Miles Davis | Around The Web

A Weekly Round-Up Of Miles Davis News & Notes

1. Miles Davis and Edith Piaf Take Center Stage

U.S. Postal Service and France’s La Poste to Honor Renowned Musicians on Forever Stamps in June. The United States Postal Service today announced the joint issuance of new Forever stamps honoring two of the world’s greatest musicians, Edith Piaf and Miles Davis. The stamps will be issued with the French postal service, La Poste in June. [mdo]

2. The Roots Of Lionize: From Miles Davis To Led Zeppelin

Kind of Blue, Miles Davis: “This is one of the records we’ve listened to most as a group in the van. Most importantly this record pioneered a lot of what we do harmonically. The first track “So What” has a harmonic structure that simply rests on one mode, the same as many Lionize songs such as “D.C. Is Tropical”, and “No Exit”. In fact almost any funk tune from James Brown to The Meters and even Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters group rely on the same basic principles of modal harmony first explored on this record.

Of all the groups that have influenced our band, I’d be shocked if this record was not in the majority of their top ten records. It is also important to note that this might be the best personnel to ever appear together on one record. Miles Davis on trumpet, John Coltrane, tenor sax. Cannonball Adderly, alto sax, Bill Evans on piano, and Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb on bass and drums.” [Houston Press]

3. Miles Davis and Gil Evans Perform “Concierto de Aranjuez (adagio)”

The idea that sparked the project was the sounds and feel of Spanish folk music and culture. Davis had explored these types of textures with his “Flemenco Sketches”. Yet in working with an established piece, Davis was faced with a new challenge. He would need some expertise to pull it off, possibly outside of his own skill set as a jazz player. [The Delete Bin]

4. ‘Summertime,’ Rendered 25,000 Ways

Joe Nocera writes: “Like most people, I came to “Porgy and Bess” through some of the many popular recordings of its famous songs. Indeed, I received several e-mails questioning my sanity for writing about the opera without mentioning two of the most famous recordings: the Ella Fitzgerald-Louis Armstrong version, and the equally sublime Miles Davis recording.” [ny times]

5. What can Duke Ellington and Miles Davis teach entrepreneurs?

Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Art Blakey are widely recognised as three of the greatest jazz band leaders of the 20th century. But did you ever consider they might be role models for entrepreneurs? In fact, each one of them has lessons to offer on how to inspire creativity and innovation within an established structure, according to Deniz Ucbasaran, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Warwick Business School. [The Guardian]

6. White Space, Miles Davis and Responsive Web Design

My appreciation for white space deepened further as I began listening to Miles Davis, whose musical talents and tastes attracted me to jazz. Davis was one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time, but he also was a master of communication. Unlike many virtuous beboppers including Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie who squeezed out as much notes as they could in their solos, Davis left plenty of space in his phrasing to allow listeners to absorb his thoughts.

In his classic Kind of Blue, Davis played only the most meaningful notes in his solos and yet the notes he didn’t play were as important as the notes he played. [visualgui]


The Miles Davis Online Interview: Jose Mardi

(Artist Series Volume 18)

I cannot say I know much about collage art. But after viewing the delightful work of Jose Mardi, I definitely want to know more, see more. And there is no better place to start enjoying sensational collage artwork than on Mardi’s Flickr page, which features dozens and dozens of brilliant, jazz and soul inspired collage art.

The three Miles Davis collages, one above and one below, are excellent, which is an obvious declaration. But to explore Mardi’s unique artistry is quite exciting, like a visual jolt to the eyes and mind. Each collage is a cool assemblage of colors and photos, words and designs.

The many collage designs are downright inspiring. After awhile I get the impulse to start experimenting with this technique of visual art. But for now I will leave the collage art to talented professionals like Jose Mardi. Based in Valencia, Spain, the artist was so kind recently to chat with me about his craft, inspiration, and Miles Davis.

Miles Davis Online: How would you describe the ‘style’ of your artwork?
Jose Mardi: I work with the technique of collage, freestyle. I use paper, scissors, cutter and glue. No computer, no scan, or anything that has to do with digital manipulation. Jazz images from the 20s to 60s inspire me, photography and album covers and teachers who created an iconography for life. My collages can be understood as a tribute to them. With all the respect I have for their work.

Miles Davis Online: Why Miles Davis?
Jose Mardi: I use lots of different artists. But with Miles it’s impossible not to admit his image is iconic, his work is the work of life surrounding jazz. It is for any jazz lover a starting point, a continuity or change, a lot different things that inspire us and make us better people.

For my work, any of his classic photos could make me sit for hours composing new images, new perspectives that are often nonsensical – and new ways of understanding music.

Miles Davis Online: You feature so many wonderful musicians – and plenty of jazz artists. Would you say there is something unique about jazz musicians that make them such compelling subjects for your artwork?
Jose Mardi: Although what I said about Miles Davis is special, it could be about other musicians. Images taken by William Claxton and Herman Leonard, the designs of Reid Miles, or Steinweiss, among many others, are so faithful to what the music represents, sometimes I’m scared to manipulate their work. But my love of jazz helps and motivates me.

I like the spontaneity of the work. Not everything has to be perfect.

Miles Davis Online: Are you working on anything special at the moment?
Jose Mardi: Every day I think of joining pieces of paper to create some new jazz collage that someone might like. I am currently working on a series of collages around the blues.

Miles Davis Online: Obviously music plays a large role in your work. Can you talk about your musical influences and how they have impacted your work as an artist?
Jose Mardi: I’m a big music fan. Mainly, during the last two decades, Afro-American roots music. Blues, jazz and soul and their younger siblings. The music has inspired me to live and grow. Last year I closed my record store where I worked for eleven years – but I am still part of the business of music.

For my collage work I decided to start with the images of jazz because it is the most likely offered to me. In my daily life, including my work on collages, a lot of big names and much less known musicians helped build my work. Lee Morgan, Coltrane, Eddie Jefferson, Art Blakey, Tyrone Washington, Carmell Jones, Lorez Alexandria… it’s impossible to name only a few. Not too mention soul music, of which I have real passion.

Miles Davis Online: Will you revisit Miles Davis again?
Jose Mardi: Definitely, yes. I have only to find good images to use.

Miles Davis Online: Favorite Miles Davis album?
Jose Mardi: Difficult question. I like his Blue Note, Columbia or Prestige records, but one reference still to me is “Birth of the Cool” on Capitol.

* You can see more of Jose Mardi’s artwork on Flickr.

Artwork is © Jose Mardi

Finally: U.S. Post Office To Issue Miles Davis Stamp

It’s about time. Here is a link and snippet of text below from the news item via Linn’s Stamp News announced that stamps honoring Davis and French singer Edith Piaf would be issued in 2012 as part of a joint issue with French postal service, La Poste.

“This is a fitting honor,” said Lee Barham, chairman of the steering committee for the Miles Davis Jazz Celebration. “Miles Davis was one of the greatest jazz musicians and trumpet players in the world. Before Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, there was Miles Davis.”

The Steering Committee petitioned to have the commemorative stamp issued when it heard that the Citizens Advisory Stamp Committee was considering the honor. The 12-member Stamp Advisory Committee is responsible for reviewing proposals and making recommendations to the Postmaster General on new stamps.

The stamp will be issued with the French postal service, La Poste in June.

From what I can tell from the website, the Miles Davis stamp design looks like the cover of the Jack Johnson album.


Chaka Khan Speaks Fondly Of Close Friend Miles Davis

It’s not often I link to a story from, but they recently published a good interview with Chaka Khan – who had some nice things to say about Miles Davis.

From Sarah Toce’s interview:

I recently asked the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame nominee which memory over the past three decades was closest to her heart. She simply replied, “Working with Miles Davis.”

When a colleague asked which collaborations she wished she had the chance to entertain, she introspectively shared, “Amy Winehouse was my choice.”

Here is a YouTube clip of Chaka Khan performing with Miles Davis in Montreux ’89 doing “Human Nature.”

The Miles Davis Online Interview: Jesse Watson

(Artist Series, Volume 17)

Stumbling across the Internet and discovering a talented artist and author like Jesse Watson really makes my day. Sure, he features outstanding Miles Davis paintings, which is what led me to his official website in the first place, but all of his artwork – which includes wonderful collections like Jazz & Blues, Jamaica, Faces of Reggae and NW Surf Art – should definitely definitely definitely be enjoyed.

I see a painting of Miles Davis dressed in a spacesuit, I am immediatley going to need to know what all that’s about. So I dropped Jesse a line and he was kind enough to chat with me about what Miles is doing in space and other creative matters.

Miles Davis Online: Is there anything specific that sparked your interest to paint Miles?
Jesse Watson: I’ve been mystified by Miles’ music for a long time. The power and gentleness, clarity and chaos. There is no more confusing and intriguing a subject as he. In all these portraits of musicians, it is my goal to represent not only their likeness but the vibes of the music they share with us. So for my portraits of Miles, I set out to show different sides of the man and his music.

Miles Davis Online: I can’t believe I waited until the second question to ask, but let’s talk about the painting Miles Away. Miles Davis dressed like an astronaut is equally terrific and curious. Where did you get the idea to paint Miles in space?
Jesse Watson: Miles Away. How could Miles not be from outer space, or from the future, or from another dimension? He seemed so distant and unique and I couldn’t help but picture him showing up for a gig and then as soon as it was over, hopping back into his space shuttle and leaving Earth again.

It was as if he had a very clear view of humanity from his perch seven thousand miles up, and when he visited us with his music he gave us exactly what we needed. But he was not at home here. He was just visiting.

Miles Davis Online: Would you say there is something inherently unique about jazz musicians that make them such compelling subjects to paint?
Jesse Watson: Absolutely! All of these players that I painted had the ability to transcend time and space with their improvisation and problem solving. They left indelible marks on our culture with their recordings but it was not the notes, it was the interaction, the timing, the nuance, the magic. And that magic can’t be canned or called on by anybody who wants to record an album.

I intended my process in painting these images to mirror the sessions these guys had. I laid down an unrestricted ink line, doing my best to capture the likeness but also let my body respond to the music I was listening to while I inked. Then with acrylic paint, I would paint into the ink and define the rest of the painting in an improvisation right then and there. The days or weeks following when I would “finish up” would be a task of further building up the oddities of that initial improv of ink and paint.

And so the problem solving that happens right on the spot can take closer to my finished piece or create a host of problems I will need to solve before getting there. I have to make a decision, good or bad, and then turn that decision into something that works with the whole painting. Like an ensemble, each player must both bravely step out into the silence, and conform their own utterances to the benefit of the song itself.

Miles Davis Online: Who are some of the past or contemporary artists who influence you?
Jesse Watson: Matisse, Coltrane, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Sargent, Miles, N.C. Wyeth, Marley, Tosh, De La, Rakim, Hockney, my dad – and the list goes on.

Miles Davis Online: Are you working on anything special at the moment?
Jesse Watson: I am always working on concepts for fine art exhibits. I tend to work in big bodies of work with common themes. I have an idea for a show dealing with punk rock that I might get to someday. Not sure about that one. Hmm.

I am also working on children’s books, which is the other half of my work. Always writing and sketching for the next possible project. So, just like the soloist on stage, I have to make a sound and go with it.

Miles Davis Online: Favorite Miles Davis album?
Jesse Watson: It feels so standard to say, but Kind of Blue really does get so much play that I have had to replace the CD more than a few times in my life, but I also love In a Silent Way an awful lot, too.

* You can see more of Jesse Watson’s artwork at his official website.

Artwork is © Jesse Watson

The Miles Davis Movie: Don Cheadle Stirs Up Buzz With Comments About His Miles Davis Film

Of all the news to come out of Don Cheadle’s interview with the Wall Street Journal last week about his Miles Davis Film, his comment about the movie being ‘a gangster pic’ has attracted the most attention.

Gangster like ‘Goodfellas’ gangster? No, most likely not – let’s hope.

More like the modern slang ‘gangsta’, which I assume Cheadle means in reference to the tone, the style and the many changes happening in popular music around 1979, which is where the Miles Davis Movie is set.

Between the ‘gangster pic’ comment and also referring to the forthcoming Miles Davis Movie as ‘cubist’ in style, the film-loving and Miles Davis-loving segments across the internet were mightily confused and intrigued — but still happy to hear an update from the busy Cheadle.

I’m still excited about a film about Miles Davis being produced – with the immensely talented Cheadle in the lead role – but whatever narrative Cheadle has conjured up to make this thing as opposite as humanly possible from a traditional biopic has me slightly unsure how it all ends.

That can be the case with any story someone wants to put on film; sometimes it works, sometimes it’s a disaster.

Is it the safer play to just bang out a traditional biopic like Ray? Sure, but only if it’s going to be as good as Ray. So for having the courage to mix things up creatively, I applaud Cheadle. It might not be how I’d draw it up, but I’ll for sure be there when the lights go down.

I still think a comprehensive documentary (calling Ken Burns) could do the trick; we’re talking six hours! Even a feature doc, like Tom DiCillo’s recent Doors film, When You’re Strange, might work fine.

But the chance to watch a talented actor like Cheadle jump into a role as weighty as this one is hard to pass up. Still, they might make a total mess of it with a kooky narrative, which would be a bummer, or the thing might shine brightly and be a big hit across the board.

It’s hard to know what Miles would have wanted in a film about his life, even though Cheadle has said, “It’s a movie that Miles Davis would have wanted to star in.”

I can’t imagine Miles Davis telling someone to make sure the thing is ‘cubist’ if and when they decide to make a movie about his life. But if the movie has attitude and toughness and cool movie-type-stuff going on, then sure, why wouldn’t Miles Davis not be happy with a project like that.

This thing has been on a slow burn forever, but at least we have movement, we have information to discuss. At this point, the stories about the failed attempts to get a movie made about Miles, the many people who dream of getting a movie made about Miles and Don Cheadle’s chance to bring it all home might make a good documentary all it’s own.

Don Cheadle plans ‘gangster’ film about Miles Davis

Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis movie will be a ‘gangster’ film

Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis Movie Will Be a Cubist Gangster Pic, Whatever That Means

We May Get Don Cheadle’s Cubist Miles Davis Picture Soon

Don Cheadle Says His Miles Davis Biopic Will Be A Gangster Pic

The Miles Davis Movie: Don Cheadle Says They Have A Studio Offer; Describes Movie’s Style As ‘Cubist’