Photo of Davis in 1955 taken by Tom Palumbo
|Birth name||Miles Dewey Davis III|
|Genres||Bebop, cool jazz, modal jazz, hard bop, third stream, jazz-funk, jazz fusion, acid jazz|
|Occupations||Bandleader, composer, trumpeter|
|Instruments||Trumpet, flugelhorn, keyboard|
|Associated acts||Miles Davis Quintet|
Widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Davis was at the forefront of almost every major development in jazz from World War II to the 1990s. He played on various early bebop records and recorded one of the first cool jazz records. He was partially responsible for the development of modal jazz, and jazz fusion arose from his work with other musicians in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Davis belongs to the great tradition of jazz trumpeters that started with Buddy Bolden and ran through Joe "King" Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, although unlike those musicians he was never considered to have the highest level of technical ability. His greatest achievement as a musician, however, was to move beyond being regarded as a distinctive and influential stylist on his own instrument. He shaped whole styles and ways of making music through the work of his bands, in which many of the most important jazz musicians of the second half of the Twentieth Century made their names.
Davis was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006. He has also been inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame, Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame, and Down Beat's Jazz Hall of Fame.
Early life - 1926 to 1944
Miles Davis was born to a relatively affluent family in Alton, Illinois. His father, Dr. Miles Davis II, was a dentist. In 1927, the family moved to East St. Louis. They also owned a substantial ranch in northern Arkansas, where Davis learned to ride horses as a boy.
Davis' mother, Cleota Mae (Henry) Davis, wanted her son to learn the piano — she was a capable blues pianist, but kept this fact hidden from her son. Miles' musical studies began at 13, when his father gave him a new trumpet and arranged lessons with local trumpeter Elwood Buchanan. Davis later suggested that his father's instrument choice was made largely to irk his wife, who disliked the instrument's sound. Against the fashion of the time, Buchanan stressed the importance of playing without vibrato, and Davis would carry his clear signature tone throughout his career. Buchanan was said to slap Davis' knuckles with a ruler every time he started using heavy vibrato. Davis once remarked on the importance of this signature sound, saying, "I prefer a round sound with no attitude in it, like a round voice with not too much tremolo and not too much Baseline bass. Just right in the middle. If I can’t get that sound I can’t play anything." Clark Terry was another important early influence and friend of Davis'.
By the age of 16, Davis was a member of the musician's union and working professionally when not at school. At 17, he spent a year playing in bandleader Eddie Randle's "Blue Devils". During this time, Sonny Stitt tried to persuade him to join the Tiny Bradshaw band then passing through town, but Davis' mother insisted that he finish his final year of high school.
In 1944, the Billy Eckstine band visited St. Louis. Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were members of the band, and Davis was taken on as third trumpet for a couple of weeks because of the illness of Buddy Anderson. When Eckstine's band left Davis behind to complete the tour, the trumpeter's parents were still keen for him to continue formal academic studies.
Bebop and the Birth of the Cool (1944 to 1955)
In 1944, Davis moved to New York City, ostensibly to take up a scholarship at the Juilliard School of Music. He neglected his studies and sought out Charlie Parker instead. His first recordings were made in 1945 with blues singer Rubberlegg Williams and tenor saxophonist Herbie Fields. In the autumn he became a member of Parker's unofficial quintet, appearing on many of Parker's seminal bebop recordings for the Savoy and Dial labels. Davis's style on trumpet was distinctive by this point, but as a soloist he lacked the confidence and virtuosity of his mentors. He was known to play throttled notes, and to sometimes stumble during his solos.
By 1948, he had served his apprenticeship as a sideman, both on stage and record, and was beginning to blossom as a solo artist. Davis began to work with a nonet that featured then-unusual instrumentation such as the French horn and tuba. The nonet featured a young Gerry Mulligan and Lee Konitz. After some gigs at New York's Royal Roost, the nonet was signed by Capitol Records. Several singles were released in 1949 and 1950, featuring arrangements by Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan and John Lewis. This began Davis' collaboration with Evans, with whom he would partner on many of his major works over the next 20 years. The sides saw only limited release until 1957, when 11 of the 12 were released as the album Birth of the Cool (more recent issues collect all 12 sides).
In 1949, Davis visited Europe for the first time and performed at that year's Paris Jazz Festival in May. The response to modern jazz musicians in Paris was enthusiastic and they had become something of a cult in the French capital. Davis dated his problems with narcotics from this point. Playing in the jazz clubs of New York, Davis was in frequent contact with people who used and sold drugs. By 1950, like many of his contemporaries, he had developed a heroin addiction.
Between 1950 and 1955, Davis chiefly recorded as a leader for Prestige and Blue Note records in a variety of small group settings. Sidemen included Sonny Rollins, John Lewis, Kenny Clarke, Jackie McLean, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, J. J. Johnson, Percy Heath, Milt Jackson and Charles Mingus. Because of his problems with drugs, Davis had gained a reputation for unreliability. In the winter of 1953-1954 though, he returned to East St. Louis and his family. He locked himself in a guest room in his father's farm for twelve days until the drug was fully out of his system.
After overcoming his heroin addiction with help from Sugar Ray Robinson, Davis made a series of important recordings for Prestige in 1954, later collected on albums including Bags' Groove, Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants and Walkin'. At this time, he started to use the Harmon mute to darken and subdue the timbre of his trumpet. This muted trumpet tone was to be associated with Davis for the rest of his career. In July 1955, he played a legendary solo on Thelonius Monk's " 'Round Midnight" at the Newport Jazz Festival. This performance thrust Davis back into the jazz spotlight, leading George Avakian to sign Davis to Columbia and Davis to form his first quintet.
First great quintet and sextet (1955 to 1958)
In 1955, Davis formed the first incarnation of the Miles Davis Quintet. This band featured John Coltrane ( tenor saxophone), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (double bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Eschewing the rhythmic and harmonic complexity of the then-prevalent bebop, Davis was allowed the space to play long, legato, and essentially melodic lines in which he would begin to explore modal jazz. Davis was influenced at around this time by pianist Ahmad Jamal, whose sparse style contrasted with the "busy" sound of bebop. The first recordings of this group were made for Columbia Records in 1955, released on 'Round About Midnight. Davis was still under contract to Prestige, but had an agreement that he could make recordings for subsequent releases using his new label. His final recordings for Prestige were the product of two days of recording in 1956, released as Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet, Steamin' with the Miles Davis Quintet, Workin' with the Miles Davis Quintet and Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet.
The quintet was never stable, however; several of the other members used heroin, and the Miles Davis Quintet disbanded in early 1957.
That year, Davis traveled to France to compose the score to Louis Malle's Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud. He recorded the entire soundtrack with the aid of French session musicians Barney Wilen, Pierre Michelot and René Urtreger, and American drummer Kenny Clarke.
In 1958, the quintet reformed as a sextet, with the addition of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley on alto saxophone, and recorded Milestones.
Recordings with Gil Evans (1957 to 1963)
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Davis recorded a series of albums with Gil Evans, often playing flugelhorn as well as trumpet. The first, Miles Ahead (1957), showcased his playing with a jazz big band and a horn section beautifully arranged by Evans. Tunes included Dave Brubeck's "The Duke", as well as Léo Delibes' "The Maids Of Cadiz", the first piece of European classical music Davis had recorded. Another important feature of the album was the innovative use of editing to join the tracks together, turning each side of the album into a seamless piece of music.
In 1958, Davis and Evans recorded Porgy and Bess, an arrangement of pieces from George Gershwin's opera of the same name. This album featured members of his contemporary band including Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. Davis named the album one of his own favorites.
Sketches of Spain (1959-1960) featured tunes by contemporary Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo and also Manuel de Falla, as well as Gil Evans originals with a Spanish theme. Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall (1961) includes Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, along with other songs recorded at a concert with an orchestra under Evans' direction.
Sessions in 1962 resulted in the album Quiet Nights, a short collection of bossa nova tunes which was released against the wishes of both artists. That was the last time that the two created a full album again. In his autobiography, Davis noted that ". . . my best friend is Gil Evans".
Kind of Blue (1959 to 1964)
After recording Milestones, Garland and Jones were replaced by Bill Evans and Jimmy Cobb. The introspective improvisation of Evans, who was classically trained, influenced the sound of the band and allowed them to explore the music more deeply than ever before, furthering the advancement of modal jazz as seen on '58 Miles. Evans departed late in 1958. He was replaced by Wynton Kelly.
In March and April 1959, Davis re-entered the studio with his working sextet to record what is widely considered his magnum opus, Kind of Blue. He called back Bill Evans, months away from forming what would become his seminal trio, for the album sessions as the music had been planned around Evans' piano style. Equally crucially, both Davis and Evans had direct familiarity with the ideas of pianist George Russell regarding modal jazz, Davis from discussions with Russell and others prior to what came to be known as the Birth of the Cool sessions, and Evans from study with Russell in 1956. Miles, however, had neglected to inform current pianist Kelly as to Evans' role in the recordings, Kelly subsequently playing only on the track " Freddie Freeloader", and not present at all on April date for the album. " So What" and " All Blues" had been played by the sextet at performances prior to the recording sessions, but for the other three compositions, Davis and Evans prepared skeletal harmonic frameworks which the other musicians saw for the first time on the day of recording, in order to generate an improvisational approach. The resulting album has proven to be a huge influence on other musicians. According to the RIAA, Kind of Blue is the best-selling jazz album of all time, having been certified as triple platinum (3 million copies sold).
The same year, while taking a break outside the famous Birdland nightclub in New York City, Davis was beaten by the New York police and subsequently arrested. Believing the assault to have been racially motivated (it is said he was beaten by a single policeman who was angered by Davis being with a white woman), he attempted to pursue the case in the courts, before eventually dropping the proceedings.
Davis convinced Coltrane to play with the group on one final European tour in the spring of 1960. Coltrane then departed to form his classic quartet, although he returned for some of the tracks on the 1961 album Someday My Prince Will Come. Davis tried various replacement saxophonists, including Sonny Stitt and Hank Mobley. The quintet with Hank Mobley was recorded in the studio and on several live engagements at Carnegie Hall and the Black Hawk jazz club in San Francisco. Stitt's playing with the group is found on both a recording made in Olympia, Paris (where Davis and Coltrane had played a few months before) and the Live in Stockholm album.
In 1963, Davis' long-time rhythm section of Kelly, Chambers and Cobb departed. He quickly got to work putting together a new group, including tenor saxophonist George Coleman and bassist Ron Carter. Davis, Coleman, Carter, and a few other musicians recorded half an album in the spring of 1963. A few weeks later, drummer Tony Williams and pianist Herbie Hancock joined the group, and soon thereafter Davis, Coleman and the rhythm section recorded the rest of Seven Steps to Heaven.
The rhythm section clicked very quickly with each other and the horns; the group's rapid evolution can be traced through the aforementioned studio album, In Europe (July 1963), My Funny Valentine, and Four and More (both February 1964). The group played essentially the same repertoire of bebop and standards that earlier Davis bands did, but tackled them with increasing structural and rhythmic freedom and (in the case of the up-tempo material) breakneck speed.
Coleman left in the spring of 1964, to be replaced by avant-garde saxophonist Sam Rivers, on the suggestion of Tony Williams. Rivers remained in the group only briefly, but was recorded live with the quintet in Japan; the group can be heard on In Tokyo! (July 1964).
By the end of the summer, Davis had convinced Wayne Shorter to quit Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Shorter became the principal composer of Davis' quintet, and some of his compositions of this era ("Footprints", "Nefertiti") are now standards. While on tour in Europe, the group quickly made their first official recording, Miles in Berlin (Fall 1964). On return to the United States later that year, Davis (at the urging of Jackie DeShannon) was instrumental in getting The Byrds signed to Columbia Records.
Second Great Quintet (1964 to 1968)
By the time of E.S.P. (1965) Davis' lineup consisted of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums). This lineup, the last of his acoustic bands, is often known as "the second great quintet."
A two-night Chicago gig in late 1965 is captured on The Complete Live at The Plugged Nickel 1965, released in 1995. Unlike the group's studio albums, the live engagement shows the group still playing primarily standards and bebop tunes.
This was followed by a series of studio recordings: Miles Smiles (1966), Sorcerer (1967), Nefertiti (1967), Miles in the Sky (1968) and Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968). The quintet's approach to improvisation came to be known as "time no changes" or "freebop", because they abandoned the chord-change-based approach of bebop for a modal approach. Through Nefertiti, the studio recordings consisted primarily of originals composed by Shorter, and to a lesser degree of compositions by the other sidemen. In 1967, the group began to play their live concerts in continuous sets, with each tune flowing into the next and only the melody indicating any sort of demarcation; Davis' bands would continue to perform in this way until his retirement in 1975.
Miles in the Sky and Filles de Kilimanjaro, on which electric bass, electric piano and guitar were tentatively introduced on some tracks, pointed the way to the subsequent fusion phase in Davis' output. Davis also began experimenting with more rock-oriented rhythms on these records. By the time the second half of Filles de Kilimanjaro had been recorded, Dave Holland and Chick Corea had replaced Carter and Hancock in the working band, though both Carter and Hancock would occasionally contribute to future recording sessions. Davis soon began to take over the compositional duties of his sidemen.
1969 Miles: Festiva de Juan Pins is the earliest available live recording of Davis' band's playing live sets in a continuous sets fashion. (However, it has only had a European and Japanese release.)
Electric Miles (1968 to 1975)
Davis's influences included late 1960s acid rock and funk artists such as Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, many of whom he met through Betty Mabry, a young model and songwriter Miles married in 1968 and divorced a year later. The musical transition required that Davis and his band adapt to electric instruments in both live performances and the studio.
By the time In a Silent Way had been recorded in February 1969, Davis had augmented his standard quintet with additional players. Hancock and Joe Zawinul were brought in to assist Corea on electric keyboards, and guitarist John McLaughlin made the first of his many appearances. By this point, Shorter was also doubling on soprano saxophone. After recording this album, Williams left to form his group Lifetime and was replaced by Jack DeJohnette.
Six months later, an even larger group of musicians, including Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira and Bennie Maupin recorded the double LP Bitches Brew, which became a huge seller, hitting gold record status (half a million copies) by 1976. This album and In a Silent Way were among the first fusions of jazz and rock that were commercially successful, building on the groundwork laid by Charles Lloyd, Larry Coryell, and many others who pioneered a genre that would become known simply as " Jazz-rock fusion".
During this period, Davis toured with the "lost quintet" of Shorter, Corea, Holland and DeJohnette. The group's repertoire included material from Bitches Brew, In a Silent Way, the 1960s quintet albums, and an occasional standard.
In 1972, Davis was introduced to the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen by young arranger and cellist, and later Grammy award winner, Paul Buckmaster, leading to a period of new creative exploration for Davis. Biographer J.K.Chambers wrote that "The effect of Davis's study of Stockhausen could not be repressed for long. ... Davis's own 'space music,' shows Stockhausen's influence compositionally." His recordings and performances during this period were described as "space music" by fans, by music critic Leonard Feather, and by Buckmaster who stated: "a lot of mood changes - heavy, dark, intense - definitely space music."
Both Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way feature "extended" (more than 20 minutes each) compositions that were never actually "played straight through" by the musicians in the studio. Instead, Davis and producer Teo Macero selected musical motifs of various lengths from recorded extended improvisations and edited them together into a musical whole which only exists in the recorded version. Bitches Brew made use of such electronic effects as multi-tracking, tape loops and other editing techniques. Both records, especially Bitches Brew, proved to be huge sellers.
Starting with Bitches Brew, Davis' albums began to often feature cover art much more in line with psychedelic art or black power movements than that of his earlier albums. He took significant cuts in his usual performing fees in order to open for rock groups like the Steve Miller Band, the Grateful Dead and Santana. Several live albums were recorded during the early 1970s at such performances: Live at the Fillmore East, March 7, 1970: It's About That Time (March 1970), Black Beauty (April 1970) and Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East (June 1970).
By the time of Live-Evil in December 1970, Davis' ensemble had transformed into a much more funk-oriented group. Davis began experimenting with wah-wah effects on his horn. The ensemble with Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett and Michael Henderson, often referred to as the "Cellar Door band" (the live portions of Live-Evil were recorded at a club by that name), never recorded in the studio, but is documented in the six CD Box Set The Cellar Door Sessions, which was recorded over four nights in December 1970.
In 1970, Davis contributed extensively to the soundtrack of a documentary about the African-American boxer Jack Johnson. Himself a devotee of boxing, Davis drew parallels between Johnson, whose career had been defined by the fruitless search for a Great White Hope to dethrone him, and Davis' own career, in which he felt the establishment had prevented him from receiving the acclaim and rewards that were due him. The resulting album, 1971's A Tribute to Jack Johnson, contained two long pieces that utilized musicians (some of whom were not credited on the record) including guitarists John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharrock, Herbie Hancock on a broken Farfisa organ and drummer Billy Cobham.
As Davis stated in his autobiography, he wanted to make music for the young African-American audience. On The Corner (1972) blended funk elements with the traditional jazz styles he had played his entire career. The album was highlighted by the appearance of saxophonist Carlos Garnett. The record provoked fierce disparagement from many critics, with one British critic noting: "I love Miles, but this is where I get off." In his autobiography, Davis stated that this criticism was made because no critic could categorize this music and complained that the album was promoted by the "traditional" jazz radio stations.
After recording On the Corner, Davis put together a new band, with only Michael Henderson, Carlos Garnett and percussionist Mtume returning from the previous band. It included guitarist Reggie Lucas, tabla player Badal Roy, sitarist Khalil Balakrishna and drummer Al Foster. It was unusual in that none of the sidemen were major jazz instrumentalists; as a result, the music emphasized rhythmic density and shifting textures instead of individual solos. This group, which recorded in the Philharmonic Hall for the album In Concert (1972), was unsatisfactory to Davis. Through the first half of 1973, he dropped the tabla and sitar, took over keyboard duties, and added guitarist Pete Cosey. The Davis/Cosey/Lucas/Henderson/Mtume/Foster ensemble would remain virtually intact over the next two years. Initially, Dave Liebman played saxophones and flute with the band. In 1974, he was replaced by Sonny Fortune.
Big Fun (1974) was a double album containing four long jams, recorded between 1969 and 1972. Similarly, Get Up With It (1975) collected recordings from the previous five years. Get Up With It included "He Loved Him Madly", a tribute to Duke Ellington, as well as one of Davis' most lauded pieces from this era, "Calypso Frelimo". This was his last studio album of the 1970s.
In 1974 and 1975, Columbia recorded three double-LP live Davis albums: Dark Magus, Agharta and Pangaea. Dark Magus is a 1974 New York concert; the latter two are recordings of consecutive concerts from the same February 1975 day in Osaka, Japan. At the time, only Agharta was available in the US; Pangaea and Dark Magus were initially released only by CBS/Sony Japan. All three feature at least two electric guitarists (Reggie Lucas and Pete Cosey, deploying an array of post-Hendrix electronic distortion devices; Dominique Gaumont is a third guitarist on Dark Magus), electric bass, drums, reeds, and Davis on electric trumpet and organ. These albums were the last he was to record for five years. Davis was troubled by osteoarthritis (which led to a hip replacement operation in 1976, the first of several), sickle-cell disease, depression, bursitis, ulcers and a renewed dependence on alcohol and drugs (primarily heroin), and his performances were routinely panned throughout late 1974 and early 1975. By the time the group reached Japan in February 1975, Davis was teetering on a physical breakdown and required copious amounts of vodka and narcotics to complete his engagements.
After a Newport Jazz Festival performance at Avery Fisher Hall in New York on July 1, 1975, Davis withdrew almost completely from the public eye for six years. As Gil Evans said, "His organism is tired. And after all the music he's contributed for 35 years, he needs a rest."
Davis characterized this period in his memoirs as a colorful time when wealthy women lavished him with sex and drugs. In reality, he had become completely dependent upon various drugs, spending nearly all of his time propped up on a couch in his apartment watching television, leaving only to score more drugs. In 1976, Rolling Stone reported rumors of his imminent demise. Although he stopped practicing trumpet on a regular basis, Davis continued to compose intermittently and made three attempts at recording during his exile from performing; these sessions (one with the assistance of Paul Buckmaster and Gil Evans, who left after not receiving promised compensation) bore little fruit and remain unreleased.
In 1979, he placed in the yearly Top 10 trumpeter poll of Down Beat magazine. Columbia continued to issue compilation albums and records of unreleased vault material to fulfill contractual obligations.
During his period of inactivity, Davis saw the fusion music that he had spearheaded over the past decade firmly enter into the mainstream. When he emerged from retirement, Davis' musical descendants would be in the realm of New Wave rock, and in particular the stylings of Prince.
Last Decade (1981 to 1991)
By 1979, Davis had rekindled his relationship with actress Cicely Tyson. With Tyson, Davis would overcome his drug addiction and regain his enthusiasm for music. As he had not played trumpet for the better part of three years, regaining his famed embouchure proved to be particularly arduous. While recording The Man With The Horn (sessions were spread sporadically over 1979-1981), Davis played mostly wah-wah with a younger, larger band.
The initial large band was eventually abandoned in favour of a smaller combo featuring saxophonist Bill Evans and bass player Marcus Miller, both of whom would be among Davis' most regular collaborators throughout the decade. He married Tyson in 1981; they would divorce in 1988. The Man With The Horn was finally released in 1981 and received a poor critical reception despite selling fairly well. In May, the new band played two dates as part of the Newport Jazz Festival. The concerts, as well as the live recording We Want Miles from the ensuing tour, received positive reviews.
By late 1982, Davis' band included French percussionist Mino Cinelu and guitarist John Scofield, with whom he worked closely on the album Star People. In mid-1983, while working on the tracks for Decoy, an album mixing soul music and electronica that was released in 1984, Davis brought in producer, composer and keyboardist Robert Irving III, who had earlier collaborated with Davis on The Man With the Horn. With a seven-piece band, including Scofield, Evans, keyboardist and music director Irving, drummer Al Foster and bassist Darryl Jones (later of The Rolling Stones), Davis played a series of European gigs to positive receptions. While in Europe, he took part in the recording of Aura, an orchestral tribute to Davis composed by Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg.
You're Under Arrest, Davis' next album, was released in 1985 and included another brief stylistic detour. Included on the album were his interpretations of Cyndi Lauper's ballad " Time After Time", and " Human Nature" from Michael Jackson. Davis noted that many of today's accepted jazz standards were in fact pop songs from Broadway theatre, and that he was simply updating the "standards" repertoire with new material.
You're Under Arrest also proved to be Davis' final album for Columbia. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis publicly dismissed Davis' more recent fusion recordings as not being "'true' jazz", comments Davis initially shrugged off, calling Marsalis "a nice young man, only confused". This changed after Marsalis appeared, unannounced, onstage in the midst of a Davis performance. Marsalis whispered into Davis' ear that "someone" had told him to do so; Davis replied by physically throwing him off the stage.
Davis grew irritated at Columbia's delay releasing Aura and, perhaps, was also jealous of the unusually large publicity budget the label had granted Marsalis. The breaking point in the label/artist relationship appears to have come when a Columbia jazz producer requested Davis place a good-will birthday call to Marsalis. Davis signed with Warner Brothers shortly thereafter.
Davis collaborated with a number of figures from the British new wave movement during this period, including Scritti Politti. At the invitation of producer Bill Laswell Davis recorded some trumpet parts during sessions for Public Image Ltd.'s Album album, according to Public Image's John Lydon in the liner notes of their Plastic Box box set. In Lydon's words, however, "strangely enough, we didn't use (his contributions)." (Also according to Lydon in the Plastic Box notes, Davis favorably compared Lydon's singing voice to his trumpet sound.)
Having first taken part in the Artists United Against Apartheid recording, Davis signed with Warner Brothers records and reunited with Marcus Miller. The resulting record, Tutu (1986), would be his first to use modern studio tools — programmed synthesizers, samples and drum loops — to create an entirely new setting for Davis' playing. Ecstatically reviewed on its release, the album would frequently be described as the modern counterpart of the classic Sketches of Spain, and won a Grammy in 1987.
He followed Tutu with Amandla, another collaboration with Miller and Duke, plus the soundtracks to four movies: Street Smart, Siesta, The Hot Spot, and Dingo. He continued to tour with a band of constantly rotating personnel and a critical stock at a level higher than it had been for 15 years. His last recordings, both released posthumously, were the hip hop-influenced studio album Doo-Bop and Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux, a collaboration with Quincy Jones for the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival in which Davis performed the repertoire from his 1960s recordings for the first time in decades.
In 1988 he played a small part in the film Scrooged, starring Bill Murray, in which he played a street musician.
Davis received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990.
Early 1991 saw the release of the Rolf de Heer film Dingo, starring Colin Friels as a frustrated jazz trumpeter from outback Australia who follows his dream of meeting and performing with Billy Cross, a fictional jazz legend played by Davis. In the film's opening sequence, Davis and band unexpectedly land on a remote airstrip in the Australian outback and proceed to perform for the stunned locals. The performance forms the impetus for the main character to pursue a life in music and was one of Davis' last filmed performances.
- Winner; Down Beat Reader's Poll 1955
- Winner; Down Beat Reader's Poll 1957
- Grammy Award for Best Jazz Composition Of More Than Five Minutes Duration for Sketches of Spain (1960)
- Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance, Large Group Or Soloist With Large Group for Bitches Brew (1970)
- Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist for We Want Miles (1982)
- Sonning Award for Lifetime Achievement In Music (1984; Copenhagen, Denmark)
- Doctor of Music, honoris causa (1986; New England Conservatory)
- Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist for Tutu (1986)
- Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist for Aura (1989)
- Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band for Aura (1989)
- Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1990)
- Australian Film Institute Award for Best Original Music Score for Dingo, shared with Michel Legrand (1991)
- Knighted into the Legion of Honour ( July 16, 1991; Paris)
- Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance for Doo-Bop (1992)
- Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance for Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux (1993)
- Hollywood Walk of Fame Star ( February 19, 1998)
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ( March 13, 2006)
- Hollywood's Rockwalk Induction ( September 28, 2006)
- RIAA Triple Platinum for Kind of Blue
- St. Louis Walk of Fame