Miles Davis

Back Story

  • ORIGIN: Alton, Illinois, USA
  • KEY COLLABORATORS: Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Gil Evans, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Jack DeJohnette
  • GENRES: Jazz
  • YEARS ACTIVE: 1944-1991

In the prologue to his autobiography, published in 1989, two years before his death, Miles Davis described the impact of hearing Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker for the first time. “I said, What is this!?” recalled Miles. “Man, that shit was so terrible, it was scary. Man, that shit was all up in my body. Music all up my body, and that’s what I wanted to hear.” And it is those very sentiments of disbelief, shock and immersion that the great trumpeter, bandleader and composer managed to evoke during his lengthy career, producing a body of work that to many remains impenetrable because of the sheer volume of Davis’s output. (continues below)


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Signed to Columbia between 1956 and 1986, Miles released over 40 ‘official’ albums. Since his death his catalogue from that period has been lovingly restored, largely by producer Bob Belden, and now Milesphiles can lose themselves further in multiple CD sets filled with alternate takes and extended workouts.

Miles was the master of understanding how music and art relate to life.
— Herbie Hancock, MOJO, 2001

Then there are releases from Miles’s early days as a sideman on the Savoy and Dial labels, followed by his time at Blue Note and Prestige, as well as later material on Warners. Like his Columbia labelmates Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, Miles sailed way beyond the realms of any one genre, undergoing at least four full stylistic transformations and changed music accordingly.

The selection of 10 albums above – and, let’s be honest, we could have included 20 or more – is partly an introduction to Miles, but it is also a series of key moments where the trumpeter changed not just the face of jazz, but forged new futures for progressive, forward-thinking music of every genre.