- NAME: Miles Davis
- OCCUPATION: Songwriter, Trumpet Player
- BIRTH DATE: May 26, 1926
- DEATH DATE: September 28, 1991
- EDUCATION: The Juilliard School (formerly the Institute of Musical Art)
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Alton, Illinois
- PLACE OF DEATH: Santa Monica, California
- AKA: Miles Davis
- Full Name: Miles Dewey Davis III
- AKA: Miles Dewey Davis
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Nine-time Grammy Award winner Miles Davis was a major force in the jazz world, as both a trumpet player and a bandleader.
Built in 1939, the Lenox Lounge was a hub of Harlem’s cultural life, attracting famous regulars like Billie Holiday and Langston Hughes. In December 2012, the Lenox Lounge closed its doors with plans to open at a new address.
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Davis continued to be be successful throughout the 1960s. His band transformed over time, largely due to new band members and changes in style. The various members of his band went on to become some of the most influential musicians of the jazz fusion era. These included Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul (Weather Report), Chick Corea (Return to Forever),
and John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra).
The development of jazz fusion was influenced by artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone, reflecting the "fusion" of jazz and rock. The album Bitches Brew, recorded a few weeks after the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, set the stage for the jazz fusion movement to follow. Bitches Brew soon became a best-selling album. As a result, Davis was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine—becoming the first jazz artist to be so recognized. For his traditional fans, this change of style was not welcome, but it exemplifies Davis's ability to experiment and push the limits of his own music style.
In 1975, Davis was once again drawn into drug abuse, becoming addicted to alcohol and cocaine, and subsequently taking a five-year hiatus from his career. In 1979, he met Cicely Tyson, an American actress, who helped him overcome his cocaine addiction. He and Tyson married in 1981.
From 1979 to 1981, Davis worked on recordings that culminated in the release of the album The Man with the Horn, which registered steady sales but wasn't well-received by critics. Davis spent the 1980s continuing to experiment with different styles. He interpreted songs made popular by Michael Jackson ("Human Nature") and Cyndi Lauper ("Time After Time") on his album You're Under Arrest, released in 1985.
It was around this time that Davis developed a feud with fellow trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis publicly criticized Davis's work in jazz fusion, claiming that it wasn't "true" jazz. Subsequently, when Marsalis attempted to join Davis onstage without invitation at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 1986, Davis requested that he leave the stage, using strong language. To this day, the quarrel between the musicians has been credited with making the International Jazz Festival famous.
Davis reinvented himself yet again in 1986 with the release of Tutu. Incorporating synthesizers, drum loops and samples, the album was well-received and garnered Davis another Grammy Award. This was followed by the release of Aura, an album that Davis had created in 1985 as a tribute to the Miles Davis "aura," but wasn't released until 1989. Davis won yet another Grammy for this project.
Honoring his body of work, in 1990, Miles Davis received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. In 1991, he played with Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The two performed a retrospective of Davis's early work, some of which he had not played in public for more than 20 years.
Later that same year, on September 21, 1991, Davis succumbed to pneumonia and respiratory failure, dying at the age of 65. Fittingly, his recording with Quincy Jones would bring Miles Davis his final Grammy, awarded posthumously in 1993. The honor was just another testament to the musician's profound and lasting influence on jazz.
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With its roots in the blues, jazz has been referred to as America's classical music, yet has also become a major global phenomenon, branching off into a variety of forms. Earlier pioneers like Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton paved the way for the swinging big-band sounds of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. In contrast, contemporaries Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk developed bebop, with its speedy, dissonant harmonies and improvisations. And Miles Davis heralded the birth of cool jazz, modal jazz and fusion at different points in his career. Famous jazz instrumentalists have tended to be male, yet women have been at the forefront of the genre when it comes to vocalization, from the brassy blues of Bessie Smith to the haunting eclecticism of Nina Simone.
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