Miles Davis At 80

Born 80 years ago this week, trumpeter, composer and musical pioneer Miles Davis remains as one of the most important and influential musicians of the 20th century. In this series first broadcast in 2001, Ian Carr looks at the way Davis continually re-invented himself and his music over his four-decade career.



In the first part, Miles is befriended by fellow trumpeter Clark Terry and, after meeting Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, moves to New York to play with them. By 1953, Miles has sown his wild oats and is now ready to run his own band.


Ian Carr looks at the years 1954 - 1960, which were tremendously creative for Miles Davis and included the first great quintet with John Coltrane. This group was later expanded to a sextet with Cannonball Adderley producing seminal albums Milestones and Kind of Blue.

In collaboration with composer Gil Evans, Miles created the orchestral masterpieces Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain.


Ian Carr begins this episode in the early 1960s, with John Coltrane's momentous decision to leave Miles. For his new quintet, Miles assembled a group of gifted young musicians including Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums), with George Coleman and then Wayne Shorter on saxophone. Their first album was the forward-looking ESP.


Ian Carr begins this episode in 1969, with the launch of the jazz-rock-fusion movement. For his album In a Silent Way, Miles moved away from acoustic instruments and used three electric keyboards played by Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Joe Zawinul, with John McLaughlin's electric guitar. It was a natural progression from this to the controversial Bitches Brew project.


In 1975, chronic illness forced the trumpeter to give up playing for a considerable period.

Ian Carr talks to Miles' daughter Cheryl, bassist Dave Holland and to saxophonists Dave Liebman and Bill Evans about this period, and how they helped Miles return to playing in 1981.

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Ian Carr begins in the early 1980s, when Miles steadily regained his trumpet magnificence and once again drew into his band leading players of the current generation -including Bog Berg, John Scofield and Marcus Miller. They toured regularly, drawing huge, ecstatic crowds. Just before Miles' death on 28 September 1991, he took part in two retrospective concerts, reuniting former members of his bands.