Friday, October 8, 2010


“The archetypal jazzman, as elegant as he was inaccessible, Miles Davis was considered the twentieth-century incarnation of cool, both in his attitude and in his playing. A ladies' man, an enigmatic personality touched by genius and by rage, this son of the African-American middle class established himself as one of the greatest innovators in jazz, a genre he never stopped confronting and de-compartmentalizing through various aesthetic revolutions. With exceptional photographs, handwritten scores, original record-cover art and expert biography, "We Want Miles" attempts to trace the legend of one of the most fascinating and extraordinary artists in the history of music.”

© -Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Just when you think that you won’t have anything further to do with the most merchandised Jazz musician in the history of the music, this book comes along.

The book is essentially a companion volume to a museum exhibition initiated and organized by the Cité de la musique, Paris, with the support of Miles Davis Properties, LLC, in association with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It is published by Skira Rizzoli in a 9.5 x 11.5” folio format.

The exhibition appeared at Musée de la Musique, Paris from October 16, 2009 to January 17, 2010 and then traveled to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Jean-Noel Desmarais Pavilion for a showing from April 30 to August 29, 2010.  The exhibition curator was Vincent Bessieres.

Vince Bessieres also serves as the editor of the book which has contributions from George Avakian, Laurent Cugny, Ira Gitler, David Liebman, Francis Marmande, John Szwed and Mike Zwerin.

Skira Rizzoli has done its usual fine job with the formatting of this work which includes a bevy of photographs. The book retails for $50.00 although some booksellers are offering up to a 40% discount with shipping included.

Here is the chapter breakdown:

We have included below the introductions from the book as provided by the two, museum curators.  Sadly, the exhibit did not visit a museum in a city in the USA.

© -Laurent Bayle & Eric de Visscher, copyright protected; all rights reserved.



“In 1980, after nearly five years of silence, Miles Davis began to play again in the studio and on stage. The snappy title of one of the first records heralding his comeback was the self-evident statement "We Want Miles" Who is this "we"? How do you explain that simply saying a first name can conjure up an artist's undeniable power? To understand the univer­sal respect commanded by a figure of this stature, recognized for ele­vating a fledgling musical genre to a global phenomenon, we need only call to mind the course of his career: Miles Davis got his start playing in big bands in his hometown of St. Louis, enthusiastically embraced bebop, initiated the cool, embarked on a quest for a third avenue between swing and free jazz, and subsequently immersed himself in electric jazz, with occasional forays into soul and rock. Could this also explain how his name became legend, with musicians of every stripe all over the world incessantly chanting "We want Miles" to encourage him to return to centre stage?a stage he would now take by storm, with numerous records, television appearances, advertising and film projects that transformed him into a genuine media icon. First, Davis became aware of the legend of jazz, which had expanded into a worldwide genre, then of his own legend as a "global" artist who transcended styles, schools and genres to assert himself as a musician, creator and leader of one of the twentieth century's signature musical cur­rents. Although he contributed to the history of jazz in much the same way as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, no other musician embraced its many developments with such boldness and ingenuity. He even anticipated its major turning points, transforming music meant for entertainment and dancing into music that had to be listened to, and he was subsequently criticized for some of his choices by those who shunned progress.

As with Serge Gainsbourg, whose name immediately came to mind when the Cite de la musique was considering a first temporary exhibition on French chanson, cult figure Miles Davis instantly occurred to us as soon as the topic of jazz was proposed. In addition to a record title [You're under Arrest], these two figures, born in the same year, shared the desire to avoid being confined to any one style, always seeking out new, innova­tiveand sometimes unexpectedmusical avenues. They were inspired by the sense of "the moment" both in the way they related to their era and in their work: Gainsbourg wrote fast, Davis created music on the spot, pushing the art of improvisation to the limit without ever losing the connection with his audience. To quote saxophonist David Liebman from one of the texts in this catalogue, "When Miles went on stage, past and future didn't exist. It was all about the present tense, the essence of true improvisation and what most jazz musicians strive for daily when playing."

It is undoubtedly this "mystery of the present moment" that Miles Davis never ceased to explore, developing both the sounds (his move to electric and amplified instruments is an example of this, as are his collaborative efforts with Gil Evans) and the language of jazz. To do so, he tapped into a fertile source of renewal by working with new musicians. From John Coltrane to Herbie Hancock, the long list of artists who worked with Davis demonstrates his openness to the influences of other sizeable talentshis contemporaries as well as younger musi­cians. From Kind of Blue and Tutu to Porgy and Bess and Bitches Brew, Davis' great albums all bear witness, in various forms, to his quest for the perfect moment.

This is the exceptional journey related in this booka faithful counter­part to the exhibition first presented at the Musee de la musique and subsequently at the Montreal Museum of Fine Artswhich presents a chronological account by Franck Bergerot supplemented with reminis­cences by certain key figures of the time. As for the exhibition, the photographs were chosen with particular care, since it is true that jazz and photography share a common history. Both capture the moment and record contrasts, immortalizing the illustrious heroes and pivotal moments of a musical genre that is quintessentially ephemeral. Neither the exhibition nor this catalogue would have been possible without the tireless efforts and unfailing ingenuity of curator and editor Vincent Bessieres. The project received steadfast support from the Miles Davis Estate, especially Cheryl Davis, Erin Davis and Vince Wilburn, Jr. The many lenders, photographers and institutions that contributed to the exhibition not only made it possible but also ensured its originality. To them, and to the people at the Cite de la musique and at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, who helped make it a reality, we offer our heartfelt thanks.”

© -Vincent Bessieres, copyright protected; all rights reserved.



“Jazz has had its fair share of eccentric personalities, picaresque protag­onists, tragic destinies, meteoric careers and dazzling creators. But Miles Davis is still the most fascinating and mysterious of them all. The exhibition "We Want Miles" does not claim to be the last word on this artist who left his mark on the twentieth century; rather, it is an attempt to sketch a broad outline, analyze his transformations and follow his evo­lution. Like the art of Picasso, to whom he is often compared, Davis' music has its periods. In step with the fast-paced century, he set out in a new direction every five years. He lost his audience, found another, lost that oneand won over yet another. When Miles shed his skin, you just had to keep up with him. He sparks both desire and frustration: when you arrive where you expect him to be, he's already gone. What he played one day he would never play again. And yet it's always Miles. His sound may have changed, his bands may have had a high turnover rate, he may have flouted convention and been electrified by electricity, but something remains, making it possible to identify him in just a few notes.

This is the thread running through the exhibition, which seeks to discover this complex and elusive man: Miles the proud young boy, Miles the coun­try bumpkin who dreams of Bird, Miles the epitome of cool, Miles the boxer, arrogant Miles, Miles the down-and-out junkie, Miles who turns his back on his audience, Miles and his kind of blue, Miles as Porgy, Miles as Bess, Miles celebrating the saeta, Miles who finally smiles, Miles who questions jazz, Miles the hepcat, Miles the rocker, Miles the show-off, Miles and his bitches' brew, Miles who thinks he's Hendrix, Miles on the corner, Miles who vanishes, Miles who reappears, Miles the star demanding royal treatment, Miles haunted by his ghosts, Miles who never looks back, blue Miles, Miles who stares down the ignorant, Miles the macho, the hero, the leader, Miles with his nerves on edge, Miles beaten by the cops, Miles who shamelessly tells his story, Miles and his trumpets of many colours, Sphinx-like Miles, hip Miles, bop Miles... Miles, Miles, Miles. "We want Miles," you say. But which one? Can we separate the man from his music? Can we understand his work without connecting it to his life? His music has survived him, of course. But in the quintessentially personal medium that is jazzthis inti­mate art form in conversation with the worldMiles inhabits the music as much as he plays it. Or is it the music that inhabits him? Imagine his silhouette on stage, his body hunched over, his trumpet raised. What did Miles play that he had not experienced? Aside from boxing, nothing else interested him. Miles never stopped looking jazz in the face and con­fronting it.

Opening new pathways, absorbing trends, surpassing styles, he turned around and gave it back, all the while avoiding clichés, easy recipes and ready-made formulas. His misconduct cannot be dis­missed on the grounds that he so often strove for excellence and originality. Who is not a fan of Miles Davis? Who cannot find, in this vast, varied body of work, a piece that speaks to them? Everyone has a favourite Miles Davis album, even Barack Obama, whose election as president of the United States adds symbolic resonance to an anec­dote in Davis' autobiography about a White House dinner President Reagan invited him to in 1987.

When another guest, a woman of a certain age, condescendingly asked him what he had done that was important enough to merit an invitation to the hallowed halls of the White House, Miles replied, "Well, I've changed music five or six times." That's enough to warrant an exhibition ... and this book, which will serve as a lasting record of it. "We Want Miles," and we can never get enough of him.”

As the seven chapter breakdown spanning the years 1948-1991 of the book would indicate, there is a style, perhaps more than one, of Miles’ work that may appeal to a wide variety of audiences.

Like the one constant in the universe, Miles’ music was always changing.

As Miles was quoted as saying in 1985:

“… maybe in a way I change music and stuff …. Yeah, you can say that … I do change it … but I can’t help it, you know, It’s not that I am a genius but it’s just that I can’t help it.”