The Best of YouTube Jazz Music: Miles Davis

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A collection of the best jazz music videos from YouTube. Featuring Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and more.

Introducing Miles Davis

Miles Davis 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 styles throughout his career, which included experimenting with bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, and fusion.

Davis’ Early Years and Training

Miles Davis was born in Alton, Illinois, on May 26, 1926. His father, Miles Henry Davis, was a dentist. His mother, Cleota Mae Davis, was a music teacher. Miles Davis showed an early interest in music, and he started playing the trumpet when he was eight years old. He attended the Juilliard School in New York City from 1944 to 1948, where he studied with the well-known trumpeter William Vacchiano.

Davis’ family and musical upbringing

Miles Dewey Davis III was born on May 26, 1926, to an affluent African American family living in the West End neighborhood of Alton, Illinois. His father, Miles Davis Jr., was a dental surgeon, while his mother, Cleota Mae Davis (née Henry), was a piano teacher. The family owned a substantial plots of land in both Alton and East St. Louis. Miles’ paternal great-grandfather, Gideon John Davis, was born in Billiardsville, Virginia (now known as Mulberry Island), and migrated to Kentucky before settling in Alton prior to the Civil War.

Miles’ parents met while his father was studying dentistry at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). The pair married on July 1, 1925 at Messagesseekers Holiness Church in East St. Louis. They had two daughters: Dorothy Mae (Davis) born on November 16, 1927; and Barbara Joyce (Davis) born on August 28, 1929. In December 1934 the family moved from East St. Louis to 3026 West Grand Boulevard in Chicago’s Near West Side ghetto; they remained there until at least 1948.

Davis’ musical upbringing began at an early age; he carried his father’s guitars around with him when he was a toddler and would strum it while riding on the back of his father’s motorcycle or horse-drawn carriage rides through East St. Louis. He received his first trumpet as a gift from his grandfather when he was eight years old and took lessons from Elwood Buchanan of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
In 1941 Buchanan introduced Davis to jazz guitarist Tiny Grimes who exposed him to Art Tatum’s playing and introduced him to improvisation which would become one of the most important aspects of his trumpeting style. When Davis was thirteen years old—shortly after he had begun playing with Grimes—he lost all but the top joint on his left index finger due to an accident suffered while attempting to catch a baseball that was being thrown by then-St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Terry Moore

Davis’ time at Juilliard

Miles Davis enrolled at Juilliard in 1944, at age 17. He had auditioned the previous year and was initially accepted, but his mother insisted he finish high school first. At Juilliard he studied Harmony with Manny Albam and Counterpoint with Roger Sessions. He also took private trumpet lessons with William Vacchiano, first trumpet of the New York Philharmonic.

Davis’ Career

Miles Davis was an American 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 styles throughout his career. His initial compositions were predominantly bebop, but his style later expanded to encompass hard bop, modal jazz, and fusion.

Davis’ early years as a professional musician

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 styles throughout his career that encompassed elements of bebop, blues, classical, and Latin jazz.

Born and raised in Illinois, Davis left his family at the age of 18 to pursue a musical career in New York City. He recorded his first album as a leader in 1951 and within a few years became one of the best-known jazz musicians in the world due to his appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival and collaborations with other leading jazz artists such as John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk.

Davis’ “First Great Quintet”

Miles Davis’ “First Great Quintet” was a jazz combo that was active from 1955 to 1968. The group was originally comprised of Davis on trumpet, John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums.

The Quintet is considered to be one of the most influential jazz groups of all time. They were known for their innovative approach to harmony and rhythm, as well as their ability to seamlessly blend different genres of music. Their sound was unique and fresh, and they helped to define the direction of jazz in the 1960s.

The group disbanded in 1968, but they reunited briefly in 1981 for a series of concerts.

Davis’ “Second Great Quintet”

Davis’ “Second Great Quintet” was a band he led from 1965 to 1968, with Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on double bass, and Tony Williams on drums. This band is considered one of the best jazz groups ever assembled, and played a pivotal role in the development of jazz fusion.

Davis’ Later Years

Though Davis’ live performances in the last years of his life were not well-received by critics, his studio recordings from this period are considered some of the best of his career.

Davis’ electric period

Miles Davis’ electric period marked the transition from acoustic to electronic
instrumentation in jazz. It lasted roughly from 1968 to 1975 and began with the
recording of Miles in the Sky, which used electric bass, guitar and piano, as well
as Davis’ then-new presence on soprano saxophone. This new band became known as
the “First Great Quintet”, playing a type of extended modal jazz that prefigured
fusion. Recording for In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew began in early 1969. These
records would herald the start of his “electric” period, where horns and reeds were replaced by electric guitar, electric piano, and other electronic instruments, as well as bringing traditional instruments such as drums and bass to the fore.

Davis’ final years

Miles Davis’ final years were nothing short of prolific. From 1975 until his untimely death in 1991, Davis released a total of 20 albums – an impressive feat for any artist, let alone one in the latter stages of their career.

In his final years, Davis moved away from jazz-fusion and explored more experimental sounds. He collaborated with the likes of Prince and George Clinton, and his music took on a more funk and R&B influence. He also continued to experiment with electronic instruments and though some critics derided his later work, many others hailed it as some of the most innovative and forward-thinking music of his career.

Davis’ later years were unfortunately also marked by struggles with addiction and illness. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1986 and though he continued to tour and record after treatment, his health began to decline in the late 1980s. He finally succumbed to pneumonia on September 28th, 1991 at the age of 65.

Despite the difficulties he faced in his later years, Miles Davis left behind a truly remarkable body of work that continues to inspire musicians today.


Miles Davis was one of the most influential and innovative jazz musicians of the 20th century. His work was widely acclaimed and he influenced many other great jazz musicians. YouTube has a wealth of videos featuring Miles Davis, from performances to interviews. This selection highlights some of the best of what’s available.

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