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Miles Davis: 15 Essential Albums

Highlights from the jazz great’s discography – ‘Kind of Blue,’ ‘Bitches Brew’ and beyond

Miles Davis: 15 Essential Albums Birth of Cool

Read our list of 15 essential Miles Davis albums, from 'Kind of Blue' to 'Bitches Brew' and beyond.

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"I've changed the course of music five or six times," Miles Davis once quipped. The trumpeter wasn't wrong: His willingness to dive headfirst into new styles made him one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, a figure who transcended not just jazz but music itself. Chart Miles' bold evolutions with our concise guide to 15 classic LPs.

15 essential Miles Davis Albums

‘Miles Ahead’

Davis' collaboration with arranger and friend Gil Evans helped refashion the jazz big band. Evans' magisterial textures are matched by Davis' searingly impressive blowing. (Recorded 1957)

15 essential Miles Davis Albums

‘Kind of Blue’

Davis' masterpiece. With help from Coltrane, Bill Evans and Cannonball Adderley, Davis introduced modal forms to the language of jazz. (Recorded 1959)

15 essential Miles Davis Albums

‘Sketches of Spain’

On their most personal work together, Gil Evans' writing pulsates with Iberian mystery and drama, while Davis' solos sound torn straight from his gut. (Recorded 1959-60)

15 essential Miles Davis Albums

‘Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965’

Davis was once again ready for a change, and a new young-blood band (Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Ron Carter and Herbie Hancock) helped him jettison any bop vestiges and envision the future. (Recorded 1965)

15 essential Miles Davis Albums

‘Miles Smiles’

The mid-Sixties quintet balanced coiled intensity with compositional smarts. For today's young players, this is Davis' most influential period. (Recorded 1966)

15 essential Miles Davis Albums

‘In a Silent Way’

This spacey epic, thickened by extra keyboards (Joe Zawinul) and guitar (John McLaughlin), reflects Davis' new fascination with pop music. (Recorded 1969)

15 essential Miles Davis Albums

‘On the Corner’

Davis' attempt to compete in the same market as Sly Stone and others he admired brought forth deep street funk cut with African and Indian textures. (Recorded 1972)

15 essential Miles Davis Albums

‘Dark Magus’

By the mid-Seventies, Davis was redefining jazz as pure sound, concocting dense thickets of terrifying sonic funk. Influencing only the most daring musicians of the Eighties, this is still Davis' most enigmatic, disturbing period. (Recorded 1974)

15 essential Miles Davis Albums

‘Star People’

This recording of brisk jazz rock is among the more convincing of Davis' later works. With John Scofield by his side, Davis gets off some chilling blues. (Recorded 1982)

15 essential Miles Davis Albums

‘Aura’

This self-conscious but satisfying reworking of Davis' early-Seventies sound by Danish big-band composer-arranger Palle Mikkelborg used Davis as featured soloist. At its best, the album suggested Davis–Gil Evans projects that never took place. (Recorded 1984)

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