Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

Giant Steps: Jazz Greats

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Miles Davis, 1947

Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Miles Davis was swept up in the rising bebop movement in the 1940s, early on playing with Charlie Parker and later becoming perhaps the greatest innovator in jazz history. While he was interested in the fast runs, long solos, and creative chaos of bebop, Davis was also drawn to slow playing and quiet moments and was instrumental in developing the new "cool" style of jazz and moved away almost entirely from bop. Rather than imitate Dizzy Gillespie's soaring notes and high speed improvising, Miles developed a slow, thoughtful tone captured in the landmark album Kind of Blue (1959), perhaps the best-selling jazz recording of all time. More than anything, Davis defined himself by contradiction and experimentation, switching from "hot" bebop bands to "cool" introspective quartets and back again. After he went electric with the album In a Silent Way (1969) it was a short step to the revolutionary album Bitches Brew (1969/70), which launched the fusion movement in jazz. His musical interests eventually encompassed classical and world music, Spanish folk influences, funk, rock, and electronica. This picture from 1947 shows Davis in the center, sitting in on a session with Howard McGhee.

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