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One could say that the greatest accomplishments of Jazz are the sounds and artists that it produces. Never-the-less, Jazz is a music that infuses sophistication and takes art to a pinnacle; to create a sound that many have stated is the language of the gods. Jazz is a type of music that has given birth to a form of cool that has stood the test of time.
Anyone who has a conversation about Jazz cannot mention the subject without talking about the unicorn figure we all call and aspire to be like, Miles Davis.
Everything about his personality screams and whispers elegance, structure, discipline, uncertainty, and the type of black magic one can’t help but want to believe in.
Born Miles Shelby Dewey Davis III in Alton, Illinois on May 26, 1926, Miles, as his friends and contemporaries alike called him, is quite possibly the most influential and divisive Jazz musician to date. Hands down! From the way he held his trumpet, and the way in which he exhibited the function of ascots and cigarette smoke as extensions of his magic, one can’t help but to copy and paste the idea of “coolness” and say that they created it. Personally, I have always been intrigued by the majestic sound that came from Mile’s trumpet, which one could easily pick out across the street from the bodega, in between loud nothingness and the hardness of reality.
From iconic albums such as: Miles Ahead, Bitches Brew, Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain, and the best selling Jazz album to date: Kind of Blue, all challenge the listener to deal with a musician who possessed contradicting undertones in private and in person. He would literally turn his back to his audience, (mostly white crowds) during his performance. Possessing the “cool” in Mile’s case did not come without a legacy of being deemed as overly confident, a woman beater, and a narcissistic asshole. Too many who admired the person on record, as well as this shadowy figure that walked amongst a public, either condemned him for defying convention, (which he purposely did), or for living a life garnished with possibilities of promises that a black man, could not possess because of his midnight hue complexion.
Inky, as those close to the musician called him, was a man that one can sense, who brings the listener into his arena to grapple with whatever preconceived notions he or she had about Miles, as well as the prejudices one may have about Jazz.
Though many women such as the vivacious writer Pearl Cleage object to the way Miles treated women. It does not go without saying that the receipt which gives the subtotal of one’s soul, does not, and in Mile’s case, should not alter the focus on his great talents as a musician.
Without a doubt, the legacy of Miles Davis will force the listener and the admirer to travel and sketch one’s memory of Spain and spoon feed Porgy and Bess the type of lust that can only impregnate and give birth to a type of cool which can be used for foreign and domestic export. Non- smokers want to smoke like him. Bumbling legs want to mimic his walk, and those who feel that they are “miles ahead,” (pun intended), must continue to play catch-up to lose his or herself, if he is to play an instrument on this band stand we call life.
James Baldwin once wrote, “Anyone who has ever had to live in poverty knows just how expensive it is to be poor. All things considered, the same is submerged within fashion, art and one’s ability to not only survive but live! Posture, vigor, ability and one’s willingness to piece together such formalities of greatness, is exemplified in not only the fabrics of the world, but should be, in my opinion, altered and tailored to assist one in his or her journey.”