Evening Standard, Hulton Archive LONDON (AP) - Miles and Jimi. Jimi and Miles.…
- Posted on Oct 25th 2010 2:30PM by James Sullivan
Herb Snitzer, Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images
At $749 (marked down from an initial asking price of $1,199), the colossal, limited-edition new boxed set 'The Genius of Miles Davis' -- a 43-CD collection of eight previous boxed sets devoted to Miles, packaged in an exact reproduction of his trumpet case, with gewgaws including a rare lithograph and a replica of the musician's mouthpiece -- won't make its way into many homes. Hell, they're only producing a couple thousand.
But the newsworthiness of the set (available only at GeniusOfMilesDavis.com), coming hot on the heels of Sony's last humongous Miles tribute, the 70-disc 'Complete Columbia Album Collection' -- as well as the news that Don Cheadle will be playing the enigmatic artist in an upcoming biopic -- marks a welcome opportunity to reconsider the oversized legacy of jazz's most restless innovator.
"I wouldn't have bothered listening to Cream or Jimi Hendrix. I was totally into jazz and classical music -- that was it," Hancock recalled. "But I noticed Miles listened to everything. And he was the epitome of cool to me. So if Miles listened to everything, it must be cool to listen to everything."
The Rock Hall takes pains to acknowledge Davis' unusual status as the quintessential jazz figure enshrined in an institution dedicated to rock 'n' roll. "However," the Hall continues, "his work intrigued a sizable segment of rock's more ambitious fans in a way that no other serious jazz figure had ever done -- and not retroactively but while he was alive and making some of his most challenging music." Equating Davis' improvisational experiments with those of the Grateful Dead, the Hall quotes the trumpeter's matter-of-fact approach to his tireless exploration: "We play what the day recommends," he said.
As much as Davis took inspiration from the funk and hard rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s for landmark albums such as 'Bitches Brew' and 'A Tribute to Jack Johnson' (both of which get the 'Complete Sessions' treatment in the new box), the slender man with the huge appetite, who died in 1991, has given it back exponentially, to countless musicians from all realms. Hip-hop and R&B artists including Notorious B.I.G., OutKast, Nas and Erykah Badu have all sampled Miles. The late Duane Allman once acknowledged that he listened to 'Kind of Blue' so often for a few years, "I haven't hardly listened to anything else."
The turntable wizard Kid Koala told Spinner about a recent visit to see 'We Want Miles,' a multimedia exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
"Miles Davis -- what can you say about him? What can't you say about him?" he said with a laugh. Koala listens to Miles "all the time," he said: "What I like about his records is there's so much space. He's kind of effortless about it, but literary in a way, too."
From bebop to 'Birth of the Cool,' rock fusion to early hip-hop, Davis devoured it all in his unparalleled half-century career. "He went through so many different atmospheres, new instruments and approaches, I think it was fantastic," Andy Carthy, better known as the DJ Mr. Scruff, tells Spinner. "For someone who was that much in the limelight, such a star in their genre, to not be too bothered about sticking to straight jazz and trying rock and funk stuff, and some quite psychedelic things, he's definitely an inspiration.
"It did help that he was a master of his instrument, that's one very important thing to remember," says Scruff. "But the twists and turns that his career took creatively are part of why he's such a legend today." And the gospel according to Miles is exhaustively well-documented in the latest tribute package, inside that trumpet case.
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