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Miles Davis, the sideman

The discography of Miles Davis, since it is about him all this week, counts a good fifty studio albums as a leader and about as many live recordings and various compilations. Curiously, like some other giants of jazz history, such as John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk or Duke Ellington, rare are the times when the trumpeter lent his talent as a sidemanthat is to say by accepting the invitation of other musicians to play on their albums.

Miles, Shirley and the Vanguard Village

This is the case of the singer Shirley Horn. 1961, in a club in Washington, Miles Davis discovers a young
27-year-old pianist/singer who has recently moved from classical to jazz. The trumpeter will invite her to play in the first part of his quintet at the Village Vanguard in New York where her career will take off and propel her among the
best singers in the history of jazz. Thirty years later, in 1991, the same Miles Davis accepted the lady’s invitation to come and play on his new album.

Jazz waltz with Michel Legrand

In 1958, Miles is in New York and goes to the studio at the request of a young French conductor. There he will find John Coltrane, Bill Evans or even Paul Chambers whom he left a few weeks earlier after recording his album “Milestones” which we listened to on Monday.

Alongside these and some other jazz personalities such as saxophonist Phil Woods or vibraphonist Eddie Costa, they will form this nonet placed under the direction of this young 26-year-old arranger and conductor from France, Michel Legrand. It will notably be “The jitterbug waltz”

The attack on the bank: when Dennis Hopper brings together Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker and Taj Mahal

In 1990, exploring Miles Davis, the sideman is to enter the rhythm of a bank attack and a meeting
almost unlikely between John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, guitarist Roy Rogers and Miles Davis.

They were all invited by director Dennis Hopper to a Hollywood studio to record the music for his latest feature film “The hot spot”.

Hopper, who is a blues fan, will ask the composer Jack Nitzsche, who wrote the music for around twenty films such as “Flight over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Blue Collar” or “Officer and Gentleman” and played as
musician alongside Neil Young or the Stones, ask him to compose the music for this new film.
The atmosphere of the film is moist, almost sticky with its dose of violence and eroticism.

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When Toto and Quincy Jones capture Miles’ trumpet

Another equally improbable meeting, that of Miles’ trumpet with the Toto group in 1986, a big hit machine from the late 70s.
We heard an excerpt from the album “Fahrenheit” for which the group had chosen a more soulful direction with slightly jazzy accents by adding David Sanborn’s saxophone to certain titles and therefore asking
Miles Davis to sound his trumpet on Steve Lukather’s guitar.

The period of the 1980s/90s is also in a completely different register, the album “Back on the block” directed and produced by Quincy Jones.
96 famous singers and musicians participate in the recording: Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Zawinul, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Take 6, Bobby McFerrin, Al Jarreau, Ray Charles among others, and Miles Davis once again sideman on this theme that Joe Zawinul had composed in tribute to the New York club, “Birdland”.

(From the text by Fred Charbaut)

Miles Davis, Courtney Sale Ross and Quincy Jones, Apollo Theater Party, Harlem, NY, 4.10.1990
Miles Davis, Courtney Sale Ross and Quincy Jones, Apollo Theater Party, Harlem, NY, 4.10.1990

– Clarence Davis/NY Daily News Archive via Getty

Sound programming

  • Archive: interview with Shirley Horn in 2001
  • Archive, interview with Michel Legrand in 2018
  • Miscellaneous “Bank robbery”, ” The hot spot », Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal,

To extend

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