The Endurance Of Miles Davis

Throughout the sixties Miles Davis was haunted by the short time (1958-9) Bill Evans and John Coltrane were both in his group. Twice he replaced his pianist, first with Wynton Kelly, then with Herbie Hancock, who combined the refinements of Bill Evans and the more vigorous statement of the funk pianist. On the other hand, it took him several years before he found the replacement for John Coltrane in the person of Wayne Shorter.

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(L-R) Wynton Kelly, Gene Ramey (bass)

When he did, a new era opened up for Miles Davis, marked by recordings that today are considered to be masterpieces of modern jazz for small groups. Thus, from one year to the next, E.S.P, Miles Smiles, Nefertiti and Miles In The Sky, among others, raised and then answered a series of musical questions. Davis' quintet was, at that time, a truly experimental group - each entrance into the studio would bring new development.
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Herbie Hancock

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Wayne Shorter

In this way, the rhythm section exploited the heritage of Bill Evans trio: Herbie Hancock (piano) was suggestive; Ron Carter (bass) no longer stated the tempo systematically but imposed a powerful sense of pulsation; Tony Williams (drums), sophisticated and daring, freed himself from accompanist's role. he took the Elvin Jones' poly rhythm, gave it air, and diversified it by superimposing figures conceived in binary measures. In session after session, the quintet explored a repertoire dependant on Wayne Shorter's innovative ideas. Shorter, a master improviser, showed Davis a way to widen the range of liberties allowed by modal playing even further. On the stage Davis stayed with a more conventional program, but the risks he took in the studio changed the way the public saw the band.
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Miles Davis Quintet
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Ron Carter

Like the innovations of Charlie Parker twenty years earlier, these measures, ground-breaking at the time, have become the conventions of small-group jazz

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Tony Williams


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