Often referred to as "The Prince of Darkness" or "The Picasso of Invisible Art", Miles Dewey Davis III, was born May 26,1926 in Alton, Illonois . Soon after his birth, the Davis family moved to East Saint Louis, Missouri.
Miles' father, a dentist and substancial landowner, gave Miles a trumpet on his thirteenth birthday. By the age of fifteen, Miles was playing trumpet in Eddie Randall's band "Blue Devils".
An early influence in Miles' life was Clark Terry who became friends with Miles in St. Louis. In July of 1944, Terry made arrangements for Miles to sit in with the visiting Billy Eckstine's Big Band. During the performance, Miles was able to meet his idols, Eckstine band members Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Then, in the fall of 1945, Miles moved to New York City to study music at the Julliard School. However, during this time, he performed in the small clubs of 52nd Street with the Herbie Fields Band and with this band, Miles made his first recording and soon after left Julliard in order to get "real" musical training. Upon leaving, Miles joined alto saxophonist Charlie Parker's group at the Three Deuces Club. Later that year he recorded with Parker for the Savory label and introduced a new form of modern and complex jazz known as bebop. He then toured with two other bands and by 1948, Miles led two bands at the Royal Roost. One group with Parker, trombonist Kai Winding and tenor Allen Eager. The second, a nine-piece ensemble that quickly became internationally known through a series of recordings that were referred to as Birth of the Cool. This nonet included a combination of instruments never before heard in Jazz, including a French horn, as well as a trumpet, trombone, tuba, alto and baritone saxes, piano, bass and drums. With Miles as leader, this group became responsible for the transition from the intensity of bebop into a new era of Cool Jazz. Although they received recognition from the public, their commercial success was hardly enough to hold the group together. In 1949, the recordings of the nonet ceased, and for the next six years Miles continued working with several small groups. However, during this time, Miles was experiencing personal problems yet still recorded many memorable sessions for Prestige and Blue Note.
Miles reemerged at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, offering a sound and style that was to become his trademark. Miles then formed his first major quintet, which included John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. This group recorded albums like Cookin', Relazin', Workin', and 'Round about Midnight.
Between 1957 and 1960, Miles along with Gil Evens produced three world-renowned albums: Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, and Sketches of Spain.
In 1959, Miles along with Paul Chambers, James Cobb, John Coltrane, Bill Evens, and Wynton Kelly recorded Kind of Blue.
In 1963, Miles and his reorganized quintet released Seven Steps to Heaven. This quintet played totally unique music rather than bebop or free jazz, and is considered to have some of the most fluid and revolutionary jazz of the era. Experiencing with new musical forms, the band played written themes but no prearranged harmonies, which allowed the music a new sense of freedom.
As the 1960's approached, Miles and his men reached the next major change in jazz, the use of electric instruments and rock rhythms. Using an electric piano, the group recorded In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Influenced by the music of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, Miles decided to go electric and began using rock as the rhythmic foundation for his music, yet his trumpet solos remained as they had during acoustic periods.
Illness and personal problems, in 1975, forced Miles to retire claiming "I just can't hear the music anymore." In his autobiography, Miles wrote, "From 1975-1980, I just didn't pick up my horn; for over four years, didn't pick it up once. I would walk by and look at it, then think about trying to play."
In 1980, Miles came out of seclusion and formed a new group with which he steadily recorded and played until his death in 1991.
Much to the dismay of jazz fans, Davis' last recordings moved into funk and R &B yet his playing remained strong and interesting.