Kind of Blue... Actually It's Black & White
February 25, 2012 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Can you tell me about this iconic photograph of Miles Davis?

Of all the photographs of Miles Davis, this one is my favorite. The energy in the photo is just amazing. Unfortunately, I can't find out anything about it.

I know that the photo is licensed from Getty Images, but there doesn't seem to be any info about it besides the newspaper that it's credited to and the date it was created. And even the creation date listed (Jan 1, 1955) seems like shorthand for "sometime in 1955."

Can you tell me anything about the photo? Was it really taken on Jan 1? Where was Miles playing when it was taken? Who was backing him in the band? I'm almost afraid to ask what song he was playing. Any info you can offer would be great.
posted by perrce to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
Don't have anything to say about the photo but Peter Losin's Miles Ahead site has a list of recording dates that might be helpful.
posted by zombieman000 at 4:13 PM on February 25, 2012

Encyclopedia Britannica shows the very same photo with a 1969 date and credit to "Votavafoto from London Daily Express/Pictorial Parade."

I can't find enough photos with dates to see if the 1955 or 1969 date seems more reasonable, but in 1955 he would have been about 29 and in 1969 he would have been about 43. It strikes me as being more of a photo of a 43 year old, but I could wrong.

FWIW I found the Britannica page by searching for photo matches at TinEye--always a useful thing to do when tracking down something about a photo.
posted by flug at 4:36 PM on February 25, 2012

Assuming the 1969 date is correct (which I am more and more thinking it is), searching Youtube for "Miles Davis 1969" shows several performances from that era.

I haven't seen one yet that matches exactly, but for instance, this one, filmed at the Salle Pleyel, shows him with a very similar haircut, similar (but not identical) costume, and striking the same kind of poses as in that photo (watch 1:30 and the next minute or so, for example). I would bet that your photo was taken within a month or two of this concert anyway, so by watching the video you at least get some of the sense of what he might have been playing and doing when he strikes that kind of pose.
posted by flug at 5:23 PM on February 25, 2012

Aha, jackpot!

The costume, open collar, haircut, wide watchband on the left hand, open sleeves, and pretty much every other detail matches:
Danish Radio broadcast on November 4, 1969 at Tivoli Konsertsal, Copenhagen, Denmark - Bitches Brew Live Performance. Watch it on Youtube.
posted by flug at 5:33 PM on February 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

A little more from Wikipedia, in case you don't know: "Bitches Brew was Davis's first gold record,[1] selling more than half a million copies. . . . Bitches Brew was a turning point in modern jazz." "This performance of Bitches Brew was part of a short European tour just after Miles Davis and the band had finished recording sessions for the album in August. It was recorded for Danish Radio broadcast on November 4, 1969 at Tivoli Konsertsal, Copenhagen, Denmark. The Miles Davis Quintet featured Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette."

More info about the Tivoli Konsersal session here.
posted by flug at 5:46 PM on February 25, 2012

Nice work, flug!
posted by Sallyfur at 2:41 AM on February 27, 2012

Amazing. Thanks flug! (This is why Metafilter is awesome.)
posted by perrce at 6:36 AM on February 28, 2012

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