February 29: Miles Davis

Miles Davis taught the world about cool, but I didn’t really really get the message until, like, 1996 when I bought a copy of “Kind of Blue” and put that CD on repeat as I worked on collages and little drawings in my sketchbook at college. The album was out of time for me because I intermixed it with music it influenced years later: The Velvet Underground and Nico most notably. I read Warhol’s A: A Novel, which is basically a raw transcript of recordings of Factory hangers on made by Warhol as he followed them and acted as the glue holding them together.

Kind of Blue can bring down the temperature on just about anything. I remember reading an interview with a member of the The Roots – Tariq Trotter, Questlove? I don’t remember exactly – the interviewee said Kind of Blue sets the tone for the day, and I knew that was right.

In early high school I had listened to Benny Goodman, Count Basie and Sydney Bechet on little jazz and big band tapes I had. In this music a whole band would come together to support an individual soloist that would come up out of the group. Davis’ music was different. Every musician was doing their thing, and it came together. It wasn’t “tight” first, allowing individual expression to arise, it was the heart of musical individualism, bringing the parts together and creating a whole out of them.

As a college kid, trying to figure it all out and get some flow, that album was the perfect thing. The album is intellectual, but still accessible. When you need to slow down and get some flow, check it out. You don’t dig? Miles says “So what?”


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