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September 18, 1981 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-09-18

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Page 9 Friday, September 18, 1981 The Michigan.Daily
I. Uf


~~~3-SP.-5-SP. & 1O-SP. n stock


Miles Davis

The trumpet master is back an

The trumpet's sound is utterly
unique-its open, simple, crying
lines summon the most profound
human emotions. Muted, it dips
and punches like a prizefighter.
The electronic vibrations are
futuristic yet feral, slashing
across a turbulent background of
drums and guitars.
Always, a mystery seems to
lurk in the sound, shaping the
spare phrases and looming in the
ominous pauses.
THIS IS THE trumpet of Miles
Davis, producing perhaps the
most individual and striking
sounds in jazz. One of the great
jazz innovators, Davis' extended
withdrawal from the public eye
and re-emergence last spring
haveinspired great speculation.
But he's back, and Ann Arbor
gets a look at the Davis of the '80s
tomorrow night at Hill
Auditorium, in one of his few ap-
pearances away from the east
Davis was born May 5, 1926 just
outside of St. Louis. His father
was a dentist and landowner, and
the, Davis family was a
distinguished one, with musical
roots extending back to slavery
days. Excelling on the trumpet in
high school, Davis ran up against
the barriers of prejudice in the
field of classical music. But he,
could and did play with the
fathers of bebop, Charlie Parker
and Dizzy Gillespie, in a big band
led by Billy Eckstine on its visits
to St. Louis.
Davis attended the Juilliard
music school in New York,
studying piano by day and
following Charlie Parker through
New York's jazz haunts at night.
He had already had two or three
recording sessions under his belt
when, at 19, he joined Parker's
quintet for its first session, in
November, 1945.
Parker was effepting a
revolution in jazz on these
recordings, some of the first

recorded documentation of the
radical tempos, extended har-
mony, and nervous rhythms that
became known as bebop. Scorned
by traditionalists as "Chinese
music," bebop was the music of a
new generation of jazzers, intent
on pushing the music beyond the
structures of swing.
Confronting the derision of
short-sighted critics and
musicians head on, beboppers
took a distant, condescending at-
tiude toward their audiences and
alienated traditional musicians
by playing old standards-and
their own intricate com-
positions-at insane tempos.
DAVIS TOOK the. bebopper's
remote self-assurance and tran-
sformed it into his own style of
"cool." In 1949, already ap-
pearing in all-star bands, Davis,
led his first recording session, a
set of intricate arrangements for
an unusual nine-piece ensemble
including French horn and tuba.
The band bombed in the New
York clubs, but its modern har-
monies, concise solos, and cool
mood met with great critical ac-
claim, and this project was very
influential in swinging jazz away
from open ended, "hot" bebop
tunes back toward a style of more
sophistication and economy.
Soon Davis was working with
tenorman Sonny Rollins, recor-
din "Walkin'" and other tunes
whose moderate tempos and
simple changes cleared the decks
for soloists to concentrate on
assimilating the technical and
harmonic resources of bebop into
the jazz vocabulary.
By 1956, Davis was working
with a standard quintet including
a relatively unknown tenor
player named John Coltrane.
With the addition of altoist Can-
nonball Adderly, Davis had an
exemplary sextet with which to
develop and mature his style. His
playing, rather tentative and
nervous in his early recordings-
with Parker, had gained assuran-

ce and power, and his skill as a
composer and leader was uncan-
IN THIS PERIOD, tunes like
"My Funny Valentine," and
"Bye, Bye, Blackbird" had
become Davis signatures, and
although the group produced
many classic albums, Davis had
lost the cutting edge of in-
novation. John Coltrane left the
group to blaze his own trail
through the '60s.
Davis' next really influential
group was a mid-'60s band that
included some of the most
respected names in contem-
porary jazz-Herbie Hancock on
piano, Ron Carter on bass, the
prodigious Tony Williams on
drums, and Wayne Shorter on
tenor sax. The subtle meshing of
these talents pushed beyond the
limits of conventional harmony
and rhythm, creating music that
was spacey and ethereal, abstract
and dramatic.
In 1969, using many of the same
personnel (with the notable
addition of John McLaughlin on
electric guitar), Davis recorded
one of the landmarks of jazz, "In
A Silent Way," an album whose
calm mood and extended open
solos achieve a transcendent
serenity and inspiration.
ADDING A ROCK beat and
more electronics, the album
"Bitches Brew," a gold record
and Grammy winner, pointed the
way for the so-called fusion
jazz of the '70s. Soon Chick Corea
was leading Return to Forever,
John McLaughlin was leading
the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Joe
Zawinul and Wayne Shorter for-
med Weather Report, all
achieving great popularity in the
idiom Davis had pioneered.
Meanwhile, on such albums as
"Live-Evil" and "On the Cor-
ner," Davis was taking his open
rock beats farther and farther in-
to fantastic improvisations and
African rhythms. He became sort

d cooking
of a cult figure, earning the
nickname "Dark Magus," which
derived from the title of one of his
albums of the period.
The music rolled in thick elec-
tronic textures and often cooked
with the excitement of funk and
rock. During performances,
Davis presided on organ or elec-
tric trumpet, glowering at his
band or simply leaving the stage
for an hour at a time.
IN 1976, DAVIS, a long-time
sports car afficionado, was in a
serious car wreck. As his absence
from the jazz scene con-
tinued-ultimately lasting five
years-many theories about his
withdrawal arose, but no one
really knows why he stayed out of
action so long.
Some speculated illness;
perhaps a self-appraisal took
place. His absence was not
without precedent,, however;
Sonny Rollins has taken several
sabbaticals in the course of his
Maybe Davis remembered his
days of breaking in, clashing with
the jazz establishment he now
represents. Whatever the reason,
he's back. His new band resem-
bles his groups of the mid-'60s
and includes electric guitar, per-
cussion, drums, electric bass,
and soprano sax.
The music is simpler; Davis.
has returned to a straight trum-
pet sound, without electric
alteration. And it cooks-the new
album, "The Man With the
Horn," is rather inconsistent but
includes really successful rock,
funk, and straight-ahead jazz
Davis is apparently settling in,
like he did in the late '50s, con-
solidating his position. His
traditional crowds-dressy,
lively, and very hip, are back too,
ready for a real event tomorrow


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