The Magic and Mystery of Miles Davis

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The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts offers the only showing in North America of this exhibition devoted to ‘the Picasso of Jazz’

MONTREAL — According to Miles Davis in his scabrous autobiography, when the trumpeter was invited to a White House dinner in 1987, an older woman asked him what he’d done to merit being there. Davis shot back, “Well, I’ve changed music five or six times.” Drum roll, please …

Davis was hailed as “The Picasso of Jazz,” a sobriquet that Nathalie Bondil, director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, appropriated to explain the multimedia exhibition We Want Miles: Miles Davis vs. Jazz, opening on Friday. Like Picasso’s, his career was marked by distinct stylistic periods: bebop, cool, hard-bop, orchestral jazz, modal music, jazz-rock, funk and techno-funk.

Famously dubbed the Prince of Darkness, as artist and man, Davis created music worthy of the overused word hypnotic. Nearly 20 years after his death, he continues to put a spell on us.

We Want Miles, exclusive to Montreal in North America, is divided into eight themes, with different gallery spaces reflecting the periods of his career through over 350 items associated with Davis, many of them previously unseen by the general public – photos, films, album covers and artwork (including paintings by Miles), personal effects, instruments, assorted ephemera. And lots of music. The exhibition – assembled by Vincent Bessières, a former editor at Jazzman magazine of Paris, with input from the Montreal International Jazz Festival – was a roaring success during its run at Cité de la Musique in Paris last winter.

Read more of The magic and mystery of Miles courtesy the Montreal Gazette.

* excellent review and commentary of the We Want Miles exhibition in Montreal.

Photograph by: Photo courtesy of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, The Gazette

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