Happy Birthday, Miles Davis!
Jazz has been on a slight come-up these past few years. Kendrick Lamar incorporated the genre predominantly throughout his To Pimp a Butterfly album and artists like Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington (two musicians who contributed to TPAB) are adding excitement to the genre. Still, we're a long way away, if ever, from anybody doing it as big as the legendary Miles Davis did it back in his heyday. The jazz innovator would've turned 89 years old today (May 26).
Moving into the mid-1900s, jazz was a bit stuck. Musicians were frustrated by the constraints of the genre's European influences and bebop-style's complex chord shifts were placing on them. So Davis pioneered a new way of doing jazz. Kind of Blue, his most acclaimed album, was notable for being a father of modal jazz: a form that eschews major or minor chords for structures that are simpler, but allows a serene feel. Plus, it still sounds great.
Davis is also known as the guy who could make jazz for people who aren't into jazz. He fused other influences into the genre to stunning effect. For example, the addition of electric guitar riffs led to Bitches Brew -- another one of his greatest albums. Urban rhythms and a bit of funk were at play during his On the Corner LP. Jazz musicians weren't blending genres with Davis' level of brilliance.
The jazz player's greatness can also be seen in those he influenced. This prestigious class includes John Coltrane, George Coleman and Herbie Hancock. No other jazz musician has had this much influence and acclaim since Davis passed away in 1991.
Watch Miles Davis Perform "So What"
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