On The 20th Anniversary Of Miles Davis’ Death…

Wednesday (Sept. 28) marked 20 years since Miles Davis passed away. The musical legacy, the cultural influence lives on – mightily.

The Guardian remembers a man who cooked well, dressed better and had some choice words for Nancy Reagan. (Miles Davis: his wardrobe, his wit, his way with a basketball…)

His aloof allure

He could be impossible – sometimes hilariously so. In the early 60s he was booked to play the Village Vanguard in New York. He turned up an hour late and walked on stage to rapturous applause. After counting in a blues tune he played just one note of it before walking off – to a standing ovation. “Why are they clapping if he only played one note?” one audience member asked the management. “You don’t pay to see him play,” came the reply, “you pay to see him think.”

SF Weekly posts an enjoyable Five Funny Stories About Him You Maybe Shouldn’t Believe.

4. Onetime Davis bandmate John Coltrane was capable of life-altering saxophone solos. Hear his efforts on “Psalm,” which is like being slowly led by hand to the glorious summit of a cloud-scraping mountain, or “I Want to Talk About You,” whose extended cadenza is the musical equivalent of a boxer skillfully working a speed bag.

But Davis wanted none of this. When Coltrane tried to rationalize his lengthy solos by explaining that he couldn’t find a way to stop, Davis quipped, “You might try taking the horn out of your mouth.” (There was probably a “fucking” in there as well, but history has been kind to Davis in this instance.) Folks are enthralled by the idea that only one individual and one individual alone — Davis — could inform a virtuoso like Coltrane that his playing was akin to a hormone-soaked 14-year-old boy on a masturbation bender.

Twenty years after his passing and a generation or two removed from when his songs were considered ‘popular music,’ Miles Davis’ place in our cultural and musical foundation remains secure. And in this wired age, the discovery and experience of Miles Davis, one of the most influential artists in music history, is as immediate and exciting as ever.


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