One of the key objectives of this exercise is to better understand the evolution of music in all forms over the course of the 20th and 21st century. Today provided me with an excellent example of this discovery, and opened my eyes wider to one of the more unique individuals of the music world, the one and only Miles Davis. We take a closer look at his 1956 album, “Birth of the Cool”, which even as an album name, really sets the tone. As a key starting point and time-stamp for a transition in sound, this album is rated the #10 jazz album of all-time by gq.com.
I have acknowledged that jazz is one of the least familiar genres I have included in this timeline, but I have truly enjoyed the progression of sounds from Charlie Parker to Clifford Brown to Ella Fitzgerald. Today provided an impactful moment when I started the first song. As the race of the trumpet exploded in the song “Move”, I could tell I was listening to something familiar, yet very unknown. It was still jazz, but it was a quantum step forward in variation and style from its more traditional predecessors. The best two analogies I can offer are these, tapping into more familiar sounds I will explore later on this year. When I first heard Miles on this song, it reminded me of when I first heard Eddie Van Halen play the solo on “Eruption”. It was just so different, and remarkable, when compared to what came before it. I would also compare it to The Beatles albums “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver”, which were transitions away from short pop harmonies, but still somewhat true to the form of its musical roots. On this album, most of the tracks follow a traditional jazz pattern of Miles’ lead trumpet solo followed by other instruments taking their turn, but the notes, rhythm and phrasing were much less predictable and recurring than what I had heard previously.
As you may recall, Miles Davis played with Charlie Parker for many years in the 1940s, including several appearances on the previously discussed “The Magnificent Charlie Parker”. I found it very intriguing to follow these next steps as Miles assumed the lead pioneer role breaking down barriers and boundaries for jazz as an exploratory musical genre. Miles Davis remains one of, if not the, most influential change agents in jazz music and an icon to all jazz lovers of yesterday and today. This album left me eager to hear what follows, from Miles and his peers in the years to come.