Happy Birthday, Miles!


News | May, 25th 2016

Today would have been Miles Dewey Davis III's 90th birthday. To celebrate Davis—one of the most innovative, melodic, and iconic trumpeters the music ever produced—here's a factoid for every decade since he stepped foot on this planet.

1. His best-selling album, Kind of Blue, is generally acknowledged to be the highest-selling jazz album of all time. It's been certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA and is still a hot commodity—according to Soundscan, Kind of Blue sold 1,354 copies in the last week alone, earning it the #2 spot on the Billboard jazz albums chart.

2. The chameleonic trumpet player didn't just explode and fuse genres to pioneer new forms of music: he also blazed physical trails. Born in East St. Louis, Davis made New York City his home base after graduating high school, starting with a short stint at Juilliard. While he spent decades in NYC, he also spent chunks of time throughout his life living in and around Los Angeles; despite dying in Santa Monica, Davis is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

3. Davis's musical interests extended well beyond traditional jazz. He had plans to record with long-time friend Jimi Hendrix that fizzled when the guitarist died tragically in 1970. Rumors have long circulated of a recording date with Prince at the late pop icon's famed Paisley Park studios.


4. Davis was loyal to custom-made Martin Committee trumpets for most of his career. The model was designed in the late 1930s by a committee of prominent trumpet players, hence its name. He generally used a Heim mouthpiece.

5. Davis is known for helping launch many of jazz's biggest legends—including John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, and Kenny Garrett, among many others—to stardom. But Davis was helped along in his very early career by a mentor of his own: Clark Terry. 

6. Davis went through a number of sports cars over the course of his life. He wasn't particularly brand-loyal and drove, at various times, a Jaguar, a Mercedes, a Lamborghini, and Ferraris.

7. Later in life, Davis dabbled in acting. He guest starred on Miami Vice in 1985 and Crime Story in 1986, and played a street musician in the Billy Murray vehicle Scrooged (1988).

8. Davis had a singular round, warm trumpet tone, but his speaking style was equally distinctive. An operation in 1957 removed nodules from his vocal chords; according to Davis, he got into an argument shortly after the operation and the result was a permanently hushed, raspy voice.

9. Davis's memoir is perhaps the ultimate source for Miles trivia. Davis released the book in 1990, just a year before his death, and co-wrote it with Quincy Troupe. Troupe originally met Davis at a St. Louis club when the writer was just 14 years old; he got the nod from Davis after writing up a 45-page article on the trumpeter for Spin magazine. 


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Fifty-seven years ago, Miles Davis and John Coltrane gave jazz two bold new ways forward. This month, we celebrate their legacies with the Miles and 'Trane festival.


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