And Miles to Go Before We Sleep
And what the hell any of that had to do with Miles Davis, who was probably just grabbing for ways of maintaining the popularity and influence he had enjoyed for nearly three decades with a generation more obsessed with novelty and distraction, I'll never know.
Citing illness and creative burn-out, Miles took several years off between 1975 and 1980. Many jazz scholars believe this period of inactivity was influenced not so much by the strain of his demanding personal and creative lifestyle, but by the slow realization that, had he remained active during this period, he would have been obligated to record a disco album.
Miles' last decade saw him return to the form that had been his trademark since the forties. His unique sound returned, and he spent his final years paying a living homage to his own incredible legacy. By the time he passed away in 1991, avoiding the indignity of creative decay some artists suffer as they age, he had cemented his place as one of the top three trumpet players of all time behind Louis Armstrong and a tie for second between Dizzy Gillespie and the angel Gabriel, and rivaling Duke Ellington as the greatest bandleader. (For the record, in a computer simulation conducted exclusively for this article, Miles defeats Duke for the title with a late round knockout in the 10th). His relentless and fearless innovation changed not only jazz, but virtually all music that came after. Just look at country music (look, but for god's sake, don't listen), and consider it the exception that proves the rule.
I should mention in closing that, while much was made of Miles' intense, sometimes belligerent personality during his life, I saw no need in exploring the that side of the man. I am neither idolater nor iconoclast, I just felt that it was merely one facet of a very complex individual better explained by simply listening to his music. Besides, being somewhat of a bastard myself, I felt a little like the pot calling the kettle black.
Till next month, kids, exit to your right and enjoy the rest of AAJ.
Charlie Parker & Miles Davis by William P. Gottlieb