Wednesday, February 18, 2015

BHM: Miles Davis


"Do not fear mistakes. There are none."

What is cool? At its very essence, cool is all about what’s happening next. In popular culture, what’s happening next is a kaleidoscope encompassing past, present and future: that which is about to happen may be cool, and that which happened in the distant past may also be cool. This timeless quality, when it applies to music, allows minimalist debate – with few exceptions, that which has been cool will always be cool.

Davis was a man of few words. When he did speak, his words often had a similar effect to a hand grenade being lobbed into the room. In 1987, he was invited to a White House dinner by Ronald Reagan. Few of the guests appeared to know who he was. During dinner, Nancy Reagan turned to him and asked what he'd done with his life to merit an invitation.

Straight-faced, Davis replied: "Well, I've changed the course of music five or six times. What have you done except fxck the president?"

The son of a prosperous dental surgeon and a music teacher, Miles Davis was born Miles Dewey Davis III on May 26, 1926, in Alton, Illinois. For nearly six decades, Miles Davis embodied all that is cool – in his music (and most especially jazz), in his art, fashion, romance, and in his international, if not intergalactic, presence that looms strong as ever today.

Honoring his body of work, in 1990, Miles Davis received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. In 1991, he played with Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The two performed a retrospective of Davis's early work, some of which he had not played in public for more than 20 years.

Later that same year, on September 28, 1991, Davis succumbed to pneumonia and respiratory failure, dying at the age of 65. Fittingly, his recording with Quincy Jones would bring Miles Davis his final Grammy, awarded posthumously in 1993. The honor was just another testament to the musician's profound and lasting influence on jazz.

2006 – The year in which Miles Davis was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on March 13th – is a land­mark year, commemorating the 80th anniversary of his birth on May 26, 1926, and the 15th anniversary of his death on September 28, 1991. In between those two markers is more than a half-century of brilliance – often exasperating, brutally honest with himself and to others, uncompromising in a way that transcended mere intuition.


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