy Eckstine’s ensemble - which included saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie - came to town for a two-week residency. Davis wound up replacing a trumpet player in the band who had taken ill. He accompanied Eckstine back to New York, where he studied classical music at Juilliard by day and played jazz clubs at night. Davis joined Parker’s quintet in 1945 and made his recording debut as a band leader two years later.
Throughout the years, Miles continued inventing new ways of making music and in doing so he discovered many up-and-coming musicians. They include John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, among others. Besides making recordings with his own small jazz groups, Miles also had a great success with a large orchestra that his friend Gil Evans wrote the music for. In later years, he experimented with fusing rock and pop music with jazz.
Miles remained an innovator of music throughout his entire career.
Miles Davis died on September 28, 1991 from a stroke, pneumonia and respiratory failure in Santa Monica, California at the age of 65. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.