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John Coltrane Vs Miles Davis: Two Famous Jazz Artists

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John Coltrane and Miles Davis are both very famous jazz artists that experimented with different styles of jazz music and each had their own famous small groups, however Coltrane and Davis differ in their level of boldness and their subsequent legacies.

John Coltrane and Miles Davis are, for the most part, household names when referring to jazz music. Coltrane and Davis were also both innovators and inspired the modern jazz genre. Furthermore, both Coltrane and Davis had their own small groups with Coltrane having his own quartet from 1962-1965 and Davis having his own quintets from 1955-1958 and 1964-1968.

Although Coltrane and Davis share many similarities, they differ greatly in terms of their level of boldness and risk taking in their music and also their impact/legacies on the jazz world. Coltrane was most definitely a risk taker. It has been said that during his performances, Coltrane would have 45 minute solos which is not only shocking to hear but a bold move on his part. Following this bold trend, in Coltrane’s song “Alabama from 1963, Coltrane plays the tenor saxophone in an elegant but dominant fashion. His song to me personally has a spontaneous flare to it, because it lacks a strong presence of the percussion instruments. In “Alabama”, Coltrane uses the tenor saxophone to truly carry the song and add this excitement to an otherwise gentle and tranquil song. I could easily imagine the tenor saxophone playing by itself without the rest of the instruments and thus I feel that Coltrane took more of a risk by giving such a strong dominant role to the tenor saxophone in this piece. Coltrane’s legacy, I feel, was extremely impactful in ushering new improvisation techniques such as longer solos and adjusting the dominance of the instruments.

In comparison to Coltrane, Miles Davis played his music more on the safe side. In his song, “The Sorcerer” from 1966, Davis utilizes the trumpet to a great extent but creates balance with the use of the drums, piano, and bass, thus song is not too overwhelming. Davis also makes great use of pauses and allows for each instrument to have its own solo which to me made the song more well-rounded, but at the cost of the song’s excitement. I feel Miles Davis had a greater impact on the jazz world. Often times, the first name people think of when talking about jazz is Miles Davis and I think that is because Davis had more starpower and his songs generally catered to his audience, but I feel also limited his ability to take the same risks that Coltrane took.

I choose to listen to “Weaving and Awaiting” by Nguyen Le because of the softness of the singing and also the song’s relaxing and gentle nature. Although I can not understand the lyrics of the song, I can’t help but feel soothed by the singing. The voice is very soft and calming, yet also has this sophistication and mystery to it that I can’t quite describe because I don’t know exactly what is being said, but I can feel. The song also has this warmth and happiness to it that I get from the tone of the voice. The vocals I felt fit into the song very well and the language the song is sung in really compliments the musical instruments. I also really enjoyed the instrumentation in this piece as well. Some of the instruments used, I was personally unfamiliar with prior to hearing this song, like the koto, but I believe these instruments add a distinct cultural characteristic to the piece, although I would say the piece as a whole is a mixture of cultures. On one hand, we have the use of koto and vocals singing in Vietnamese, both of which add elements of Southeast Asian culture to the piece; yet, on the other hand, there is the use of the electric guitar and bass which add elements of Western music. Furthermore, there is also the use of music synthesizers which give the song a more modern feel to it that is well balanced out by the use of the vocals and cultural instruments. The song as a whole I felt was soft, almost like a lullaby, but towards the end started to take on a more upbeat and vibrant tone as the electric guitar had its solo moment. Then, when the vocals left the scene the vibrancy intensified and the excitement of the song became much more prominent even as tempo was paced slower. I thoroughly enjoyed this song, mainly because it was very distinct and because of its uniqueness due to the addition of cultural elements which I believe is neglected in music nowadays. I also really enjoyed the way the song made me feel and how it put me at ease. It was also very easy to listen to and I don’t think I could ever get tired of the subtle singing.

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John Coltrane vs Miles Davis: Two Famous Jazz Artists. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/john-coltrane-vs-miles-davis-two-famous-jazz-artists/
“John Coltrane vs Miles Davis: Two Famous Jazz Artists.” GradesFixer, 24 May 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/john-coltrane-vs-miles-davis-two-famous-jazz-artists/
John Coltrane vs Miles Davis: Two Famous Jazz Artists. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/john-coltrane-vs-miles-davis-two-famous-jazz-artists/> [Accessed 29 Jun. 2022].
John Coltrane vs Miles Davis: Two Famous Jazz Artists [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 May 24 [cited 2022 Jun 29]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/john-coltrane-vs-miles-davis-two-famous-jazz-artists/
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