Before Miles Davis was “MILES DAVIS, TRUMPET LEGEND,” he was “Miles Davis, young, insecure trumpet player in Charlie Parker’s quintet.”
He eventually became such an imposing musical figure, that it’s a little hard to imagine him standing up there next to “Bird” night after night, flubbing the fast bebop melodies and struggling to make his way through his trumpet solos. But it’s true. In fact, Miles recounted how he was so dissatisfied by his playing that he would quit the band every night! Luckily, Parker wouldn’t let him.
But WHY didn’t Parker let Davis quit? Miles clearly wasn’t keeping up with the rest of the group, and apparently a lot of people were urging Parker to ditch Miles and get a better trumpet player.
The answer, I think, lies in Miles’ unique sound: his trumpet “voice.” While almost every other bebop trumpeter in the mid-1940’s was emulating Dizzy Gillespie’s brassy pyrotechnics, Davis was expressing himself in a quieter, sweeter way. To Parker it didn’t matter that Miles didn’t yet have the technical chops to master the bebop style. He heard something special in Miles Davis that he wanted to nurture.
Decades later, aren’t we glad he did?
Here’s a sample of the sweet sound of the young Miles Davis: Embraceable You. His trumpet solo begins at 2:01 and the very ending of the tune is one of the best moments in all of jazz!
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