Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King – Jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer Miles Davis

This week William Price King shares the life and some of the work of jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer Miles Davis

Miles Dewey Davis III (May 26, 1926 – September 28, 1991) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. He is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th century music.

Miles Davis was born and raised in Illinois but left to study at Juilliard in New York. He dropped out to pursue his music career professionally and debuted as a member of Charlie Parker’s bebop quintet from 1944 to 1946. His first recording was “Birth of the Cool” sessions for Capital records, followed in the early 1950s with some of the earliest bop music with Prestige Records. After a performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955, he signed a long-term contract with Columbia Records with his first release being “Round About Midnight” his first work with saxophonist John Coltrane. With bassist Paul Chambers he formed a sextet that performed into the early 1960s.

At the same time he was alternating between orchestral jazz collaborations with arranger Gil Evans, including “Sketches of Spain” and band recordings such as “Milestone” in 1958.

There were a number of line-up changes to the band in the early 60s including the introduction of bassist Ron Carter, pianist Herbie Hancock and drummer Tony Williams. In 1964 he added saxophonist Wayne Shorter and produced a series of more abstract recordings often composed by the band members and helping to pioneer the post bop genre with albums such as “E.S.P”, “Miles Smiles” before experimenting with the emerging electronic music technology of the 1970s, including funk, rock and African rhythms.

The line-up of the band was fairly fluid with members changing frequently including the addition of guitarist John McLaughlin. This period in Miles Davis career until 1975 was considered his most controversial by the jazz fraternity but his million selling record “Bitches Brew” helped spark a renewal of Jazz’s commercial popularity along with jazz fusion over the rest of the decade.

He took a break due to ill health but returned in the 1980s with a younger generation of musicians and a resurgence of his popularity and commercial reputation. He performed to sold out concerts worldwide as will as branching out into visual arts, film and television. He died in 1991 of a stroke and other complications, but was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006 which recognized him as “one of the key figures in the history of jazz.

Let’s listen to some of his finest work…

Miles Davis’ recording of “Porgy and Bess”, written by George Gershwin, was released in 1959 by Columbia Records featuring arrangements by Davis and Gil Evans. Davis paints a work of art, highlighting his trademark warmth and depth of emotion in a jazz instrumental style that’s a synthesis of jazz and classical music, hard bob, and bebop. Miles’ version of this epic piece is full of melancholy and joyful drama and should reach the listener on both a musical and emotional level.

“Bitches Brew” was released in 1970 by Columbia Records and was thought by many to be among the most revolutionary albums in jazz history, solidifying the genre known as jazz-rock fusion. Miles continued to experiment with new sounds – the electric piano and guitar – and rejected traditional jazz rhythms in favor of a looser, rock-influenced improvisational style. Initially this album received mixed reviews, due to its unconventional style and experimental sound. However, it became Davis’ first gold record and won a Grammy Award for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album” in 1971. The Village Voice critic, Robert Christgau, called “Bitches Brew/2 the best album of the year and named Davis “Jazzman of the year”. In 2003 this album was ranked #94 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Many jazz critics consider “Kind of Blue” as the best jazz album ever, a masterpiece, and one of the best albums of all times. It features jazz greats John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley on saxophone, pianists Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb. This album was one of fifty recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry, and was ranked number 12 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

“Kind of Blue” is based entirely on a series of modal sketches on which each performer was given a set of scales that defined the parameters of their improvisation and style. This was in total contrast to Davis’ earlier work with the hard bop style of jazz. It is interesting to note that the band did not play through any of these pieces prior to the recording. Davis presented the themes and the chordal structures and the musicians improvised along those parameters. Self-indulgence was not allowed in this recording. In 2008, “Kind of Blue” was certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), indicating sales of at least four million copies, making it the best-selling jazz album of all time.

You can listen to the full album on YouTube: Miles Davis – Kind of Blue Full Album

Here is the title track

“On The Corner”, a celebration of street life and the beauty of life itself, was recorded and released in 1972 on the Columbia label. All of the compositions were written by Miles Davis and were partly inspired by the musical concepts of the experimental composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and saxophonist Arnette Coleman. Here, Davis continues his exploration of jazz fusion with funk rhythms. The music was recorded as one piece, instead of a series of individual compositions selected arbitrarily. There is a variety of shakers, claves,* cowbells, and exotic drums on the album and the electronics include keyboards and guitar, as well as an apparatus on Davis’ horn. The impressive line-up of musicians accompanying Davis are Michael Henderson – bassist, John McLaughlin – guitarist, and keyboardist Herbie Hancock. The artwork from the album features Corky McCoy’s cartoon designs of urban African-American characters.

* Claves – are a percussion instrument, consisting of a pair of short, thick dowels (cylindrical rod). Traditionally they are made of wood, typically rosewood, ebony, or grenadilla.

You can listen to the full album on YouTube: On the Corner Full Album

Here is the title track

Buy the music of Miles Davis:

Additional sources:

William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.

His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.

While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.

His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.

In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.

William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION

Connect with William

Regular Venue 

You can find all of the Music Column series in this directory:

As always we would love to receive your feedback.. thanks Sally and William

16 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King – Jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer Miles Davis

  1. Kind of Blue, one of the first MIles Davis albums I remember seeing in my dad’s collection. He is leaving the entire collection to my brother, when he passes. I am certain we will be blown away by all the great music, much of which we haven’t heard in decades. Thank you for sharing


  2. Kind of Blue is one of my favorites and I’m happy to know that it was your father’s collection. No doubt you will be blown away by all the great music he has collected over the years. Thanks for your comments and all the best to you. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  3. He was one of the best. Thank you for posting his story. I love learning about the early years. The number of artists who were discovered at the Newport Jazz Festival must be remarkable.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are so right, Jennie, many great jazz artists were discovered at the Newport Jazz Festival. I am very happy that you enjoyed our post. All the best to you. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

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