WHERE TO BEGIN WITH… Miles Davis

Miles Davis (1926 – 1991) has been the subject of countless quality biographies, documentaries and has even his biopic entitled Miles Ahead (starring Don Cheadle and Ewan McGregor). What often stays a mystery is not Miles himself, but how to approach his music. Some would be tempted to try to start the climb in the chronological order of his career, or to begin with the so-called “classics” (aka his early years with Columbia Records and his Blue Note debut, Kind of Blue) . Even though these methods would rightfully satiate the curiosity of many, one would miss a great deal of Music history.

Our approach is slightly different. While some would instantly reject what’s not considered “real jazz”, we advise to start by what we consider the most approachable. Don’t take us wrong: the instant attractiveness of our selection doesn’t remove any of the importance these titles and records have

We personally started with In A Silent Way and found it quite confusing at first. It is today our favorite. Taking your time is key!

#1 - Miles Davis - U'N'I (Star People, 1983)

Star People matters more than most think. This album didn’t give birth to jazz fusion, but significantly expanded it and helped defining the aesthetics of the eighties sound. This is what defined modern and laidback groove.

U’n’I  has a really simple song structure, and is not especially remarkable in terms of music theory. It features Marcus Miller on bass guitar and John Scofield on electric guitar, who both later took off as respected producers and musicians.

#2 Miles Davis - Eighty-One (E.S.P., 1965)

The most striking about ESP is at first the album cover, and at an age where we all pick our records according to their covers, yes, it matters. The picture was taken by Bob Cato and features Frances Taylor (who also appeared on the cover of Someday My Prince Will Come), Davis’ wife at the time.

Eighty-One was composed by Ron Carter and Miles Davis. The song sounds like an afternoon in the shade. Tony William’s performance on drums is unmissable.

Miles Davis - It's about that time (In a Silent Way, 1969)

As we mentioned in the intro, we had a hard time appreciating In A Silent Way at first, but we knew that something was in there. So we kept listening. Humbly speaking, we can say that we were right and we are happy that we did so. 

We picked this edited version on purpose, since it goes straight to the point. This song is also known as being John McLaughlin’s take off. Best enjoyed with red wine.

Written by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture

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