Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop

Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop

Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop

Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop


Focusing on one of the legendary musicians in jazz, this book examines Miles Davis's often overlooked music of the mid-1960s with a close examination of the evolution of a new style: post bop. Jeremy Yudkin traces Davis's life and work during a period when the trumpeter was struggling with personal and musical challenges only to emerge once again as the artistic leader of his generation.

A major force in post-war American jazz, Miles Davis was a pioneer of cool jazz, hard bop, and modal jazz in a variety of small group formats. The formation in the mid-1960s of the Second Quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams was vital to the invention of the new post bop style. Yudkin illustrates and precisely defines this style with an analysis of the 1966 classic Miles Smiles.


Miles Davis was an icon of twentieth-century America—instantly recognizable both in pictures (S-shaped back, trumpet at a downward angle) and in sound (muted on trumpet, hoarse of voice). He was also an outsider. the first reason for this is that he lived in the world of jazz. Jazz musicians speak their own language, the language of flat seconds, altered chords, and tritone substitutions. and yet, of course, they also speak to nonexperts, for alongside their language is a metalanguage—the language of feelings, in which wit, melancholy, joy, anguish, pain, solitude, togetherness, frenetic intensity, and dreamy calm are expressed and received in a place beyond words. We all know this. and Miles Davis learned the secret of meaningful communication: speak only when you have something to say. His thoughtful, laconic phrasing, his careful choices of notes, the personal quality of his sound, the sense that he is constantly striving for expression—these make his conversations with us like that of no other musician in jazz.

Davis was an outsider for other reasons, too. He was black in a predominantly white culture. He was reminded of the color of his skin on many occasions. At one point, standing outside a New York club whose marquee bore his name, he was struck repeatedly on the head by a white policeman wielding a truncheon—and then charged with resisting arrest. This horrible incident is emblematic of the constant incidents of racism woven into his daily life.

He was also small, and he made up for this by developing a tough exterior and by learning how to box. He was preternaturally handsome,

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