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Happy Birthday, Prince of Darkness

Miles Davis—arguably the most innovative jazz musician of all time—would have been 96 today.

The very first jazz record I ever listened to, Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else, featured Davis as a sideman. The way he played the first four notes of the head to “Autumn Leaves” had a more profound impact on my nascent music career than almost anything else.

Here’s a 60 Minutes segment from 1989, which, despite the fact that poor Harry Reasoner is quite clearly out of his depth, is pretty good:

(That’s the year I came this close to seeing Miles play live. My flight out of Amsterdam was Sunday, July 16; he was performing at the Statenhal in The Hague the next day.)

And here’s a 1985 interview from NME‘s archives, published 10 years ago in the Guardian.

If you’re new to Davis’s music, I recommend beginning with Kind of Blue, then pretty much anything from his “Second Great Quintet” period. As for Bitches Brew, well…it’s great, but I actually prefer In a Silent Way—definitely one of my Desert Island Discs. And while his 80s stuff isn’t really my bag, his cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after Time,” from You’re Under Arrest, is surprising.

Wherever you choose to start, though, Miles will change your life. Of that I’m certain.



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