Miles Davis – An introduction

Miles Davis 1970s (


On May 26th, 1926, Miles Dewey Davis III, Miles Davis in short, was born. Davis was an American jazz composer, trumpet player and multi-instrumentalist. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential jazz musicians of all time.

I started listening to Miles Davis (and jazz) at a later time. When I was 21 years old in 1987 I worked at Amsterdam’s greatest record store Concerto. The fact I had a steady income and access to an endless stream of records and (at the time) cd releases, ensured that my introduction to jazz also resulted in purchases. I started with Charlie Parker, quickly followed by Miles Davis through, could it be anything else, Kind Of Blue. Beautiful! A new love was born. However, the discography was intimidatingly vast, where to begin?


For all those that want to start with Miles Davis and could use some guidance, I give you my personal 10 recommendations. I fully realize there are probably thousands others, who would make other choices, yet I think that we all see eye to eye on at least 60 to 70%.


Miles Davis - 'Round About Midnight (

‘Round About Midnight

March 4, 1956

In 1955 Miles Davis signed with Columbia Records, which was the starting point for an incredible run of albums that steered jazz in different directions many times over. The start of the “first great quintet” with saxophone player John Coltrane.


Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue (

Kind Of Blue

August 17, 1957

Regarded as jazz’s best ever album by many. Generally recognized as one of the (if not the) most influential albums ever released, whose contents reached far outside the confines of jazz alone.

Required listening. Also the bestselling jazz album of all time.


Miles Davis - Miles Ahead (

Miles Davis - Miles Ahead - Original cover (

Miles Ahead

October 21, 1957

The first cooperation between Miles Davis and Gil Evans on Columbia. Their very first had been released earlier in the same year as Birth Of The Cool.

Miles Davis hated the original album cover (see above right) and demanded another cover. It is said that he asked “Why’d you put that white bitch on there?” after seeing the original cover.


Miles Davis - Sketches Of Spain (

Sketches Of Spain

July 18, 1960

It wouldn’t be the last time Miles Davis caused a rift among jazz lovers. The major criticism was that the album’s rhythms were generally lacking jazz influences. True or not, the compositions are beautiful, the playing subtle and the ‘feel’ is fantastic.


Miles Davis - Miles Smiles (

Miles Smiles

February 16, 1967

The second album with the “second great quintet”, consisting of saxophone player Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams, all huge names within jazz. Another masterpiece.


Miles Davis - In A Silent Way (

In A Silent Way

July 30, 1969

The start of Miles Davis’ “electric period”. the result of a recording sessions that took place on February 18th, 1969. Producer Teo Macero played an important role in this and Davis’s later work because of his innovative way of producing and recording and edit techniques.


Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (

Bitches Brew

March 30, 1970

The electric instruments take over, as well as the influence of rock and funk, resulting in yet another album that wasn’t understood or valued by many (jazz) lovers. Nowadays, widely regarded as one of the most influential albums by Miles Davis. Also a great sales success.


Miles Davis - Jack Johnson (

Jack Johnson

February 24, 1971

The album has just two songs, each more than 25 minutes in length. The music was written for use in a documentary about the life of boxer Jack Johnson. The political and racial context inspired Miles Davis greatly. Musically supported by guitar players John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharrock, keyboard players Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, clarinet player Bennie Maupin and drummers Jack DeJohnette and Billy Cobham.


Miles Davis - On The Corner (

On The Corner

October 11, 1972

The worst selling Miles Davis album, flat-out rejected by jazz purists. Miles Davis had clearly lost his mind this time. But, once again the jazz lovers were proven wrong. Nowadays, regarded to be a masterpiece as well.

Also see The most hated album in jazz: Miles Davis’ On The Corner.


Miles Davis - Amandla (


May 18, 1989

Except one, the last album Miles Davis would release during his lifetime. The best album of the last period in his impressive career (called “The Return: We Want Miles” by the official Miles Davis website). Musicians consist of serval sessions musicians and old friends. This album provides some insight into the way Davis spent a large part of the 1980s.


In closing

What do you think of Miles Davis? Do you miss albums, and if so, which ones? Let me know!

This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Miles Davis – An introduction. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!