The album ‘On the Corner’ is one of the major albums that was produced by Miles Davis an American jazz trumpeter, composer an


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The album ‘On the Corner’ is one of the major albums that was produced by Miles Davis an American jazz trumpeter, composer and a brand leader (Szwed, 2004). The album was recorded by the Columbia records in the year 1972 in the months of June and July and later released on 11th October of the same year. The album was composed of four songs namely; New York Girl, Black Satin, One and One and Hellen Butte/ Mr. Freedom X. The album was not well received as it was the most hated album in jazz music. It was a controversial album since the time it was released and since then it attracted the ire of most of the jazz fans. The reason behind this is that the album eschews conventional jazz structures. Despite the interesting solo works, the album lacks head arrangements or overt melodies. The ‘On the Corner’ album is composed of long, floating funky rhythm jams to which the artist glide in and out making for a dense kind of free afro-psychedelic such that the rhythm is made paramount rather than the melody. The album is a fascinating listen, though much harder and diverse in texture melodically looser not unlike the beautiful “In A Silent Way” (Purser & Montuori, 1994).

The recording has a timeless quality just like the “In a Silent Way”. The timelessness is not historical aspect but in the sense that the songs in the album have no beginnings and endings as well making it poorly composed. One has to search for the beginnings and the ends so as to estimate the length of the songs. Listening to the songs in the album is like momentarily touching down on something which has no end and that has almost as much in common with the present ambient electronica as it does with jazz music (Leubner, 2010). It is not only on how the music sounds but as well how the music was composed. Most of the recordings were created by the combination of tracks from various jams and then mixing them together. The combination was a lot to ask of the jazz fans of the time who were of the perception that the overdubs were a studio trickery. Presently, such overdubs are a common practice but back in the 1970s it had not been to the ears of the jazz fans, and this is the main reason as to why the album was highly criticized and hated by a large number of fans.

The ‘On the Corner’ album was recorded and released in the 1970s, a period that was faced by significant changes in the music industry and therefore, a revolution in the music industry was on board. During that period, the music listeners had a variety of genres to listen and choose from and most of the genres rose to popularity at varying points at the course of the decade (Chambers &Chambers, 1983). Some of the genres that rose in the 1970s include Soul, Hard Rock, Pop, Funk, Disco and Soft Rock, which all carved out their place in the music world in that period. Also at the end of the 1970s, the music industry witnessed the birth of another young music style, hip-hop and this mad the period to have a lot of genres that offer competition to jazz.

In response to the changing diversity in music, Miles Davis saw it necessary to shift from pure jazz and make a compilation that could as well please the new generation. “On the Corner” was part of Miles Davis’ effort to reach the younger African American audience who were now corrupted to other genres, leaving jazz for rock and roll and funk genres. The album featured an illustration depicting ghetto caricatures that included gays, winos, activists, prostitutes and drug dealers that had been drawn by a cartoonist Corky McCoy (Coleman, 2014). The album also featured a single stylized photograph of the artist and was originally released with no musician credits and this led to a series on confusions regarding which musician featured on the album. Later, Mile Davis admitted to have the album’s cover portrayed like that intentionally claiming that he did put the names on the album so that the critics could have something to say and further said that he could not put his picture on any of his albums in future as he perceived pictures were of no significant use.

Miles’ concept was not well received, but instead, the album became one of the worst selling albums that had lots of scorns by the jazz critics at the time of its release. Due to this, he did not push the album to make more sales and neither did the recording Columbia Studio and therefore the album was forgotten. “On the Corner” was the last studio album that was produced by Davis as he later focused on live performances before he finally retired from music (Cole, 2007). The reason for opposing the album, therefore, was because it tried to bridge the gap that had been introduced by the new musical genres deviating from the original jazz composition in an attempt to win the younger African American population.

The “On the Corner” was significant not only to the professional life of Miles Davis but as well to the personal and relationships with his audience. Professionally, Davies wanted to reach many people so that he could be able to sell his album owing to the changing music culture to which most people preferred other musical genres than jazz. Just like the other musicians who wanted to make a living out of music, Davis as well needed to make music his profession and to do this, he had to provide what the market demanded. The album was also of personal significance as it involved an illustration of what he stood for, he stated that he never recorded the album for the whites, but what mattered to him was that the African American would relate his music and be proud of it (Davis & Troupe, 1990). The album’s significance as well covers the relationships between his competitors and the audience. Every kind of music is produced and targeted to a particular audience and therefore, for Miles Davis, he wanted to solidify his relationship with the young people who were already on the diversion to another genre and thus he had to give what they needed to remain as part of his audience.

Miles Davis was a great musician of the jazz genre and who had represented the genre very well. Preference and taste tend to differ as a variety of products are introduced to the market for the audience to choose from and this is the point that made Miles divert into producing and recording of the controversial album “On the Corner” that was received with hate. Miles’ intention was to create a kind of music that was tailored to the audience preference and thus he had to input new ingredients that were less known to the people in the early 1970s (Davis & Troupe, 1990). Despite the album’s rejection and Miles giving up on studio recordings, the album dramatically improved as time passed, catching the attention of many people outside the jazz community. The album was later referred to as an innovative musical statement and a forerunner to the subsequent jazz, funk, hip hop, electronica and post-punk musical genres (Henry, 2017). The album, therefore, was a visionary musical statement that was way ahead of its time as it has massive influence in the current music and have gained wide acceptance compared to the 1970s.

ReferencesChambers, J., & Chambers, J. K. (1983). Milestones. University of Toronto Press.

Cole, G. (2007). The last Miles: the music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991. University of Michigan Press.

Coleman, K. T. (2014). The Second Quintet & Miles Davis, the Jazz Avant-garde, and Change, 1959-68 (Doctoral dissertation, Stanford University).

Davis, M., & Troupe, Q. (1990). Miles. Simon and Schuster.

Henry, C. B. (2017). Miles Davis: A Research and Information Guide. Routledge.

Leubner, B. (2010). Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever. Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation, 6(1).

Purser, R. E., & Montuori, A. (1994). Miles Davis in the classroom: Using the jazz ensemble metaphor for enhancing team learning. Journal of Management Education, 18(1), 21-31.

Szwed, J. (2004). So what: the life of Miles Davis. Simon and Schuster.

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