Stories of Standards: "Milestones" by Miles Davis

Dec 3, 2017

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“Milestones”, by Miles Davis (1926-1991), was first recorded and released in 1958 under the name “Miles”, which shortly afterwards was changed to “Milestones”, not to be confused with the 1948 composition of the same name written for Miles by pianist John Lewis. The lineup for the 1958 album consisted of Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Cannonball Adderley (alto sax), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums) and was their only album.

While Davis had been intrigued by the Dorian scale for some time previously, “Milestones” was his first song to use it exclusively. Davis said in his autobiography “…The challenge here, when you work in the modal way, is to see how inventive you can become melodically. It’s not like when you base stuff on chords, and you know at the end of thirty-two bars that the chords have run out and there’s nothing to do but repeat what you’ve done with the variations.”

From his childhood in East Saint Louis to his death in California, Miles Davis was focused on hearing the future and playing it. He received his first trumpet from a family friend when nine years old and at a time when trumpets tended toward vibrato, Miles was taught and retained a clear rounded tone. Despite various bouts of ill health, with related medical and emotional problems, he spent a lifetime at the lead of jazz, from bebop to cool to modal and electric, as one of the most innovative and influential musicians of the twentieth century.

Miles Davis Official Photo 89