Trumpeter and composer Miles Davis had a marvelously productive
career. He attracted the most talented jazz musicians many of whom went on to
create evolving expressions of jazz as the most technically advanced and,
for some, the most appealing music of the 20th century. Davis attracted the best
musicians available so that innovation was an eclectic group effort.
Miles began recording in 1946 with Charlie Parker. He formed his first
quintet in 1955 which became well known but dissipated in the early 60's. By
1963 the Miles Davis quintet was renewed with saxophonist George Coleman,
pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams. Wayne
Shorter replaced Coleman in 1964. By 1969, electronic instruments
dominated the album “In a Silent Way”, an innovative fusion album. In a Silent
Way was composed of two side-long suites, a quiet album would influence the
development of ambient music. It featured musicians who would develop fusion
styles with their own groups in the 1970s: Shorter, Hancock, Corea, pianist
Josef Zawinul, guitarist John McLaughlin, Holland, and Williams. Williams quit
Davis to form his own fusion band after recording sessions for the album Bitches
Brew in 1970 that abandoned traditional jazz. The album gave Davis a gold
record, and created consternation within the jazz community that remains to this
day; many critics and musicians remain critical of Davis after his forays into
The Miles album Kind of Blue (1959) has been described as the
"greatest jazz album of all time." Pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly,
drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers, and saxophonists John Coltrane and
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley all contributed to tunes based on modal scales.
Davis gave the players scales to guide their improvisation. Quincy Jones wrote:
"I play Kind of Blue every day—it's my orange juice. It still sounds like it was
made yesterday". Davis described his musical theory: "No chords gives you more
freedom and space to hear things. When you go this way, you can go on forever.
You don't have to worry about changes. It becomes a challenge to see how
melodically innovative you can be. When you're based on chords, you know at the
end of 32 bars that the chords have run out and there's nothing to do but repeat
what you've just done—with variations. I think a movement in jazz is beginning
away from the conventional string of chords... there will be fewer chords but
infinite possibilities as to what to do with them."
Philip Pape wrote:" Very few albums can match this Miles Davis's 1959
classic, often considered the greatest album in the history of jazz. Backed by
an exquisite combo, this is an essential recording even for those who don't
listen to jazz. This recording was the beginning of modal jazz, and while
Coltrane displays his free, unorthodox style and intense tone, Miles balances
this with his contrasting smoothness and sparse phrasing. Cannonball colors
Coltrane's sound with a rhythmically daring yet more melodic style of his own,
characteristic of his traditional and ebullient phrasing. Bill Evans, whether
accompanying or soloing, prefers a style more likened to the title of the album.
He glides elegantly and profoundly on top of the driving yet laid back swing of
Jimmy Cobb. Paul Chambers serves as the technically dynamic and harmonic
foundation for the group, lending his exceptional skill to a tight rhythm
Robert Irving joined Miles Davis to create the album Decoy, released in 1983
and continued with Davis' touring band as the keyboardist and musical director.
Irving listened to recordings of each night’s performance with Davis to find the
best improvisatory expressions to be included in subsequent arrangements. An
Irving- Davis 1985 album (You're Under Arrest) featured “Time after Time” and
“Human Nature.” Irving appears to be the music intellectual and the glue that
held the touring band together; he remained close to Davis until his death in
1991 Irving also collaborated with Bill Evans, who had arranged some of Davis’
most celebrated recordings. The title piece Decoy of the 1983 album is credited
to Irving and, for me, became an anthem piece that expresses a special kind of
articulate, virtuoso anger. The trumpet solo calls out for liberation. The
entire piece describes Davis (and many other jazz musicians), an angry man who
suffered all the indignities of being an educated, talented black man in the
white supremist nation, the USA.
Miles Lineage A collection of Jazz classics
Arrangements and performance by Stephen Gislason & P2500 Band
Decoy (Robert Irving)
Tutu ( Marcus Miller)
Tutu: Miles Davis and Marcus Miller
Decoy: Miles Davis and Robert Irving
Persona Music Recordings: Our Music Catalogue includes recorded performances
under the titles Persona Digital, P2500 Band, Em4U, and the Persona Classical Consort. Music online is offered to illustrate music history, advance music education and appreciation. The recordings presented online demonstrate Persona
Studio's arranging, recording and mastering techniques. All the recordings are
arrangements and performances completed in house by Stephen Gislason. The music selections and their history
are explained in the book, Sound of Music.
Topics presented at Persona Digital Studio are from the The Sound of Music by
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