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Miles Davis: Over-rated?

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by MikeBarber, Feb 2, 2005.

  1. Not to get too far off topic, but am I the only one who feels Miles Davis gets way more credit than he deserves?

    Whenever I hear someone characterise Miles as an innovator, I recall Mingus' open letter chiding Miles for his previous remarks, asking Mingus why his band can only play three chords (or something to that effect), and now he's doing this "modal jazz"... anyone else familiar with this letter? (I would think so, especially among bassists.)

    I always looked at Miles as the David Bowie of jazz...


    After doing a search online, i can't find a reference to the open letter. The only one i can find is AN OPEN LETTER TO MILES DAVIS. I can't recall where it was I read about this... perhaps from my Jazz History college class (from 9 years ago)
  2. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I imagine you are. He changed the jazz paradigm not just once but about five times. He actually led the public to true creative artistry, too, and most people never do that once.

    Responding to your comment about Mingus, it's true that Miles didn't single-handedly dream up the idea of modal jazz. Or the idea of cool jazz. Or the idea of modern jazz that bridges bop and cool. Or the idea of post-modern jazz that synthesized modern jazz with the directions Ornette Coleman pioneered. Or the idea of using rock instruments in jazz. No, he didn't think them up, but each of those ideas was on the fringe until Miles made it the only way to fly.

    And that's just the broad musical direction -- it doesn't touch on the dozens of innovators whose careers were shaped by their time playing in Miles' bands.

    In case you can't tell, I think credit is due. Hats off to MD.
  3. No. I was catching Miles live in the late 50's, and like alot of people, thought he walked on water. I recently picked up two recordings of Red Rodney made at the same time. Red's playing was astonishing, as was the trumpet playing of his band mate, saxophoist Ira Sullivan. Barely a word was being said in the jazz press (Down Beat, Metronome, or the best jazz magazine ever, Nat Hentoff's Jazz Review) about Rodney. The pro-Miles bias was just typical show biz inequity.
    As for the last years, in my view Miles simply lapsed into farce.
  4. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    [[Not to get too far off topic, but am I the only one who feels Miles Davis gets way more credit than he deserves?

    Well I don’t know about that but I do think its funny the way jazz musicians invariably list him on their resume even if they just tuned up in his presence. I also find his whole ‘I'm a bad-ass’ thing a bit of a bore and more than a little pretentious.
  5. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    ["The pro-Miles bias was just typical show biz inequity."]
    And yet that doesn't detract from the fact that he represents the ideal towards which all jazz musicians aspire: to develop a uniquely and unmistakably personal voice as an improvisor, and to make creative music within ensembles of a transcendence that is greater than the sum of their parts. I think its just a fluke of history that he was working in the exact moment in time (I'm talking 1954-1965 here) when the market fully supported his endeavors to do exactly what he, as an artist, wanted to do. He's a colossus astride the jazz world, and the adoration he receives does make it necessary to step back now and again and say "Wait a minute, Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan were a big part of 'Birth of the Cool,' George Russell (not Mingus...) may have given him the idea of modal jazz, he had a young wife who played James Brown and Jimi Hendrix for him thus possibly inspiring the fusion idea, his trumpet playing might not come out on top if weighed against Red Rodney, Clifford Brown, or Freddie Hubbard in some pointless comparison that removed the ineffable qualities of expression from the equation, and yes, that stuff in the 1980s just plain sucked." But still! He was The Man.
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Miles as historical figure - he contributed so much in putting together bands that would establish a new paradigm, but that new paradigm resulted from the bands' creative interaction rather than the imposition of "Miles' will". The thing that changed the music was getting Wyane, Herbie and Tony in the same room. Th ething that got Wayne, Herbie and Tony in the same room was Miles.

    Miles as musician - there are some hauntingly beautiful solos. But even they sound funny when you take them down to half speed. There's a lot of imprecision there. Jon says his dad would always laugh when he heard Miles "play" a melody.

    All of that being said, the only musician I have in my collection with more recordings than Miles is Sonny Rollins.
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I guess the simple counter-question is who deserves MORE credit?

    People who live in glass houses, etc.
  8. Eric Grossman

    Eric Grossman

    Nov 3, 2004
    St. Louis
    Endorsing Artist: Hipshot Products and SIT Strings
    Miles, was always trying to change the direction of Jazz music, so it was inevitable that there were highs and lows. I don't want to dispute history, and clearly my fact checking would be questionable. All I can do is say that I love Miles' music, and he has influenced me immensely. Most of all it was his voice that inspires me.

    He may not have been the most techniquely brilliant instrumentalist, but many of the greats were not, and are not. To me, he could speak volumes with a single note. His sound is immediately recognizable.

    I can't believe that the wool could have been pulled over the eyes of so many of the musicians that are currently acknowledged as the best of the best. To a person, Miles influenced more current Jazz players (as well as other genres) than most any other person. Read articles and interviews. His name comes up constantly, in discussions with the great of today. These are brilliant people who herald him.

    I am grateful for Miles' contribution to modern music, and to the lanscape of musicians that have grown to be my heroes under his tutelage (sp?).

    As a point of interest, I have the Bass Real Book page for "So What" tatooed on my back. Yes, it hurt like hell.
  9. TomSauter


    Dec 22, 2004
    Kennesaw, GA
    Why did you name everyone in the band except Ron Carter?
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Because I think that Ron's impact was not as great as the trhee named.
  11. TomSauter


    Dec 22, 2004
    Kennesaw, GA
    In terms of influence in general, Ron may not have had as great of an impact as Wayne, Herbie, and Tony (although I think his influence is pretty significant), but you were talking about how the interaction in the band was what made them great. Ron was an integral member of the band in terms of interaction. It's also never wrong to mention Ron Carter in a bass forum!
  12. Confucius


    Dec 27, 2004
    New York

    Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman
  13. I agree with Mr. Fuqua, in that one of Miles most unique talents was the ability to put people TOGETHER that seemed Born to play together.
    To put my feelings for Miles in a phrase, it would have to be that ' I AM a Fan.' I'm even a fan of his ability to stretch people out!
  14. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Yes, yes, no.
  15. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
  16. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    Ed and I have something in common...
  17. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    But all three of them get PLENTY of credit. Of course, some feel Ornette is way overrated...

    Someone mentioned Red Rodney...great player, better technically than Miles but does that mean he should be heralded more than Miles is?
  18. FidgetStone


    Jun 30, 2002
    Allen, TX
    I can't argue Ron Carter's impact relative to the other players in Miles band at that time. I did, however, make an observation not too long ago that was very interesting to me.

    My oldest daughter bought me a Miles 2-CD compilation called "Essential Miles Davis" that has a lot of his most famous songs in chronological order. I had lots of the tunes on other CDs but listening to this compilation in chronological order caused quite an eye-opener for me when the bass job went from Paul Chambers to Ron Carter.

    I love both guys. Comparatively speaking, however, Chamber's playing was more like older style quarter note walking with flourishes here and there where Carter's playing was much more chord-driven and melodic with a great many more long sustained notes. Carter did plenty of walking too but the differences in overall style between the two players seemed quite dramatic to me.
  19. Hopefully it´s not underwear
  20. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    I think that..........Miles was a great consolidator then innovator, many times over. And a fine (just not technically brilliant) trumpeter. I think many times we lose sight of past innovations because of the context of time that we are living in. For example, someone may listen to the Hawk doing "Body and Soul" from 1939, and say "So? what's the big deal anyway?". But if you were around in '39 and heard that......well, it's a different perspective. It might even have been shocking. A lot of what Miles did has become so mainstream, there are ENDLESS droves of Jazz groups that play in the Mid 60s Miles style, so one can simply say "he's no big deal." Like when something gets forgotten as an innovation and just becomes mainstream. But I think perspective in context is an important thing to think about.

    hope that made some sense....