Miles Davis is arguably one of the most influential trumpet players and band leaders in American history (Louis Armstrong is another) with a career that spanned 50 years. He was not only a multi-platinum artist, but he was also an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2006). His album Kind Of Blue, is considered a “national treasure” and received its fourth platinum certification in 2008 for over four million sales in the US alone.

Trumpet Player Miles Davis (né Miles Dewey Davis III) was born in Illinois on May 26, 1926 to dental surgeon, Dr. Miles Dewey Davis, Jr., and music teacher, Cleota Mae Davis. At the age of 12 he began taking trumpet lessons and by the age of 16 he was playing professional gigs.

Davis got his start playing with Eddie Randle’s Blue Devils, a band based in St. Louis. He also had the opportunity to play as a part of Billy Eckstine’s band while they were in the same area due to the fact that his regular trumpeter was out sick. As part of this opportunity, Miles played with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

Later that year (1944), he began studying at Julliard (then known as the Institute of Musical Arts in New York City) and performing with Parker in local clubs. After only a year in school, he abandoned his education for a full-time career in music, and joined Benny Carter’s band. It was with this group that he played on his first recordings as a sideman.

In 1949, Miles Davis earned a contract with Capitol Records which resulted in 12 tracks he recorded with Kai Winding, Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, JJ Johnson, John Lewis and Kenny Clarke. This 12 tracks were eventually released by Capitol as the LP Birth of the Cool.

Miles Davis signed with Prestige in the early 1950s and released several albums with performers such as Sonny Rollins and Art Blakey.

In 1959, Davis released Kind Of Blue, and the album went on to sell several million copies not only making it a great success, but arguably his most popular album.

During the 60s, Davis continued to record and collaborate with artists such as Hank Mobley, Coltrane, Gil Evans, Herbie Hancock, et al. Bitches Brew was released in 1970, signifying Davis’ turn to a more electrified and jazz-rock style. The album reached the pop Top 40s and was his first certified gold album.

He continued to record and perform into the 70s and 80s (with the exception of a five year break due to illness). He passed away in 1991 due to a combination of pneumonia, a stroke and respiratory failure all occurring within a few months.

Throughout his career, Miles Davis recorded and released more than 50 albums, earned the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and countless Grammy awards for Best Jazz Composition, Best Jazz Performance, Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Best R&B Performance and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance. He inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006 and he received an honorary Doctorate in Music from the New England Conservatory as well as countless other awards.

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Published by Shannon Kennedy

Shannon Kennedy is a vocalist and saxophonist living in Southern California. She is author of "The Album Checklist" and the founder of Teen Jazz. She has been contributing articles to music magaizines and websites since 2004.