Miles Davis passed away 20 years ago today, so some kind of tribute is in order. Here's mine.
Upturn every jazz stone after the 1940s and chances are that you will see the name Miles Davis written underneath more often than not.
He started his meteoric musical career as a young trumpet player beside Charlie Parker, and it has been upwards ever since.
His Birth Of The Cool sessions of 1949 with his nonet first introduced jazz audiences to the notion of cool jazz. His subsequent quintet of the mid fifties featuring John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb et al, showed the world how hard bop should be.
As if these were not enough, his 1958 "Kind Of Blue" album, THE most successful jazz album of all time, gave the world modal jazz.
His second great quintet with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams of the 1960s explored the new territory of post and freebop.
And finally, his 1969 Bitches Brew album, turned the jazz world on its head with its reckless electric experimentalism, and fusion music was born, not to mention that musicians in the caliber of Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul and many others won instant recognition. Not bad at all.
The 1970 Isle of Wight festival was by far the largest and most famous of these early festivals indeed it was said at the time to be one of the largest human gatherings in the world surpassing the attendance at Woodstock. The most notable of over fifty performers were The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Ten Years After, Joni Mitchell, Melanie, Donovan, Free, Chicago, Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Leonard Cohen, Jethro Tull and Tiny Tim. The unexpected level of the attendees (tickets holders accounted only for 50.000) was beyond that which the festival organizers and local authorities could supply adequate amenities and guarantee public safety for. Such concerns led in 1971, to Parliament passing the "Isle of Wight Act" preventing gatherings of more than 5,000 people on the island without a special license.
The festival was revived only in 2002.
A piece of music history then, Miles Davis in the company of jazz superstars to-be Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira and Gary Bartz, in a 35 minute free form improvisation which Miles, after being asked the title famously replied "oh, call it anything".
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