MILESDAVIS, THE JAZZ MUSICIAN, AND HIS INFLUENCE ON JAZZ MUSIC
Nameof the Student
Jazzmusic’s history is associated with a multifaceted assortment ofperformers, progression of style, and places1.Miles Davis happens to be among the prominent jazz musicians thathave impacted the jazz music in a significant manner. Davis’contribution to the jazz music is evident in his numerous rolesincluding musical innovator, bandleader, and trumpet player, whichenabled him to be considered the only superstar in the world of jazz.This paper explores the influences of Davis on this music genre byfocusing on his contributions at critical junctures of the evolutionof the jazz music. The paper also discusses the significance of Davisin the development of various forms of jazz including cool, modal,and bop. While the paper champions the thesis that Davis contributedsignificantly to the development and transformation of the jazz musicfrom the hard bop to the prominent modal jazz, thesedevelopments are discussed in their chronological accounts asevidenced by historical data.
Comprehendingthe jazz music twenty years prior to the production of Kindof Bluein1959by Davis can contribute largely to the establishment of a precise andgeneral musical setting for music and works that relates directly tothis album2.Besides, understanding Davis’s music calls for a focus on themusicians and music that established the foundation for the musicaltechniques prior to the appearance of Davis in the musical scene. Inthe period between 1940s and 1950s, jazz musicians integrated variousinfluenced that led to techniques such as modal, hard bop, cool, andbebop3.The conventional Western composition of the 21stcentury, that impacted the scene of jazz within the early years ofthe 1940s, is a suitable example of such influences4.The aspects of timbre, texture, and harmony, as derived from theclassical Western melody were beginning have profound effects on thebig bands that dominated this era. These elements enhanced thetransformation of the mainstream swing technique of the early ages of1940s5.For instance, vanguard players like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie,Lenny Tristao, Lester Young, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, and TheloniousMonk were among the musicians who influenced the evolution andtransformation of the jazz music, as well as the participation andfunction of every musician within the scene. In addition, the formalinclusion and harmonic associated with the blues was a vital approachto discovering novel forms of expression within the jazz music. Thesenovel expression techniques are evident in Davis’s pieces. Thefoundations of his expressions, which are found inKind of Blue,during the two decades, were establishd/founded. Nevertheless, aportion of these approaches cannot be viewed directly within Davis’album. The significant process within this general music setting ishow these concepts and influences of the blues, bebop, andclassical-four composition were constituting the language that Davisemployed in jazz, as well as how he altered these approaches andsuited them to accomplish his modal style of jazz music.
Towardsthe end of 1940s, the nonet approach, which was developed by Davis,combined all the experimental techniques developed between 1949 and19506.These recording session later transformed into the album known asBirthof the Cool (1954).Davis accomplished his objective by unifying some of the mostvanguard and talented jazz artistes such as Lee Konitz, John Lewis,Gerry Mulligan, and Gil Evans who contributed to the development ofthe new style (i.e. cool style). During this era, majority of thebases associated with the cool technique were rare in jazz smallbands including the influence of the conventional Westerncomposition, the orchestration and instrumentations, and the fusionof diverse instrumental tones.
Theimpact of classical composers like Debussy and Stravinsky assistedLewis, Evans, and Mulligan to establish color richness and sounddensity in their works that commenced their identification as thecool style’s sound. Furthermore, all artistes that were involved inthe new arrangement were associated with personal, as well asparticular features, which were vital in the development of the noveljazz style7.Every musician had a unique tone color, rhythm, personal approach toimprovisation, and articulation. The musical works of these artisteswere also characterized by plain sounds without vibrato, dry tones,and smoother timbres. Herman’s and Thornhill’s bands wereresponsible for the creation of majority of the players. It is alsosignificant to note that Tristano and Young influenced most of theseplayers, leading to the provision of perfect tools to commence newtechnique. On the contrary, Davis emanated from the best bebopschool. When he had spent some time in New York, Davis commencedworking the Parker-headed quintet and played trumpet with thearchitects who were responsible for the creation and establishment ofthe bebop. These personalities included Gizzy Gillespie who was thetrumpeter, and Charlie Parker, the saxophonist. They educated him onhow to handle the virtuosic 15 features that characterized the beboptechnique.
Davis’simpact on the Jazz world was felt in 1944 in New York, when he joinedthe bop jazz8.In this era, the bop presented a significant revolt against racialinjustice, big bands, commercialism, as well as the highly limitingharmonic jazz model/framework, which dominated the industry. Davis’enormous impact on the industry was attributed to his constantcooperation with the notable figures like Charlie Monk, Parker, andDizzie Gillespie among others. The involvement with these skilledpersonalities enabled him to learn the arcane language of bop throughpersistent jamming alongside key players who had excellent mastery ofbop. He also learned this language by imitation and informaltutelage. For instance, during his working with Parker, Davis managedto perfect his approach to complex rhythms and melodic lines thatwere played a higher speed. Nevertheless, he still encounteredproblems playing fast, loud, or high, as he was young and had to growand develop the strength required for his lip muscles. As such, hesettled for light sound. During this period, Davis hanged and jammedwith artistes like George Russell, Mulligan, and Evans who initiatedhim to the traditional Western composition. Meanwhile, Davis’sproject was better termed as cool style. Originally, his nonet wasperceived as the smallest group/unit with the ability to match thecaliber of Thornhill’s big band that existed in the middle years of1940s. This point marked the beginning of Davis’ project to unifyconcepts and musicians to develop novel ways of playing jazz in hispursuance of new textures, colors, and sound.
Inthe late 1940s, Davis contributed to the connection of the jazz musicto classical music9.In 1950s, some cool units like the Dave Brubeck and the Modern JazzQuartet began their connection to classical music10.However, Gunther Schuller, who was a horn player, conductor, andcomposer, formally initiated the Third Stream Movement. He had hisfirst official jazz performance with Davis, who welcomed him to playhorn in his nonet arrangement/project. This movement (i.e. the ThirdStream movement) was associated with the employment of complex formand harmony from the modern classical composition together with thesupplement of jazz rhythm in certain sections, and in somecircumstances improvised sections11.In this technique, most of the piece are totally written out in amanner that resembles the classical music. Besides, the solos aregenerally small sections/segments within the composition’s entirestructure. These jazz pillars of 1950s, with the inclusion of theBirthof the Cooland Davis transformed into the jazz mainstream (bebop) as well as thevanguard for the subsequent developmental stages including modal,hard bop, Third Stream, and cool. Every stage assumed a differentpath. Nevertheless, they still influenced one another as they pursuednovel ways of expressing themselves and developing jazz.
Thebeginning of 1950s was characterized by the emergence of a newtechnique of jazz music known as the hard bop12. The growth of this style was facilitated by the robust influence ofthe bebop style formerly advanced by prominent musicians such asDavis. The novel technique (i.e. hard bop) maintained the sameidentical head-solos-head system, vocabulary, and language initiatedwithin the bebop. In their quest for novel, approaches, jazz playerssuch as Davis borrowed the phrase themes that connected jazz to theage of swing. Moreover, they began creating small alterations to theconception of bebop, as in the cases of simplifying harmonies andmelodies, and slowing down of the tempo. This technique led to thedevelopment of a more relaxed music along with the solos getting moredeveloped and longer. The section of rhythm stressed its functionsthat were borrowed from bebop. This section became more vigorous init, and with the vocalist. Furthermore, these apprises had more agileaccompaniments or complements within the piano, leading to moreinteraction/association between the soloist and the drummer. Thecompositions’ slower tempos relative to the bebop, helped andinfluenced along this development/arrangement. During this period,Davis was more focused on the artistes who played with him. As such,he became more meticulous and only selected individuals whodemonstrate better accommodation of themselves within his conceptsand style.
Daviswas a prominent figure in the hard bop technique. He was consideredamong the personalities who pioneered the integration of this styleinto albums like Blue Haze (1953-1954) along with the pieces such as“Old Devil Moon”, “Four, “Walkin” and “Blue Haze”(1954) and compositions such as “Solar.” These pieces provide aclear revelation of the path that jazz had taken in the 1950s inrelation to more association within group, freer accompaniments, andslower tempos13.The combination of these aspects enabled the soloist to develop andcreate better ideas and concepts. Davis handled these ventures withthe best artistes of jazz who were deeply engaged in this novelapproach. Examples of these musicians were Charles Mingus and PercyHeath, who were the bassists, Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, who werethe drummers, as well as Horace Silver and John Lewis, who were thepianists. Davis and his group were pursuing new mechanisms ofexpressing themselves beyond the bebop jazz. As such, they helped toestablish this approach via the starting of the 1950s and eventually,all of them became key figures in the style of hard bop14.
Theera between 1956 and 1957 was associated with significant steps inDavis’s music career, as he signed a recording contract/agreementwith Columbia and Prestige records15.Davis’ success was also attributed to his group’s constantworking on new pieces. He began enjoying the fruits of the hard workthat he had put in his previous years. His quintet had performancesevery week throughout the country. Between 1955 and 1956, Davis’team recorded six albums, which led to his confirmation as a topperformer16.He enabled people to comprehend his concept and style not just withthe trumpet that he played, but also with whole band. As such, manycritics compared this approach with Hot Five of Armstrong, whichexisted thirty years prior. For instance, Carr pointed out “likeLouis Armstrong’s classic small-group recordings of the later 1920s[the Hot Five], these performances of the Miles Davis Quintet arefull of moments of genuine inspiration, full of surprises, full ofcollective and individual magic”17.To advance is success further, Davis exploited every aspect of theartist in his group to balance strengths with weaknesses, therebybrining his melodic notions to life. Besides, he would duplicate thisprocess in many occasions within the subsequent decades, within theinclusion of the subsequent sextet that was responsible for therecording of Kindof Blue.This group featured prominent artists like Paul Chambers and JohnColtrane. Other features that characterized these years (periodbetween 1956 and 1957) were the robust influence that Ahmad Jamal hadon Davis’s theory concerning space, as well as his Paris tour.While in Paris, Davis wrote a song for the movie Ascenseurpour l’Échafaud,which made the concept of modal jazz apparent18.When Davis went back to New York, he reunified his group and includeda new associate, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, who was an altosaxophonist. Adderley’s contribution to the group’s developmentof the modal technique was immense.
InMay of 1957, Davis incorporate NewRhumbaof Jamal in his album labeled, Miles Ahead19.He proceeded to record an enormous ensemble project for the firstmoment since his 1949’s nonet project20.The arrival of Gil Evans, one of Davis’ big influencers and askilled arranger also added to the effectiveness of the band increating and developing pieces. Evans focused on the transcriptionand adaptation of NewRhumba,from the 19-piece, which was ensemble from the arrangement that Jamalhad for his trio21. Davis emphasized the aspect of space in his concept, particularly inareas such as comping of the rhythm section and improvisation. Healso imitated the technique employed by Jamal’s trio in arrangingand playing pieces. For instance, rhythmic lightness, harmonicinventiveness, and melodic understatement were essential componentsof Jamal’s technique, and became vital elements of Davis’technique, as well as the style employed by his finest bands. It isdifficult to comprehend the depth of Jamal’s influence on Davis inrelation to modal music, as Davis already had knowledge andbackground of this music. Nevertheless, there are clear similaritiesin the modal music technic, style, and arrangement of the pieces inDavis’s music and Jamal’s music.
Inthe spring of 1957, Davis sacked Jones and Coltrane due todrug-addiction issues. In the subsequent, few months, Gil Evans andDavis concentrated on the 19-piece project22.After the finalization of this project, Davis began his pursuance ofnew artistes to fill the gaps left by the dismissed drummer and tenorplayer. This event marked the entrance of Adderley in the group. Inthe end of 1957, Davis came from France (Paris) with novel ideas ofmusic, and chose to call upon the band that he had established whenhe had signed a recording contract with Columbia. Individualsincluded in the band were Chambers, Jones, Garland, and Coltrane, aswell as Adderley23.While regrouping the artistes, Davis discovered that Coltrane, whoplayed the tenor saxophone, had overcome his drug addiction problem,and was an excellent player with the Thelonious Monk. To Davis, thisdiscovery was significant because the Monk commanded adequateknowledge of harmony, as well as appropriate employment of space.While working with the Monk group, Coltrane developed effectiveskills of establishing his melodic technique by finding unique waysof approaching every chord. This case also applied to Davis whoperceived as a vital aspect that he intended to integrate into hisidea. In Davis’ modal jazz music, this melodicdevelopment/establishment was instrumental. Prior to the recordingsession for the first Kindof Blue,Davis was involved in the recording of two significant albums thatwere closely associated with the modal music24.These albums were the collaboration he made with Gil Evans, anarranger and composer, and the Milestones, on which Davis recorded afull piece in modal technique for the first time. His collaborationwith Gil Evans was a version of the masque Porgy and Bess, which wascreated by George Gershwin. In this piece, Evans’ writings existedin static harmonies, as opposed to chord changes. Such an approachprovided Davis with an opportunity to improvise the piece. Forinstance, Davis stated in an interview that there was a long spacewhen Evans and him do not alter the chord and added that Evanscreated a scale for him to play when he developed the Porg and I Lovearrangements25.Considering the above comment, it can be noted that Evans and Davisshared concepts and ideas, thereby resulting into more melodicdevelopment and fewer chords.
Davis’svisualization was now apparent and what ensued was the end of hislong journey in the transformation of the jazz music. For example, intwo recording sessions that occurred on 22ndApril and 2ndMarch of 1959, he succeeded in recording Kindof Blue26.The recording of this piece evidenced a completely novel type ofjazz, which was associated with a change of technique from the hardbop music to modal music. As such, Davis’ Kindof Bluehas received a warm welcome from fans and experts. He was consideredamong the most prominent albums in the jazz history owing to thesignificant transformation that occurred to jazz.
Davis’production of Kindof Blueaffirmed his jazz prowess, as a visionary and innovator, not only dueto the novel musical approach, but also due the establishment of boththe young talent and small-group concept. Examples of the youngartistes whose talents were sharpened by Davis were Chambers,Adderley, and Coltrane. Even though the entire album was associatedby the relaxed and smooth sound, “Flamenco Sketches” and “SoWhat” perfectly demonstrated the complete transformation intechnique27.Considering these pieces, it is clear that the employment of simpleharmonic structures/assemblies on which the soloist can improvise,pedal points, and more concentration on the development of melody, asopposed to where the chords can be placed in fast chordtransformations is clear. The harmonic style was founded majorly onthe oscillation or alternation of the open voicing’s parallelchords in quartal disposition, primarily the seventh and fourthchords, and the chords arranged second clusters, both of which wereborrowed from the impressionistic technique. At the culmination ofthe 1950s, Davis developed a new beginning in the establishment ofthe jazz music with the release of the Kindof Blue28. His prolonged search for novel mechanisms of expression resultedinto the development of an album that became synonymous with themodal jazz music, thereby assuring his position within the history ofjazz. He finalized the fifties by inaugurating a novel world ofalternatives or options that could be explored by the subsequentgenerations.
Inconclusion, Miles Davis made enormous contributions to thedevelopment of the jazz music, as evidenced in its transformationfromthe hard bop jazz music to the prominent modal jazz. Davisdemonstrated restless efforts in his quest to develop new mechanismsof approaching the development of the jazz music, which is presentlyenjoyed by many individuals across the globe. His opening of the newopportunities for exploring jazz has resulted into the elimination ofboundaries that formerly existed in jazz. Thus, Davis will foreverremain a prominent personality in the history of jazz music.
Aaberg,David E. "Jazz: Yesterday and Today: So Much Music for One SmallWord." In PhiKappa Phi Forum,vol. 86, no. 4, p. 15. National Forum: Phi Kappa Phi Journal, 2006.
Farley,Jeff. "Jazz as a Black American Art Form: Definitions of theJazz Preservation Act." Journalof American Studies45, no. 01 (2011): 113-129
Kenny,Ailbhe. "‘Collaborative creativity’within a jazz ensemble asa musical and social practice." ThinkingSkills and Creativity13 (2014): 1-8.
O`Meally,Robert G., Brent Hayes Edwards, and Farah Jasmine Griffin. Uptownconversation: The new jazz studies.Columbia University Press, 2004.
Poole,Rob. "‘Kind of Blue’: creativity, mental disorder and jazz."TheBritish Journal of Psychiatry183, no. 3 (2003): 193-194.
Tingen,Paul. MilesBeyond: The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991.Watson-Guptill Publications, 2001.
1 Kenny, Ailbhe. "‘Collaborative creativity’within a jazz ensemble as a musical and social practice." Thinking Skills and Creativity 13 (2014): 1-8.
2 Aaberg, David E. "Jazz: Yesterday and Today: So Much Music for One Small Word." In Phi Kappa Phi Forum, vol. 86, no. 4, p. 15. National Forum: Phi Kappa Phi Journal, 2006.
3 Kenny, Ailbhe. "‘Collaborative creativity’within a jazz ensemble as a musical and social practice." Thinking Skills and Creativity 13 (2014): 1-8.
5 Farley, Jeff. "Jazz as a Black American Art Form: Definitions of the Jazz Preservation Act." Journal of American Studies 45, no. 01 (2011): 113-129
6 Aaberg, David E. "Jazz: Yesterday and Today: So Much Music for One Small Word." In Phi Kappa Phi Forum, vol. 86, no. 4, p. 15. National Forum: Phi Kappa Phi Journal, 2006.
9 O`Meally, Robert G., Brent Hayes Edwards, and Farah Jasmine Griffin. Uptown conversation: The new jazz studies. Columbia University Press, 2004
12 Aaberg, David E. "Jazz: Yesterday and Today: So Much Music for One Small Word." In Phi Kappa Phi Forum, vol. 86, no. 4, p. 15. National Forum: Phi Kappa Phi Journal, 2006.
13 Tingen, Paul. Miles Beyond: The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2001.
14 Poole, Rob. "‘Kind of Blue’: creativity, mental disorder and jazz." The British Journal of Psychiatry 183, no. 3 (2003): 193-194.
15 Tingen, Paul. Miles Beyond: The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2001.
16 Poole, Rob. "‘Kind of Blue’: creativity, mental disorder and jazz." The British Journal of Psychiatry 183, no. 3 (2003): 193-194.
18 Poole, Rob. "‘Kind of Blue’: creativity, mental disorder and jazz." The British Journal of Psychiatry 183, no. 3 (2003): 193-194.
19 Farley, Jeff. "Jazz as a Black American Art Form: Definitions of the Jazz Preservation Act." Journal of American Studies 45, no. 01 (2011): 113-129
20 Aaberg, David E. "Jazz: Yesterday and Today: So Much Music for One Small Word." In Phi Kappa Phi Forum, vol. 86, no. 4, p. 15. National Forum: Phi Kappa Phi Journal, 2006.
22 Kenny, Ailbhe. "‘Collaborative creativity’within a jazz ensemble as a musical and social practice." Thinking Skills and Creativity 13 (2014): 1-8
23 O`Meally, Robert G., Brent Hayes Edwards, and Farah Jasmine Griffin. Uptown conversation: The new jazz studies. Columbia University Press, 2004.
24 Kenny, Ailbhe. "‘Collaborative creativity’within a jazz ensemble as a musical and social practice." Thinking Skills and Creativity 13 (2014): 1-8
26 Poole, Rob. "‘Kind of Blue’: creativity, mental disorder and jazz." The British Journal of Psychiatry 183, no. 3 (2003): 193-194.
27 Tingen, Paul. Miles Beyond: The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2001.
28 O`Meally, Robert G., Brent Hayes Edwards, and Farah Jasmine Griffin. Uptown conversation: The new jazz studies. Columbia University Press, 2004.