StLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Seven Miles Davis collaborators who helped shape jazz


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Yesterday was the 91st anniversary of Miles Davis' birth, and to follow up on StLJN's video tribute to him in this space last week, today let's take a look at some of the musicians who worked with Davis and then went on to become significant influences on jazz in their own right.

Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane played with Davis as part of his “first great quintet" in the late 1950s, making a memorable contribution to the trumpeter's seminal album Kind of Blue. Leaving Davis' employ to start his own group in 1960, Coltrane over the next few years became one of the most emulated saxophonists in jazz, influencing several generations of players into the present day.

He's seen in the first video up above playing “Impressions"- a song that shares its chord progression with Davis' “So What"- on French TV in 1966, with McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums).

Combining the influence of Charlie Parker with generous dollops of blues and gospel, alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball" Adderley also played on Kind of Blue, expanding Davis' working quintet to a sextet. After leaving Davis to concentrate on co-leading his own hard-grooving band with his brother, cornetist Nat Adderley, Cannonball became a headlining attraction around the world, even scoring a major pop hit in 1966 with “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy."

The Adderley brothers can be seen in the first video after the jump, performing Nat's composition “Work Song" in 1963 with some help from saxophonist Yusef Lateef, pianist Joe Zawinul (who pops up again a little later in this narrative), bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Louis Hayes.

Pianist Bill Evans was part of Davis' band for less than a year, but his participation in the Kind of Blue sessions helped make him a household name among jazz fans. Leading his own trio over the next couple of decades, Evans exerted a major influence on many pianists that still can be heard in several generations of players ranging from Keith Jarrett to Brad Mehldau.

Evans is in the second video after the jump, playing his popular original composition “Waltz For Debby" with Chuck Israels on bass and Larry Bunker on drums.

Davis' “second great quintet" began coming together in 1963, and would go on to become of the most popular and critically acclaimed small jazz groups of the decade (and eventually, all time). The quintet made a lot of memorable music over the next several years, and ultimately wound up seeding the nascent fusion movement as the various members left to launch their own groups.

Drummer Tony Williams was the youngest member of that quintet, joining Davis while still a teenager. His style- incorporating the influence of rock music and aggressive by default, yet also subtle when needed- was highly influential, and Lifetime, the band the formed after leaving Davis in 1969, was one of the pioneering groups of fusion.

You can see the second version of Lifetime in today's fourth clip, which captures basically all of their set at the 1971 Montreux Jazz Festival. In addition to Williams on drums, the group includes bassist Junie Booth, guitarist Ted Dunbar, percussionists Warren Smith and Don Alias, and organist Larry Young.

The pianist in Davis' second great quintet was Herbie Hancock, who after leaving Davis would go on to lead one of the most popular bands of the fusion era. His 1974 album Head Hunters was simultaneously one of the major musical statements of jazz-fusion and a huge commercial hit, ranking as one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, right after Kind of Blue. Hancock's subsequent work spanning a variety of genres has secured his place one of the most significant jazz musicians of the last 50 years.

In the fifth video, you can see and hear Hancock and the first touring edition of the Headhunters band playing a gig in 1974 in Germany, performing tunes from their first album and the follow-up, Thrust. Along with Hancock, that's Mike Clark on drums, Paul Jackson Jr. on bass, Bill Summers on percussion, and Bennie Maupin on tenor sax, flute, and bass clarinet.

Saxophonist Wayne Shorter was the longest-serving member of Davis' second quintet, coming on board in 1963 and staying until 1970. That's when Shorter and keyboardist Joe Zawinul, a former member of Cannonball Adderley's band who had played on Davis' albums In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew, formed Weather Report, which would become another of the most iconic and successful bands in the fusion genre.

After that group ended its run, both Shorter and Zawinul went on to enjoy very successful individual careers as bandleaders, and though Zawinul dies in 20017, Shorter continues to work and is regarded as one of the most noteworthy jazz composers of his generation.

In today's final video, you can see the two of them performing with the first Weather Report lineup on German TV in 1971. Miroslav Vitous is on bass, with Alphonse Mouzon on drums and Dom Um Romao on percussion, and for part of the set, they are augmented by trombonist Eje Thelin and saxophonists Alan Skidmore and John Surman.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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