Miles Davis: Jazz Musician Innovator Essay

1839 words - 7 pages

There is little doubt that Miles Davis was one of the most innovative artists of the 20th century. Often compared to great philosophical thinkers, Miles Davis revolutionized jazz and changed the face of music forever. "Miles Davis was the personification of restless spirit, always pushing himself and his music into uncharted territory. He was an innovative lightning rod for musicians from all genres -- particularly the brightest young players. Davis created some of the 20th Century's most challenging and influential music" (NPR). To examine his career is to examine the history of jazz from the 1940's through the early 90's since he was on the forefront of every important development. He was continually, "…reinventing himself and his sound endlessly in his musical quest. He was an artist that defied (and despised) categorization, yet he was the forerunner and innovator of many distinct and important musical movements" (Miles Davis Properties). Most of it can be attributed to his longing for new creations and incapability to be satisfied. He was notorious for creating a new style and then just completely abandoning it in search of a new horizon. He led the way in almost every jazz innovation of the time, moving from bebop to modal playing to jazz-fusion. Specifically, Miles Davis is considered so innovative because of his unique musical style, technical innovations, development of modal playing and his experimental nature.Miles' musical style served as the foundation for his innovative contributions to jazz. As a trumpeter, he was known as having a pure, round sound mixed with a creative approach to articulation and pitch. He was seen as one of the few Jazz musicians who had the ability to improvise and swing at a constant tempo. However, his most unique contribution to jazz was his minimalist style of playing. He used spacing and silence to add to his musical rhythm. Too him, less was more. Miles thought that the empty spaces where there were no notes being played were just as important as the parts with notes. His sense of time and space is most notably a result of his apprenticeship with Charlie Parker. "When Davis first recorded with Parker in 1945, his playing was tentative compared to the hard-charging leader, and Miles often just filled in with harmonies behind Parker's powerful alto sax" (NPR). Parker played with such an intense and fast technique, that it forced Miles examine his own mental processes and take a more measured tack. The song Moon Dreams from the album Birth of the Cool is a fine example of restraint with regard to phrasing and time.Davis's style of playing was also seen as having more rhythm and passion compared to other artists of his time. Miles' first teacher, Dizzy Gillespie had perfected the old school style of trumpet set as a standard by Louis Armstrong. However, Gillespie "suggested to Miles that he inquire into his own head and investigate where he himself heard the music" (Cole, 114). In the 1950's, that's...

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