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MILES in MTL...
We Want Milles: Jazz Face to Face with its legend
Vincent Bessières + Éric de Visscher, May 3, 2010
Miles Davis in his house, West 77th Street, New York, 1971Anthony Barboza
Miles Davis in his house, West 77th Street, New York, 1971Anthony Barboza
 
Among these, there are a considerable number of manuscripts illustrating certain key episodes of Miles Davis’s career (original charts from the Birth of the Cool nonet, orchestral scores of Porgy and Bess, hand-written themes by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Hermeto Pascoal…) but also outfits and personal belongings. At the same time, our research led us to locate certain rare or previously unscreened footage (Miles in the recording studio, Miles boxing) the presentation of which, in itself, constitutes something of an event. Consulting the archives of Teo Macero (a producer who was to Miles Davis what George Martin was to the Beatles) kept at the New York Public Library, allowed us to find working documents of his and better understand the production of certain major albums. Finally, whilst it brings together an exceptional number of trumpets that belonged to Miles Davis, the exhibition also includes several instruments used by his fellow musicians, who, in their support for the project, were kind enough to part from the instruments and lend them to the museum. This body of exhibits, complemented with works of art that bear witness to an aura that goes beyond music itself, constitutes a documentary and aesthetic whole that is the first of its kind ever to be assembled on the subject.

Miles Davis in his house, West 77th Street, NY, 1969_Don Hunstein_Sony Music Entertainement
Miles Davis in his house, West 77th Street, NY, 1969_Don Hunstein_Sony Music Entertainement
 
Miles and Paris: a long story

Paris has featured in the destiny of many artists and, among jazzmen, Miles Davis is one for whom the City of Light played a decisive role. The exhibition at the Cité coincides with the sixtieth anniversary of his first trip to Paris in 1949. Invited to perform at the International Jazz Festival organized at the Salle Pleyel by a group of jazz aficionados, who were as enlightened as they were dynamic (including Eddie Barclay and Charles Delaunay), the trumpeter was considered, at the age of twenty-three, to be one of the rising stars of modern jazz. The line-up also boasted the likes of Sidney Bechet and Charlie Parker. Not only was he greeted enthusiastically by the French public and warmly welcomed by a certain intelligentsia of the time, Miles Davis realized that in Paris he was more than just a musician, he was an artist. Boris Vian introduced him to the Existentialist set who congregated in the cellars of Saint-Germaindes-Prés, and it is there that his fleeting, yet highly symbolic, romance with Juliette Gréco contributed to forging his attachment to Paris.


Miles Davis in his house, West 77th Street, New York, 1971_Anthony Barboza
Miles Davis in his house, West 77th Street, New York, 1971_Anthony Barboza
 
When he returned in 1956, he would play with the great saxophonist Lester Young, his idol as a teenager. The following year, backed by the French musicians who accompanied him at the Club Saint-Germain – the hotspot for jazz on Paris’s Left Bank – Miles Davis recorded the music for Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Lift to the Scaffold), Louis Malle’s first full-length film, whose success owes a lot to the atmosphere created by the soundtrack improvised in one night. From then on, Miles would return to Paris repeatedly, performing at the Olympia, the Salle Pleyel, the TNP and, after he retired, at the Châtelet and the Zénith, up until his great retrospective concert “Miles and Friends”, that was held in the open-air – just weeks before he passed away in 1991 – on the grounds of La Villette, in front of the Grande Halle. For the first time in his career (and because it was in Paris, the first city to have recognized his talent) Miles Davis agreed to perform once more with his former partners, revisiting the past. Symbolically, the exhibition closes with the projection of the film that was made of this historic concert, which took place just meters away from where the Cité de la Musique, which houses the Musée de la Musique and has taken over the management of the Salle Pleyel, would be built in 1995.

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