Miles Dewey Davis III (May 26, 1926 – September 28, 1991) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. He is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th century music. Davis adopted a variety of musical directions in his five-decade career which kept him at the forefront of a number of major stylistic developments in jazz.
Born and raised in Illinois, Davis left his studies at The Juilliard School in New York City and made his professional debut as a member of saxophonist Charlie Parker‘s bebop quintet from 1944 to 1948. Shortly after, he recorded the Birth of the Cool sessions for Capitol Records, which were instrumental to the development of cool jazz. In the early 1950s, Davis recorded some of the earliest hard bop music while on Prestige Records but did so haphazardly due to a heroin addiction. After a widely acclaimed comeback performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955, he signed a long-term contract with Columbia Records and recorded the 1957 album ‘Round About Midnight. It was his first work with saxophonist John Coltrane and bassist Paul Chambers, key members of the sextet he led into the early 1960s. During this period, he alternated between orchestral jazz collaborations with arranger Gil Evans, such as the Spanish-influenced Sketches of Spain (1960), and band recordings, such as Milestones (1958) and Kind of Blue (1959). The latter recording remains one of the most popular jazz albums of all time, having sold over four million copies in the U.S.
Miles Dewey Davis III was born on May 26, 1926, to an affluent African-American family in Alton, Illinois, fifteen miles north of St. Louis. He had an older sister, Dorothy Mae (born 1925), and a younger brother, Vernon (born 1929). His mother, Cleota Mae Henry of Arkansas, was a music teacher and violinist, and his father, Miles Dewey Davis Jr., also of Arkansas, was a dentist. They owned a 200-acre estate near Pine Bluff, Arkansas with a profitable pig farm. In Pine Bluff, he and his siblings fished, hunted, and rode horses. In 1927, the family moved to East St. Louis, Illinois. They lived on the second floor of a commercial building behind a dental office in a predominantly white neighborhood. From 1932 to 1934, Davis attended John Robinson Elementary School, an all-black school, then Crispus Attucks, where he performed well in mathematics, music, and sports. At an early age he liked music, especially blues, big bands, and gospel.