Commemoration ceremony celebrates Miles Davis with medallion at former residence
Neighbors and jazz lovers of all ages attended last week’s medallion ceremony at Miles Davis’s former Upper West Side residence, in which a medallion was affixed to the landmark against the backdrop of jazz pouring forth into the street. One former neighbor of Davis’s recalled visiting him in his home and seeing paintings he had produced, highlighting the dimensionality of his artistry.
“This is where [Davis] made so many ground-breaking compositions,” said Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, a prominent voice in the arts’ preservation movement and Landmarks50 advisory committee chair, calling him one of the most influential musicians in the world.
Many of his albums, explained Diamonstein-Spielvogel, were conceived in the house’s basement studio.
“Davis’s music reflected diversity before the word ‘multicultural’ was born,” said writer Quincy Troupe, who’s written extensively on Davis, addressing the crowd.
“He was like a portal,” added Troupe, highlighting the ways Davis could seamlessly channel his musical predecessors, like Charlie Parker.
“He was never afraid of failure because failure taught him what he needed to do.”
Troupe also called Davis the quintessential New World artist and a great poet, noting how closely his sound mirrored that of a human voice and his inclination toward the metaphorical.
“There was a scary intensity to the way he played,” said Troupe. “He also never wanted to become a museum piece; he knew nothing is forever.”
Troupe quoted Ralph Gleason who once said, “The greatest single thing about Miles Davis is he does not stand still. He is forever being born.”
Other notable artists, including Davis’s own nephew Vince Wilburn, also commented on his legacy and echoed his propensity to always push forward.
Percussionist and radio host James Mtume teared up as he noted he had not been back to Davis’s former residence in over 40 years.
“Miles Davis is more than music,” said Mtume. “He’s still in there.”
“I met Miles 25 times and the 26th time, he met me,” said Saxophonist Gary Bartz, emphasizing the renowned musician’s particular brand of humor. “He taught me the essence of being a true artist.
Before the men joined together in performing in commemoration of Davis, jazz musician George Coleman added: “I loved him, he was a great man. Wherever he is, I hope to meet him again.”
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