He changed the course of music five, maybe six times, so just how can we comprehend the impact of Miles Davis? Even more importantly, how can you get closer to his music, while on the web? Boston-based design shop Fathom has just done it. They’ve created a remarkable interactive map that utilizes integrated audio along an intricate timeline of the incredible career of Miles including exactly the musicians with whom he’d worked and the places where he recorded and performed, while proudly ignoring both his detractors and the need for hit albums.
Nearly 69 years ago, on April 24, 1945, a young trumpet player named Miles Dewey Davis got the chance of a lifetime. He had recently left his native East St. Louis for New York City, and at only seventeen years old, he was playing alongside the legendary Charlie Parker. On this day, he was heading into the recording studio for the first time. Perhaps he wasn’t quite up to the task: in his first recordings, Miles’ playing comes across as tentative, especially when compared to Parker’s confident saxophones. But Miles soon found his voice, and over the next forty five years, his vision pushed him into uncharted territory and repeatedly redefined the scope of jazz.
But Miles Davis didn’t do it alone. At every step of his career he surrounded himself with wonderfully talented musicians who became innovators in their own right. Gil Evans’ arrangements helped drive the birth of cool jazzs and supported Miles’ orchestral explorationss of the late 1950s. Before he formed his own quartet, John Coltrane helped Miles break away from the tight chords of bebop to play with looser modes and scaless. And in his bands of the 1960s and 70s, Miles was backed by players who would become the vanguard of ’70s rock fusions, including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, and John McLaughlin.
Here is a look at the history of Miles Davis’ career and collaborations according to his recording sessions as documented by the Jazz Discography Project. Over four hundred recording sessions are shown in a timeline across the middle of the screen. The circles above it represent the nearly six hundred people who played those sessions; larger circles indicate more sessions with Miles. Scrub and click over the timeline to highlight the people who played with Miles on each date. You can also find specific artists and highlight their sessions by clicking on the circles, or by entering different names in the search box. And if your browser plays audio, you can listen to samples from iTunes in the upper left.
Fathom also created a beautiful print that maps out Davis’ career in blue and gold and is available for purchase.