May marks the 75th birthday of the late jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. Miles was one of jazz music's most gifted performers. He was also one of its most unpredictable. From the moment he set foot in New York City in 1944 until his death in 1991, Miles kept his audience guessing what might come next.
He went from bop to pop. Not overnight, of course, but during a recording career that spanned more than 40 years.
Miles Davis came from an upper middle class family in East Saint Louis, Missouri. His father wanted him to study classical trumpet at the Julliard School of Music in New York, but Miles had jazz, a new kind of jazz, on his mind.
Miles Davis was only 20 years old when he joined Charlie Parker's quintet in 1946. He was eager to learn Parker's unusual timing and spent nights writing down chord changes on matchbook covers. Miles launched his own quintet, at first employing John Coltrane, Red Garland and Philly Joe Jones; and later with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. His signature soft sound gave birth to the "cool jazz" period which included his orchestral albums "Porgy And Bess," "Miles Ahead," "Sketches Of Spain" and "Kind Of Blue."
With the arrival of rock music in the 1960s, Miles Davis discovered a new outlet for his new free form style. Leaving be-bop and swing behind, Miles experimented with electronic jazz or jazz fusion, and recorded one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time "Bitches Brew." But health problems eventually forced him to his retire in 1975. Miles found he had more fans than ever when he re-emerged five years later with a new album and a new sound.
Miles cornered the pop and jazz world with renditions of "Time After Time" and "Human Nature." Coming full circle, he reunited with many of his former sidemen for recreations of his works by longtime collaborator Gil Evans. Saxophonist Gerry Mulligan even suggested making an album called "Rebirth Of The Cool." Miles was 65 when he died on September 28, 1991.
The release of "Super Hits," a new collection of Miles Davis' greatest recordings coincides with his 75th birthday May 25.