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Live Reviews

A Miles Davis Retrospective

By Published: October 11, 2005

Miles also presents a couple of stage costumes from his "Rock Star" wardrobe. Some viewers might be turned off, but I personally found them cool in a kitschy kind of way. The '80s red leather costume with metal spikes—"Get Up!", if you will—looks positively ludicrous in person. It is so bad it's actually good. Regardless of how I might feel about Miles's forays into Rock, these costumes—and some of the promos for his concerts, including one on the same bill as the Grateful Dead—were eye-openers. I may be biased against his fusion period, but I would still like to be able to at least have a sense of humor about it.

There are many images throughout the exhibit: original album covers, and seminal photographs of Miles, his family and friends. There are some fantastic vintage photos of Miles as a child, as well as his father (dental school graduation pic!). The classic shots of Miles by Herman Leonard, William Gottlieb and others are also in ample display.

While people both in and outside the jazz world continue to debate the significance of Ken Burns' Jazz series, Miles Davis: A Retrospective strikes me as the real jazz history breakthrough of 2001. I consider myself to be rather knowledgeable about Miles, but this was nonetheless a highly revelatory experience for me. I feel like I have a better appreciation for Miles now than I could possibly have had before. The many recorded interviews, demonstrations by other musicians, and real-live artifacts no doubt had something to do with this. They bring Miles to life in a definite way.

I'm so glad that I serendipitously stumbled onto this wonderful exhibit. No matter how you slice it, Miles is a worthy tribute to Miles and to jazz. It's the kind of homage that should make any jazz fan proud. Hopefully this exhibit will not only satisfy existing jazz fans, but will also serve as a catalyst to introduce novices to the music as well. Maybe some day we'll hear from a few young musicians who were inspired by seeing this exhibit!

If you can get to St. Louis, you owe it to yourself to make the pilgrimage to this exhibit. A trip to the Museum show, combined with an outing to Barbara Roses' fine Jazz at the Bistro, plus some hopping around St. Louis record hangs (Euclid Records was very worthwhile), make for a very fine Jazz-oriented vacation. St. Louis is uncommonly pleasant for a larger city. It has a number of attractions, including the rather pastoral Forest Park area in which the Missouri Museum of History is located. Eat in the restaurant above the exhibit floor... they play radio jazz, and I had one of the best sandwiches there (crawfish with sweet corn) that I have ever eaten.

For more information on the Miles: A Miles Davis Retrospective show, visit the Missouri History Museum's website at

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