Sunday, November 29, 2009

We Want Miles!: An International Exhibit of His Life and Work at Musée de La Musique, Paris, France: October 16, 2009--January 17, 2010

If you can get to Paris before the end of 17 January 2010, you really should try and see an amazing exhibition devoted to the life and music of Miles Davis. "We Want Miles - Miles Davis: The Face of a Legend," is quite simply, a stunning exhibition, a must-see event for anyone with an interest in Miles. It was put together by Vincent Bessières, a curator at the Musée de la Musique/Cite de la Musique. Vincent spent two years organising the exhibition and worked closely with Miles Davis Properties LLC, which looks after the Miles Davis estate. Vincent worked with Miles's youngest son Erin (who played percussion in Miles's 1990 band), daughter Cheryl, nephew Vince Wilburn Jr (who played drums in Miles's band during 1985-87), and Darryl Porter, general manager of the Miles Davis estate.

The result is a stunning collection of exhibits from around the world, that includes, musical instruments, stage clothes, music scores, session sheets, music tracks, art work, videos, posters, adverts, interviews and photographs from top photographers such as Annie Liebovitz, Anton Corbijn, Don Hunstein, Anthony Barboza and the late Irving Penn.

I was fortunate to attend the preview opening and was spellbound. The exhibition is on two large floors and starts with Miles's early life in St Louis and ends with his concert at La Villette in Paris on July 10 1991, barely a month before he died. My photographs have focused on Miles's 1970s and 80s periods, and show only a fraction of what there is to see. Later on, I was able to attend a private event where I met Vince, Erin and Cheryl. Also present was jazz musician Kyle Eastwood (who has worked with Erin Davis) and Olana DiGirolamo, the producer/director of Play That, Teo, a film about Miles's long-time producer Teo Macero.

There is talk of the exhibition moving to Montreal in Spring 2010, but in the meantime, if you can get to Paris - don't miss it!

Many thanks to Vince Wilburn Jr, Darryl Porter and Vincent Bessières.

-George Cole


we want miles

miles Davis : Jazz Face to Face with its legend

october 16, 2009 - Janvier 17, 2010

musée de la musique

Press release

we want miles

miles Davis exhibition: Jazz Face to Face with its legend

October 16, 2009 – January 17, 2010

Musée de la Musique/Cité de la Musique

Curator: Vincent Bessières

Associated curator: Éric de Visscher

Sixty years after his first trip to France to perform at the Salle Pleyel, fifty years after recording his masterpiece Kind of Blue (Grammy Award winning and best selling jazz record of all time), forty-nine years after the recording of Sketches of Spain and forty years after the revolutionary Bitches Brew, the Musée de la Musique presents an ambitious retrospective devoted to one the greatest music makers of the twentieth century: Miles Davis (1926-1991). Organized with the support of the Miles Davis Properties, LLC., this exhibition charts the jazzman’s musical trajectory from his childhood in East St. Louis to the retrospective concert he gave, actually at La Villette in Paris, just a few weeks before he passed away. Following several years of silence out of the public eye, Miles Davis came back in 1981 with the album The Man with the Horn. Shortly after, his come-back was confirmed by a live album aptly named We Want Miles – a title that reminds us how eagerly he had been awaited by his fans. In tribute to the passion the musician inspired throughout his whole career, the Musée de la Musique’s first exhibition devoted to jazz bears the same title as the album that emphasized his return on the forefront of the scene. Almost thirty years later, this title, acting like a slogan, is at once an invitation and a wish. An invitation to rediscover the music and measure the immense talent of an artist who never ceased to question the boundaries of jazz. A wish to better understand the man’s complexity as well as his musical genius and mystery, a man who forged his own image throughout his lifetime. We Want Miles: jazz face to face with its legend.

Covering a surface of 800 m2, the exhibition is divided into thematic sequences arranged chronologically and presenting numerous artifacts, many of which are presented to the public for the first time: rare or previously unscreened footage, original manuscript scores, an exceptional ensemble of trumpets and instruments his fellow-musicians played, original documents relating to his albums, stage costumes, vintage pressings of his records, as well as numerous pictures taken by the greatest photographers. The exhibition also displays works of art, that bear witness to Miles Davis’s aura beyond the mere sphere of music. Conceived by the Projectiles team, the exhibition is entirely designed to facilitate the appreciation of sound and ease of listening. It pays homage to the music by displaying several“mutes” throughout the itinerary. These so-called mutes – coined in reference to the very particular sound Miles Davis obtained from such devices – are oval-shaped spaces; small listening rooms designed to allow the public to discover the artist’s emblematic works in optimal conditions. Moreover, equipped with headphones – either their own or ones lent by the museum – visitors can entertain themselves plugging into interactive audio and video stations that complete the show’s musical circuit.

looking for miles Davis :

How do you show music? Imagining an exhibition on an artist with the stature of Miles Davis poses a twofold objective: first, to make the most significant aspects of his work heard and, secondly, to display the objects that bear witness to his artistic development. Reflection on the quality of the sound was therefore an important issue for this exhibition, which led the Projectiles team to produce an original solution: the “mutes”(see on page 18-19). Reflection on how to exhibit musical objects was an equally complex matter, given the absence of a real museographic institution anywhere in the world devoted to jazz in general or to Miles Davis in particular.

Very enthusiastic for this exhibition, Miles Davis’s beneficiaries had however no detailed we want miles : Prologue to an exhibition By Vincent Bessières, the exhibition’s curator inventory of what was in their collections, and it was only by going to the relevant locations and launching out on an exciting treasure trail and opening boxes and drawers – often left untouched since the demise of the musician – that we were able to bring to light numerous artifacts that would be shown to the public for the first time. Among these, there are a considerable number of manuscripts illustrating certain key episodes of Miles Davis’s career (original charts from the Birth of the Cool nonet, orchestral scores of Porgy and Bess, hand-written themes by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Hermeto Pascoal...) but also outfits and personal belongings. At the same time, our research led us to locate certain rare or previously unscreened footage (Miles in the recording studio, Miles boxing) the presentation of which, in itself, constitutes something of an event. Consulting the archives of Teo Macero (a producer who was to Miles Davis what George Martin was to the Beatles) kept at the New York Public Library, allowed us to find working documents of his and better understand the production of certain major albums. Finally, whilst it brings together an exceptional number of trumpets that belonged to Miles Davis, the exhibition also includes several instruments used by his fellow musicians, who, in their support for the project, were kind enough to part from the instruments and lend them to the museum. This body of exhibits, complemented with works of art that bear witness to an aura that goes beyond music itself, constitutes a documentary and aesthetic whole that is the first of its kind ever to be assembled on the subject.

Among the numerous scores found while preparing the exhibition, the original manuscripts of the so-called orchestra of Birth of the Cool, dating from 1948-49, are the oldest. Published under the title Deception, this arrangement (on which the original title of the piece Conception can be read), is one of the rare ones to be attributed to Miles Davis (left). Original handwritten music sheet of Deception (adapted from George Shearing’s Conception) performed by the Birth of the Cool nonet, 1949. Miles Davis Properties LLC. collection.


miles and Paris: a long story Paris has featured in the destiny of many artists and, among jazzmen, Miles Davis is one for whom the City of Light played a decisive role. The exhibition at the Cité coincides with the sixtieth anniversary of his first trip to Paris in 1949. Invited to perform at the International Jazz Festival organized at the Salle Pleyel by a group of jazz aficionados, who were as enlightened as they were dynamic (including Eddie Barclay and Charles Delaunay), the trumpeter was considered, at the age of twenty-three, to be one of the rising stars of modern jazz. The line-up also boasted the likes of Sidney Bechet and Charlie Parker. Not only was he greeted enthusiastically by the French public and warmly welcomed by a certain intelligentsia of the time, Miles Davis realized that in Paris he was more than just a musician, he was an artist. Boris Vian introduced him to the Existentialist set who congregated in the cellars of Saint-Germain- des-Prés, and it is there that his fleeting, yet highly symbolic, romance with Juliette Gréco contributed to forging his attachment to Paris. When he returned in 1956, he would play with the great saxophonist Lester Young, his idol as a teenager. The following year, backed by the French musicians who accompanied him at the Club Saint-Germain – the hotspot for jazz on Paris’s Left Bank – Miles Davis recorded the music for Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Lift to the Scaffold), Louis Malle’s first full-length film, whose success owes a lot to the atmosphere created by the soundtrack improvised in one night. From then on, Miles would return to Paris repeatedly, performing at the Olympia, the Salle Pleyel, the TNP and, after he retired, at the Châtelet and the Zénith, up until his great retrospective concert “Miles and Friends”, that was held in the open-air – just weeks before he passed away in 1991 – on the grounds of La Villette, in front of the Grande Halle. For the first time in his career (and because it was in Paris, the first city to have recognized his talent) Miles Davis agreed to perform once more with his former partners, revisiting the past. Symbolically, the exhibition closes with the projection of the film that was made of this historic concert, which took place just meters away from where the Cité de la Musique, which houses the Musée de la Musique and has taken over the management of the Salle Pleyel, would be built in 1995.

“Directions in music”:

miles or Jazz on the move

Miles Davis (1926-1991) is one of the most fascinating characters in the history of jazz. Whilst the majority of jazz’s great names developed a musical language they spent their whole lives exploring (Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker) – be it in the most absolute of ways (John Coltrane) or in a way that could be seen as forming one cohesive body (Duke Ellington) – Miles Davis never stopped calling his music into question and, in what was often a visionary move, provoking his own revolutions at a startling pace (almost every five years). From his first contact with bebop in the middle of the 1940s right up to his experimenting with rap at the twilight of his life, the trumpeter continued to work with different musicians, scouting up uncharted sounds, sometimes at the risk of alienating a portion of his fans. At the very heart of the history of jazz, where his path crossed those of so many major musicians, Miles Davis is one of the great architects of the genre by virtue of the essential “monuments” he built up; milestones in the course of twentieth century popular music. Miles Davis had a flair for new trends and his ability in integrating them, feeding the finest contemporary sounds into his own creativity, thanks to an acute awareness of his environment.

Boris Vian, Miles Davis and Michèle Léglise Vian, Paris, 1949. © DR.


• the end of the sixties marked by electric instruments, conceptual albums, and the influence of Jimi Hendrix, along with all the future heroes of jazz rock (Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea...);

• the invention of afrofunk based on obsessive beats, and a saturated electric sound with strange undercurrents resulting from his collaboration with Indian musicians – a style with its finger on the pulse of popular music (Motown, James Brown and Sly Stone);

• the rise of pop jazz, marked by new production techniques and synthesizers, his fascination with Prince, his covers of hits, and his close collaboration with Marcus Miller, who composed an entire album for him, Tutu, as a showcase for what had truly become his signature sound. All these “directions in music” – to use a phrase Miles put on his album covers in the middle of the 1960s – bear witness to an incredible creativity and a fully fledged commitment that the exhibition aims to translate the richness, making the most emblematic recordings heard. Over almost half a century Miles Davis’s career thus underwent an impressive number of “periods” that structure the break-down of the exhibition into the following sections:

• the influence of the St. Louis musicians who, from New Orleans to Chicago to Kansas City, developed a “school” of trumpet playing that would leave its mark on his own sound;

• his affiliation to the vanguard of the 1940s, bebop, with the blessing of its mentors Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, whose regular sideman he became;

• the novelty of the arrangements and “soft” quality of sound put out by his first orchestra, that opened the way to a new jazz – cool jazz – from which Miles would then turn away in order to go back to the basics of afro-american jazz, the expressiveness of blues, the lyricism of standards, along with the main perpetrators of hard bop (Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, Art Blakey, and John Coltrane);

• the first years with Columbia marked by the orchestral works of Gil Evans, his ambitious adaptations of Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain, as well as his modal exploration with the sextet, culminating in the masterpiece Kind of Blue;

• the so-called Second Quintet with which, in the middle of the 1960s – influenced as he was by young guns (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams) – he shook the very structure of jazz, ushering in a certain rhythmic freedom, while never losing control over his music;

inextricably bound to his music – a dismissal of urgency, a sense of less-is-more, a contained lyricism – and to his attitude. On stage, in the studio, while socializing, or in front of journalists, Miles Davis made his presence felt without ever giving much away. Beneath the cool exterior, there was a volcanic temperament; he had a way with words and a dry sense of humor, mixing colorful language and pithy retorts to provide some classic repartee. This multi-faceted man is one of the most fascinating heroes in the whole history of music. It is impossible to discuss his art without evoking the aura that emanated from him, because that aura is part and parcel of how he went down in history. Photography’s greatest names tried to capture this impression he gave from all angles and, from the inventors of the black and white imagery of jazz (Herman Leonard, William Gottlieb, Bob Willoughby, Ed van Der Elsken), to the leading photographers of the 1960s (Dennis Stock, Lee Friedlander, Amalie Rothschild, Baron Wolman), to the “jazzmen” of the profession (Guy Le Querrec,), and the greatest contemporary portrait artists (Anton Corbijn, Annie Leibovitz, Irving Penn), the exhibition shows these pictures.

the aura of a legend

A woman’s man, an enigmatic character, oscillating between strokes of genius and furious outbursts, a “glamorous” figure in some respects, Miles Davis spun his own legend. The author of a surprisingly frank autobiography, whose opening pages are presented in the exhibition, he forged his image in much the same way he crafted his music, becoming a star before rock stars made it an obligation to be one. At each stage in his artistic development, Miles Davis enriched his biography with anecdotes and episodes that make his life one of the most colorful in the history of jazz. His relationships with leading ladies, his escapades, his detached attitude, his provocative declarations, his bad reputation linked to drugs, his taste for the finer things in life including sports cars, his various – and sometimes extravagant – image changes, as well as his demanding nature, all fueled the myth that fascinated the public. He turned the bandstand into a new kind of stage. The archetypal jazzman in dark shades, as inaccessible as he was elegant, Miles Davis was, in the eyes of the twentieth century, the embodiment of coolness. The word “cool” is both


“to be white” or the racial issue

The racial issue was present as an undercurrent throughout Miles Davis’ career, regularly provoking tensions that influenced his music. Marked by the context of segregation and a strong sense of pride inherited from his father, Miles Davis’s attitude is that of an artist who refused to be considered just by the color of his skin. Defying any kind of ghettoization, surrounding himself with white musicians (often European) who played a decisive role in the evolution of his work, he also celebrated a certain genius in black music, hitting back at the irreverence of those who saw jazz as mere entertainment. Similarly, he was ferocious in his criticism of black musicians he deemed too servile toward white society. The exhibition includes this dimension of the persona as it overlaps on the development of his music and his relationship to jazz. His whole life Miles Davis was caught between his roots in the music of his kin and his fear of ever getting trapped in that genre; torn between the fundamentals of jazz (in particular blues) and his refusal to consider it a finite musical language. From Walkin’ (1954), which resounds like a wake-up call for the black community, to You’re Under Arrest (1985), in which he play-acts his control by the police at the wheel of a Ferrari, and from the “African” undertones of Kind of Blue (1959) to On the Corner (1972), which seeks to reconnect with the ghetto, a “black” theme runs through Miles Davis’s work; which is not to say it could be mistaken for a kind of negro chant. It constantly goes beyond that, transcending musical boundaries and racial issues (even if the latter sometimes surfaced uninvited). The assault the musician suffered at the hands of policemen in 1959, in front of a club where he was working, and the resulting scandal, are painful episodes the exhibition evokes.

A black artist in an industry dominated by white men, Miles Davis refused to be considered as a second rate musician. He made Columbia put his women in his life – beautiful black women who were a picture of artistic success (the dancer Frances Taylor, the actress Cicely Tyson, the singer Betty Davis) – on his record covers instead of vulgar white playmates. The financial conditions he posed were the object of heated debate, in which the racial question was never not an issue. His passion for boxing – a sport in which African Americans were at the top of the game and that he himself practiced – culminated with him signing, in 1970, the soundtrack of a documentary on Jack Johnson, the first black man in history to become world heavy-weight champion. He was furious when Columbia didn’t promote it properly. That’s how Miles was: he never missed a beat, he was in the ring, his wits about him, ready to give as good as he got – and with no small dose of ambiguity, as can be seen from Baroness Pannonica’s notebooks, which are presented at the exhibition. A patron of jazzmen, she took to asking them what their “three wishes” would be regarding their situation in life. Miles gave this individual, laconic and cynical answer: “to be white.”

Miles Davis with handcuffs on his wrists, shortly after the assault by policemen in front of Birdland, New York, August 26, 1959. © Ullstein Bild / Roger-Viollet.


From miles to obama

By the way in which he embraced his times, his capacity to reinvent himself and his art, the density and profusion of his work, the unfaltering and resounding influence of his music on the rest of jazz, and his ingenious intuition, and because of the legend of his own life and all the phases that marked his creative itinerary, we are tempted to think of Miles Davis as the “Picasso” of jazz – an exceptional artist, without whom the face of twentieth century art would not be the same. We speak of “Miles” like we speak of “Picasso” and a whole oeuvre is before us. Almost twenty years after his death, Miles is a benchmark not just for jazz, but for music, and he commands not only respect, but profound admiration. An “icon” for our age, annexed by advertising already during his lifetime, Miles Davis shines on, just as his records have become classics. He was a precursor of contemporary jazz, but more than that: he has been an example for musicians as diverse as Santana, Brian Eno, Laurent Garnier, and Q-Tip, and an inspiration to artists such as the film-maker Dennis Hopper, the choreographer Anna Teresa de Keermaeker, and the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat... Who isn’t a fan of Miles Davis? Who doesn’t find a piece that moves him in a body of work so varied and so vast? Everyone has their favorite album, and not least Barack Obama, whose rise to power in the United States casts new light on an anecdote Miles Davis recounted in his biography. In 1987, Miles was invited to a dinner held at the White House by Ronald Reagan. When an old goat asked him, rather condescendingly, what he had done with his life to get invited to Washington, Miles answered somewhat icily: “I’ve changed music five or six times.” This alone calls for an exhibition – We Want Miles !

vincent bessières

Born in Toulouse in 1974, Vincent Bessières is a holder of the French Agregration of Literature. As well as teaching, he started out as a journalist in 2000 with the magazine Jazzman, of which he became associate editor-in-chief in 2007. As well as a regular slot on the show Jazz de Cœur, Jazz de Pique on the French radio station France Musique from 2002 to 2008, he is also artistic advisor to Studio 5, a daily music program on the channel France 5. He is responsible for the editorial coordination of the content of the jazz section of the Médiathèque’s portal for the education department of the Cité de la Musique, and since 2006 he has been in charge of the department’s workshop on contemporary jazz. The author of numerous liner notes for jazz albums, including those of the label B Flat Recordings, created by the Belmondo brothers, he signed a chapter in the book On Jazz, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of l’Orchestre National de Jazz. He has also worked for several years on the biography of the trumpeter Lee Morgan. He is a member of the French l’Académie du Jazz.


From saint-louis to 52nd street: the search for bird (1926-1948) Born into the black middle class, Miles Davis was brought up in East St. Louis (Illinois) by a father, a dental surgeon, who drummed a sense of racial pride and individual success into him, and a mother, who extolled integration into white society and its values. Going against his mother’s wishes, he did not play the violin but the trumpet, the king of jazz instruments. At first influenced by the “St. Louis Sound”, a school of trumpeting originating from St. Louis, and to which his mentors belonged, he developed a fascination for bebop, the vanguard jazz of the time, whose leading stars, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, he met there in 1944. From then on, his mind was made up: he would join them in New York. Using study at the Juilliard School as a pretext, it wasn’t long before he joined Parker in Manhattan, becoming his regular sideman. By his side, Miles Davis performed in the jazz-clubs on 52nd Street, made his first records, invented his own style (that set him apart from other trumpeters) and made a name for himself in the world of music, where he was regarded as a “modernist”

for the times.

exhibit Description

Miles Davis aged 8 or 9.

Courtesy of Anthony Barboza Collection.

Miles Davis, his sister Dorothy Mae, his brother Vernon, and his mother Cleota H. Henry Davis. Courtesy of Anthony Barboza Collection.

Miles Davis within Charlie Parker’s quintet at the Three Deuces Club, 52nd Street, New York, toward 1945. © Frank Driggs collection.


Jean-Michel Basquiat, Horn Players, 1983. The Broad Art Foundation Collection, Santa Monica.

Photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio, Los Angeles © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat – Adagp, Paris, 2009.

A star painter of the 1980s, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) admired jazz in general and bebop in particular. An emblematic figure of the black music vanguard of the 1940s, Charlie Parker was a

source of inspiration to him in a number of his works: they suggest a true fascination, not unlike that experienced by Miles Davis four decades earlier and, at the same age, for bebop musicians. Two paintings by Basquiat on display in the exhibition illustrate this: the immense triptych Horn Players, which portrays his two idols, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, and Bird of Paradise, the title of a 10-inch record by Charlie Parker in 1947 with Miles Davis (featured in the detail of the work) by his side.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, No title (Bird of Paradise), 1984. Stéphane Samuel and Robert M. Rubin Collection. Photo by Robert Mckeever. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat – Adagp, Paris, 2009.

out of the cool: self destruction and self invention (1949-1954) Collaborating with the arrangers Gerry Mulligan and Gil Evans, Miles Davis directed, from 1948, a group of nine musicians with an unusual instrumentation that paved the way for the next step after bebop. Brought together later under the title Birth of the Cool, these pieces focused on orchestration and gave rise to “cool jazz”, that would come into its own in California under the banner West Coast Jazz. In 1949, invited to the jazz festival in Paris, Miles Davis had a fling with Juliette Gréco and discovered in the intelligentsia of Saint-Germain-des- Prés an appreciation of his music that went well beyond what he had known in the United States. Upon his return, he found the ghetto, in which modern jazz remained confined, hard to bear and, like so many others, he spiralled down into drugs. As a reaction to the vogue for cool jazz, considered unexciting and white, he delved back into bebop and blues, while drawing together the new rising generation of hard bop artists. Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, Milt Jackson, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Horace Silver – to name but a few – took part in the recordings he made for the independent labels Prestige and Blue Note. Magnifying his sound with a Harmon mute, he forged his style. Program of the Paris International Jazz Festival, 1949. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département de l’audiovisuel, Charles Delaunay archive. Collection of albums published by the label Prestige between 1951 and 1956. © DR.



miles ahead : in studio for columbia (1955-1962) In 1954, aware of being caught up in a circle of self-destruction, Miles Davis quit drugs and took his career back in hand. Following his triumph on stage at the Newport Festival the following year, he convinced Columbia to sign him up and he set up a stable quintet, including John Coltrane, who was then largely unknown. Despite its scandalous reputation, the group made a name for itself as one of the best of its time in just a few months. The musician played off the contrasting personalities of his band-mates and, inspired by the pianist Ahmad Jamal, he fine- tuned its approach, dramatized its renditions, and developed the modal improvisation epitomized in 1959 with the masterpiece Kind of Blue. At the same time, joining forces once more with Gil Evans, he produced ambitious albums in which he notably revisited Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and Joaquim Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. His new-found status as a jazz star – conveying a certain elegance and seemingly superior attitude from behind his dark shades – couldn’t have set him further apart from the image of the genial entertainer, associated with jazz musicians until then. Nevertheless, in 1959, he was assaulted in front of New York’s Birdland Club, by policemen after refusing to walk away. In Europe, where he recorded the soundtrack of Ascenseur pour l’échafaud in 1957, he was unanimously applauded on the greatest stages. Louis Malle and Miles Davis while recording the music for the film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud © Vincent Rossell / Cinémathèque Française. Poster for Ascenseur pour l’échafaud by Louis Malle, 1958. Cinémathèque Française Collection. Willy Mucha © ADAGP, 2008.


Miles Davis during the recording of Porgy and Bess, 1958. Photo by Don Hunstein © Sony Music Entertainment. Collection of orchestral scores of Gone Gone Gone arranged by Gil Evans, taken from the album Porgy and Bess (1958). Miles Davis Properties, LLC Collection. Trumpet belonging to Miles Davis at the end of the 1950s. © Chris English, UNCG. Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program Collection, University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Handwritten note by the producer Irving Townsend listing the musicians of Kind of Blue and the order in which they appear on the record sleeve,1959. Teo Macero Archives, New York Public Library for Performing Arts. John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis et Bill Evans pendant l’enregistrement de Kind of Blue, 1959. Photo by Don Hunstein © Sony Music Entertainment. A masterpiece in the history of music and, to this day, the best-selling jazz album ever in the world, Kind of Blue is in many respects regarded as a model of perfection. Recorded in 1959 with his group of that time – in which the saxophonists John Coltrane et Cannonball Adderley shone – the album owes part of its originality to the pianist Bill Evans who penned the album notes on the sleeve. The original handwritten version of these as well as the notes taken by the producer during the recording sessions are on display in the exhibition. The adaptation of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess opera as a version for orchestra and jazz soloist— under the direction of Gil Evans—was among the ambitious projects from the label Columbia designed to make Miles Davis’s better known beyond jazz aficionados. The exhibition presents a collection of original orchestral scores as well as Miles Davis’s sole part in the emblematic record Gone, Gone, Gone.

miles smiles: controlled freedom (1963-1967) At the beginning of the 1960s, Miles Davis was faced with a new situation: his musicians began leaving him to pursue solo careers. Forced to find new blood, the trumpeter, showing his characteristic flair, brought in highly gifted, younger instrumentalists, with whom he would chart out new territories. The pianist Herbie Hancock, the drummer Tony Williams, the double- bass player, Ron Carter, and, finally, the saxophonist, Wayne Shorter transcended the rules of ensemble playing, and – spurred on by the trumpeter’s directing – abandoned the traditional repertoire in order to invent a jazz that was at once free, intuitive, controlled and edgy; a jazz that differed from the “free jazz” that was developing at the same time. The individual and collective influence of this group would be considerable and act as a precursor to contemporary jazz. While his music brought him international accolade – from Tokyo, to Antibes, and Berlin – Miles Davis’s love life saw him living with beautiful black women artists, he made his label put on his record covers. He drove a Ferrari, and distinguished himself as part of show business’s black elite, whose limits went well beyond the mere spheres of jazz.


Miles Davis at the wheel of his Ferrari 275 GTB © Baron Wolman. Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter in Berlin, 1964 © JazzSign/Lebrecht Music & Arts. Handwritten score of E.S.P. by Wayne Shorter dedicated to Miles Davis, 1965. Miles Davis Properties, LLC Collection. Miles Davis and his wife Frances on the album cover of E.S.P., Columbia, 1965. © All rights reserved. electric miles: on the corner: Still shot from an amateur film of


electric miles: under rock distorsion(1968-1971) 1968 brought its fair share of social unrest, racial tensions, and musical innovation. The musicians surrounding Miles Davis became interested in the new electric keyboards; and he himself began thinking about how to incorporate the rhythms of rock music into his own music, aware as he was of the way in which artists such as Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Sly Stone were mobilizing whole crowds, while jazz seemed confined to a more limited audience. Always surrounded by the best, (Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin), Miles “plugged” into this movement, contributing to the emergence of what would become known as “jazz rock”, with records that had sleeves bearing psychedelic illustrations and that are, in their way, concept albums. The recording studio became the den in which he elaborated his music, in close collaboration with the producer Teo Macero, who availed himself of all the editing and mixing techniques imaginable. Bitches Brew went gold, marking its time, and Miles Davis played at all the major venues of the rock circuit, like the Fillmore, and the colossal Isle of Wight Festival. In 1968, he married one of the figureheads of the time, the flamboyant Betty Mabry, who would go on to lead a singing career under the name Betty Davis. Mati Klarwein, Live/Evil, oil on canvas, 1971 (diptych for the eponymous album by Miles Davis). Galerie Albert Benamou. While revolutionizing his music under the influence of rock and electrification, Miles Davis also changed his wardrobe; and his record covers reflect these shifts too. Somewhere between surrealism and the psychedelic, paintings by Mati Klarwein (1932-2002), a figure of the New York counter-culture, decorate the album covers of Bitches Brew (1969) and Live/Evil (1971) – the original painting is displayed in the exhibition. Miles Davis, photo taken from the series made for the album cover of In A Silent Way, 1969. © Lee Friedlander. Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco. Miles Davis on the cover of the magazine Rolling Stone, 1969. Private collection. © Rolling Stone Magazine. Miles Davis, in his New York apartment, 1971. © Anthony Barboza.


on the corner: the funk pulse (1072-1975) At the core of a group with ever changing members, Miles Davis slid, in the early 1970s, from the nebulous heights of rock to the hypnotic fever of funk. Concerned that he was not reaching the Afro- American audience, Miles looked to the ghetto in order to absorb the sound coming off the street: On the Corner resounds like a manifesto. Always at the cutting edge, the trumpeter connected a wa-wa pedal, like the ones used by guitarists, on his instrument, adopted the electronic keyboard, that he himself played, and punctuated his act with boxing moves – a sport he practiced tirelessly and whose champions he admired. Carried by the riffs of bass guitarist Michael Henderson, straight from the Motown studios, and filled by the electricity of guitarists accustomed to the virtues of distortion and the expressivity of blues, his group spearheaded a deep groovy music with drawn out improvisations, whose original themes and structures, could no longer be discerned. Still shot from an amateur film of Miles Davis in the boxing ring, Ca. 1970. © Corky McCoy Poster of the Miles Davis concert at the Berliner Jazz Tage, 1971. © Günther Kieser. Notes by the producer Teo Macero on the making of the album On the Corner, 1972. Teo Macero Archives, New York Public Library for Performing Arts. Cover of the album On the Corner drawn by Corky McCoy, 1972. © All rights reserved.


Trumpet in C, engraved with Miles Davis’s name and personalized with green paint, around 1973. Photo by Ed Berger. Institute of Jazz Studies, Newark From the end of the 1950s, Miles Davis took to personalizing his trumpets with engravings in the brass or colored varnishes. The exhibition brings together seven trumpets that belonged to him at different times and that are poignant symbols of his talent.


silence, solitude, and requiem (1976-1980)

Exhausted by several surgical operations, romantic deceptions, and excesses of various kinds, Miles put his trumpet away and stopped performing in 1975. One of the last recordings he made before retiring is a long piece with funerary overtones, a veritable requiem; a tribute to Duke Ellington who had just died. For long months, worn down by depression, Miles Davis, stayed quietly home. Alarmed by his silence, various attempts to get him back into the studio were made, but it wasn’t until 1980 that – with the support of those close to him and alongside young Chicago musicians, including his nephew the drummer Vince Wilburn – he began to make a come-back.

star People:

the world-wide icon (1981-1991) Fascinated by synthesizers and the possibilities afforded by new studio technology, Miles reinvented his music-making to fit the times. Taking in the pop music of the moment, without losing sight of blues, he looked for a way to marry contemporary sounds with his three decades worth of experience. His repertoire would include commercial hits (by Cindy Lauper, Michael Jackson, Toto, and Prince), conceived as new standards. The tone of his trumpet became the central element in his records and his concerts became shows led by a close-knit band. In 1986, the album Tutu, composed especially for him by Marcus Miller became a world-wide Miles Davis at home, shortly before his come back, around 1981 © Teppei Inokuchi. First annotated draft of Miles’s autobiography, 1990. Schomburg Center For Research in Black Culture Collection, NYPL, Astor, Lenox & Tilden Foundations. Picture taken from the movie Dingo, 1986, © Les films du paradoxe. Pictures taken from an advert for Honda scooters (1986) and from the series Miami Vice (1985). © Universal, Honda Motor Europe, Warner Music Group. © Universal Studios. © Honda Motor. © Universal Studios.


Fodera bass guitar “Monarch Deluxe” played by Marcus Miller during the recording of the album Tutu. Photo by Vincent Fodera. Marcus Miller Collection. success. The man with a sphinx face had risen from his ashes. Reassured as to his star status, Miles Davis helped forge his own legend and played with his image. He published his biography, took to wearing extraordinary outfits drawn by the greatest designers, exposed his talent as a painter, and made multiple appearances on screen (video clips, talk shows, adverts, movie and small screen roles). His health problems, however, would not let him be. In 1991, for the last time, Miles accepted to go back in time: at the Montreux Festival he again played Gil Evan’s scores from the 1950s; in Paris at La Villette, he reunited with old tour partners from different points in his career. He passed away soon after, on September 28. In 1992 the album Doo-Bop – an unfinished collaboration with rappers – came out; posthumous evidence of his burgeoning interest in hip-hop. Photos taken for the album sleeve of You’re Under Arrest, 1985 © Anthony Barboza.


At first a means to re-educate his hand after a stroke, drawing and painting became a daily activity for Miles Davis in the 1980s. Used on some of his album covers, his works bear witness to his aim to be an all-round artist. Several canvases are displayed are the exhibition for this reason, and in particular the one the acted as the stage backdrop for his concert at La Villette in July 1991.