Here’s something I missed earlier this year. East St. Louis Mayor Alvin L. Parks threw a party to commemorate the 84th birthday of Miles Dewey Davis III.
The event, which took place in Parks’ office, honored the jazz legend and paid tribute to the role the city played during his formative years. Davis was born in Alton but grew up in East St. Louis, where he attended Lincoln High School and played in its band. Some of Davis’ classmates, as well as several generations of East St. Louis citizens, attended the gathering.
Standing before a sheet cake emblazoned with a picture of Bitches Brew-era Miles, Parks welcomed the crowd and commented on the legacy left by Davis, who died in 1991. “Though he is no longer with us in person, we certainly know that his spirit lives with us,” Parks said. “One of the reasons that East St. Louis is so strongly known for music is that Miles Davis hails from East St. Louis, Illinois.
“So we say not only happy birthday to Miles Davis today, but thank you, Miles Davis, for putting East St. Louis even further on the map and making this known as a place that you can say, ‘We know music, we know arts, we know artistic expression because Miles Davis blew his horn first in East St. Louis, Illinois.'”
A three-piece jazz combo, led by Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville faculty member Reggie Thomas, played a selection of Davis’ better-known tunes, starting with the Kind of Blue classic “Freddie Freeloader.” Trumpeter Brady Lewis, a sophomore at East St. Louis Senior High School, was tasked with taking Miles’ role and did a fine job; he even faithfully recreated the original trumpet solo.