Miles Davis - Will O' the Wisp

29 Sep
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In the fall of 1944, following graduation from high school, Davis moved to New York City to study at the Juilliard School of Music.
Upon arriving in New York, he spent most of his first weeks in town trying to get in contact with Charlie Parker, despite being advised against doing so by several people he met during his quest, including saxophonist Coleman Hawkins Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, Max Roach, August 1947

Finally locating his idol, Davis became one of the cadre of musicians who held nightly jam sessions at two of Harlem's nightclubs, Minton's Playhouse and Monroe's. The group included many of the future leaders of the bebop revolution: young players such as Fats Navarro, Freddie Webster, and J. J. Johnson. Established musicians including Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke were also regular participants.

Davis dropped out of Juilliard, after asking permission from his father. In his autobiography, Davis criticized the Juilliard classes for centering too much on the classical European and "white" repertoire. However, he also acknowledged that, while greatly improving his trumpet playing technique, Juilliard helped give him a grounding in music theory that would prove valuable in later years.

Davis began playing professionally, performing in several 52nd Street clubs with Coleman Hawkins and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. In 1945, he entered a recording studio for the first time, as a member of Herbie Fields's group. This was the first of many recordings to which Davis contributed in this period, mostly as a sideman. He finally got the chance to record as a leader in 1946, with an occasional group called the Miles Davis Sextet plus Earl Coleman and Ann Hathaway—one of the rare occasions when Davis, by then a member of the groundbreaking Charlie Parker Quintet, can be heard accompanying singers.[9] In these early years, recording sessions where Davis was the leader were the exception rather than the rule; his next date as leader would not come until 1947.

Around 1945, Dizzy Gillespie parted ways with Parker, and Davis was hired as Gillespie's replacement in his quintet, which also featured Max Roach on drums, Al Haig (replaced later by Sir Charles Thompson and Duke Jordan) on piano, and Curley Russell (later replaced by Tommy Potter and Leonard Gaskin) on bass.

With Parker's quintet, Davis went into the studio several times, already showing hints of the style for which he would become known. On an oft-quoted take of Parker's signature song, "Now's the Time", Davis takes a melodic solo, whose unbop-like quality anticipates the "cool jazz" period that would follow. The Parker quintet also toured widely. During a stop in Los Angeles, Parker had a nervous breakdown that landed him in the Camarillo State Mental Hospital for several months, and Davis found himself stranded. He roomed and collaborated for some time with bassist Charles Mingus, before getting a job on Billy Eckstine's California tour, which eventually brought him back to New York. In 1948, Parker returned to New York, and Davis rejoined his group.

Miles Davis on piano with Howard McGhee and Brick Fleagle, September 1947The relationships within the quintet, however, were growing tense. Parker's erratic behavior (attributable to his well-known drug addiction) and artistic choices (both Davis and Roach objected to having Duke Jordan as a pianist and would have preferred Bud Powell) became sources of friction. In December 1948, disputes over money (Davis claims he was not beingpaid) began to strain their relationship even further. Davis finally left the group following a confrontation with Parker at the Royal Roost.

For Davis, his departure from Parker's group marked the beginning of a period in which he worked mainly as a freelancer and as a sideman in some of the most important combos on the New York jazz scene

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