Aura (Miles Davis album)

Aura is a concept album by Miles Davis, produced by Danish composer/trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, released in 1989. All compositions and arrangements are by Mikkelborg, who created the suite in tribute when Davis received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize in December 1984, the year Decoy was released.[1][2][3] This was Miles Davis' final album released in his lifetime.

Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 12, 1989
RecordedJanuary 31–February 4, 1985
StudioEasy Sound Studio, Copenhagen, Denmark
GenreJazz fusion
ProducerPalle Mikkelborg
Miles Davis chronology


The main theme consists of 10 notes, yielded by the letters "M-I-L-E-S-D-A-V-I-S" (see BACH motif, and Schoenberg hexachord "EsCHBEG", and the chart at Musical notes#Accidentals). It is introduced at the beginning over a sustained chord of these same notes. The following 9 movements of the suite represent the colours Mikkelborg sees in Miles's aura.

The music is scored for an extended jazz big band, and the core of the band is formed by the Danish Radio Big Band, featuring Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Thomas Clausen and Marilyn Mazur.[4] Guests such as John McLaughlin and Davis' nephew Vince Wilburn are featured.[5] The sessions took place in Copenhagen in 1985 at Davis' own initiative, as he had been very honored and satisfied with the suite. It was the first time Miles Davis had recorded with a big band for over 20 years. Aura, however, is not a conventional big band jazz album. The music is perhaps best categorized as fusion jazz with a strong flavor of modern classical music, as many of the orchestral passages reveal Mikkelborg's inspiration from composers like Olivier Messiaen and Charles Ives.[6]

Although the album was recorded at Easy Sound Studios in Copenhagen in 1985, contractual issues delayed its release until 1989. Davis claimed in September 1985 that Columbia would not release it and gave this as a reason for switching labels and signing to Warners, while Columbia itself said the problem was connected with Mikkelborg's own contracts.[7]September 7, 1989 The album won a Grammy Award in 1990 for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance.[8]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [9]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [10]
Musichound Jazz4/5[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [12]
The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings     [13]
Tom Hull – on the WebB+[14]

Aura was well received by music critics. Allmusic editor Thom Jurek described its music as "an amalgam of classical impressionism, European new music, jazz, rock, electronic, and other genres."[9] He called the album Mikkelborg's "fine parting gift" for Davis and wrote, "As a tribute and separate orchestral work, it's quite moving and beautiful, full of moody interludes and evocations of nuance, color, texture, and dynamic. With Davis added, soloing in his trademark muted, rounded warmth, the music becomes almost breathtaking."[9] Wes Long of PopMatters called Aura "ruthlessly inventive", an "ever-moody masterpiece", and "quite possibly the last monumental effort" from Davis.[15] Fred Kaplan of New York commented that the release emerged from an era of "mechanical rut" for Davis and called Aura "a jolting synthesis of jazz, rock, and Messiaen-influenced classical music that lit up a future path lamentably unfollowed."[16]

Todd S. Jenkins of All About Jazz commented that the album "successfully blends Miles’ electric style with the feel of his earlier big-band works with Gil Evans, another of Mikkelborg’s prime inspirations."[17] He wrote in conclusion, "Mikkelborg’s work offered Miles the chance to touch once more upon many of the phases his career had touched and then sailed past. If any post-Bitches Brew album by Miles should be considered essential, this is the one. Pure magic from beginning to end."[17] In Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s (1990), music critic Robert Christgau cited it as Davis' best release during the 1980s.[18] In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), music journalist Paul Evans called Aura "an adventurous and pointedly non-pop-oriented big-band suite".[19]

Track listingEdit

All tracks composed and arranged by Palle Mikkelborg

  1. "Intro" – 4:48
  2. "White" – 6:07
  3. "Yellow" – 6:55
  4. "Orange" – 8:41
  5. "Red" – 6:05
  6. "Green" – 8:13
  7. "Blue" – 6:36
  8. "Electric Red" – 4:19
  9. "Indigo" – 6:06
  10. "Violet" – 9:04




  1. ^ A prestigious award, mostly given to classical composers and musicians; see official website Archived March 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Miles Davis was the first non-classical musician to receive the prize, and was particularly happy to receive the prize when he learned that Igor Stravinsky was one of the earlier recipients.
  2. ^ Prior to the concert, Miles Davis was announced to only play for the last ten minutes of the suite. He eventually played for over 40 minutes, also playing Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman's "Time after Time" and his own "Jean Pierre."
  3. ^ According to Decoy was released in 1983.
  4. ^ It was during the Aura sessions that Davis became fascinated with Mazur's wide range of percussion talents, and he subsequently hired her for his touring band.
  5. ^ At the December 1984 concert, guitarist John Scofield — then member of Davis' touring band — was featured as guest.
  6. ^ The 10-note opening theme is played freely against a dissonant background chord in a manner reminiscent of Ives' "The Unanswered Question".
  7. ^ Ginnell, Richard. "Miles Davis: Aura Tone Poem Due for Release". Chicago Tribune. Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  8. ^ "Past Winners Search |". Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  9. ^ a b c Allmusic review
  10. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Miles Davis". Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0857125958.
  11. ^ Holtje, Steve; Lee, Nancy Ann, eds. (1998). "Miles Davis". Musichound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide. Music Sales Corporation. ISBN 0825672538.
  12. ^ Evans et al. Brackett & Hoard (2004), p. 215.
  13. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. p. 351. ISBN 978-0-141-03401-0.
  14. ^ Hull, Tom (n.d.). "Grade List: Miles Davis". Tom Hull – on the Web. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  15. ^ Long, Wes. "Miles Davis: Aura". PopMatters. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  16. ^ Kaplan, Fred (November 23, 2009). "Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection". New York. New York Media. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  17. ^ a b Jenkins, Todd S. (September 1, 2000). "Miles Davis: Aura". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  18. ^ Christgau, Robert (1990). "CG 80s: Subjects for Further Research". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  19. ^ Evans et al. Brackett & Hoard (2004), p. 219.


External linksEdit