This is the second section of your IELTS Academic Reading test. You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 14–26, which are based on Reading Passage 2 on the following pages.

Questions 14–19

Reading Passage 2 has six paragraphs, A–F.

Choose the correct heading for paragraphs A–F from the list of headings below.

Write the correct number, i–ix, in boxes 14–19 on your answer sheet.

List of Headings

i. A legacy is established

ii. Formal education unhelpful  

iii. An education in two parts  

iv. Branching out in new directions 

v. Childhood and family life 

vi. Change necessary to stay creative 

vii. Conflicted opinions over Davis’ earlier work 

viii. Davis’ unique style of trumpet playing  

ix. Personal and professional struggles 

14. Paragraph A

15. Paragraph B

16. Paragraph C

17. Paragraph D

18. Paragraph E

19. Paragraph F

Miles Davis - Icon and iconoclast

An iconoclast is somebody who challenges traditional beliefs or customs

A  At the age of thirteen, Miles Davis was given his first trumpet, lessons were arranged with a local trumpet player, and a musical odyssey began. These early lessons, paid for and supported by his father, had a profound effect on shaping Davis’ signature sound. Whereas most trumpeters of the era favoured the use of vibrato (a wobbly quiver in pitch inflected in the instrument’s tone), Davis was taught to play with a long, straight tone, a preference his instructor reportedly drilled into the young trumpeter with a rap on the knuckles every time Davis began using vibrato. This clear, distinctive style never left Davis. He continued playing with it for the rest of his career, once remarking, ‘If I can’t get that sound, I can’t play anything.’

B  Having graduated from high school in 1944, Davis moved to New York City, where he continued his musical education both in the clubs and in the classroom. His enrolment in the prestigious Julliard School of Music was short-lived, however – he soon dropped out, criticising what he perceived as an over-emphasis on the classical European repertoire and a neglect of jazz. Davis did later acknowledge, however, that this time at the school was invaluable in terms of developing his trumpet-playing technique and giving him a solid grounding in music theory. Much of his early training took place in the form of jam sessions and performances in the clubs of 52nd Street, where he played alongside both up-and-coming and established members of the jazz pantheon such as Coleman Hawkins, Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, and Thelonious Monk.

C  In the late 1940s, Davis collaborated with nine other instrumentalists, including a French horn and a tuba player, to produce The Birth of Cool, an album now renowned for the inchoate sounds of what would later become known as ‘cool’ jazz. In contrast to popular jazz styles of the day, which featured rapid, rollicking beats, shrieking vocals, and short, sharp horn blasts, Davis’ album was the forerunner of a different kind of sound – thin, light horn-playing, hushed drums and a more restrained, formal arrangement. Although it received little acclaim at the time (the liner notes to one of Davis’ later recordings call it a ‘spectacular failure’), in hindsight The Birth of Cool has become recognised as a pivotal moment in jazz history, cementing – alongside his 1958 recording, Kind of Blue – Davis’ legacy as one of the most innovative musicians of his era.  

D  Though Davis’ trumpet playing may have sounded effortless and breezy, this ease rarely carried over into the rest of his life. The early 1950s, in particular, were a time of great personal turmoil. After returning from a stint in Paris, Davis suffered from prolonged depression, which he attributed to the unravelling of a number of relationships, including his romance with a French actress and some musical partnerships that ruptured as a result of creative disputes. Davis was also frustrated by his perception that he had been overlooked by the music critics, who were hailing the success of his collaborators and descendants in the ‘cool’ tradition, such as Gerry Mulligan and Dave Brubeck, but who afforded him little credit for introducing the cool sound in the first place.    

E  In the latter decades of his career, Davis broke out of exclusive jazz settings and began to diversify his output across a range of musical styles. In the 1960s, he was influenced by early funk performers such as Sly and the Family Stone, which then expanded into the jazz-rock fusion genre – of which he was a frontrunner – in the 1970s. Electronic recording effects and electric instruments were incorporated into his sound. By the 1980s, Davis was pushing the boundaries further, covering pop anthems such as Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time and Michael Jackson’s Human Nature, dabbling in hip hop, and even appearing in some movies.

F  Not everyone was supportive of Davis’ change of tune. Compared to the recordings of his early career, universally applauded as linchpins of the jazz oeuvre, trumpeter Wynston Marsalis derided his fusion work as being ‘not true jazz’, and pianist Bill Evans denounced the ‘corrupting influence’ of record companies, noting that rock and pop ‘draw wider audiences’. In the face of this criticism Davis remained defiant, commenting that his earlier recordings were part of a moment in time that he had no ‘feel’ for any more. He firmly believed that remaining stylistically inert would have hampered his ability to develop new ways of producing music. From this perspective, Davis’ continual revamping of genre was not merely a rebellion, but an evolution, a necessary path that allowed him to release his full musical potential.

Questions 20–26

Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer in Reading Passage 2?

In boxes 20–26 on your answer sheet, write

Yes - if the statement agrees with the views of the writer

No - if the statement contradicts the views of the writer

Not Given - if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

20. Davis’ trumpet teacher wanted him to play with vibrato. 

21. According to Davis, studying at Julliard helped him to improve his musical abilities.

22. Playing in jazz clubs in New York was the best way to become famous.

23. The Birth of Cool featured music that was faster and louder than most jazz at the time. 

24. Davis’ personal troubles had a negative effect on his trumpet playing. 

25. Davis felt that his contribution to cool jazz had not been acknowledged.

26. Davis was a traditionalist who wanted to keep the jazz sound pure.

Remember, you have 60 minutes to complete the Reading test! You should spend about 20 minutes on each of the three sections.

You have completed the second section of your Reading test. Now move on to Reading passage 3.

See also