The Entire Career Of Miles Davis Plays Out In This Amazing Interactive Timeline

From before the Birth of the Cool to after he explored the sound of the streets, and everything in between, in one easy timeline.

The career of Miles Davis spans decades. The trumpeter got his start by chasing down Charlie Parker on the streets of New York as an 18-year-old student at Julliard in the mid-’40s, eventually dropping out of school to join Parker’s quintet as a sideman. From there, he started his own group after building a fruitful collaboration with composer Gil Evans, developing the “cool jazz” sound he would be identified with; developed his groundbreaking quintet with John Coltrane on saxophone; reinvented himself over and over again; discovered a 23-year-old Herbie Hancock and a 17-year-old Tony Williams; went electric and got super weird; and spent his final decades in music remaining relevant by collaborating with artists from John Lydon to Little Stevie Van Zandt to Prince.


You can read all of that up there and still not get just how impressive it is that Davis made so much music, with so many people, over such an extended span of time–which is what makes the “Scaled In Miles” timeline from Fathom Information Design such an impressive project. In the interactive timeline, users can pick a point in Davis’s career–anywhere from 1945 sessions with Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to 1991 performances with Kenny Garrett–and hear samples of Davis’ sound in that era. Clicking on the names of the performers who worked alongside Davis on each recording, meanwhile, illuminates just that artist’s work with Davis–so you can see every time that Davis and, say, Herbie Hancock recorded together over their 20 years of collaboration (and what a small portion of Davis’s career that actually represents).

Above the timeline, meanwhile, every collaborator hovers as represented by a ball whose size indicates the amount of work they did with Davis–longtime collaborators like Wayne Shorter and Paul Chambers get the big circles, while the one-time session guys appear as tiny blue dots. And if there’s a specific musician you want to find, the entire project is also searchable, so you don’t just have to keep clicking through random dates and/or blue dots until you find the artist you’re looking for. In all, it’s a representation of the decades, and scores of musicians, that were shaped in part by the long shadow that Davis cast over the history of not just jazz, but all of popular music. If interactive data visualizations are cool, that makes this timeline Miles Davis.

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.