The Artistry of… Miles Davis

Miles Davis’s music is pure pleasure, pure excitement, full of surprise, shock and energy. The drummer Lenny White is quoted as saying, “Miles Davis wore slick clothes, drove fast cars, all the women, and everything. We didn’t just want to play with Miles Davis, we wanted to be Miles Davis.”

An image of swagger and bravado did not always jive with everyone or meet up with happy endings or blush-worthy praise. Confronting it were some strong women who were at once inspiration and frustration. Taylor, a dancer, was his first wife — a seven-year adventure. Intense, romantic, dangerous and aggressive. Davis married again in 1968, to the then 23-year-old model and songwriter Betty Mabry, well known in New York City’s counterculture. She introduced Davis to popular artists of the day like The Byrds, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and Hendrix.

Life was a patchwork of highs and lows; ins and outs; blinding artistic expression; challenges with critics, fans and fellow artists; and drug and alcohol abuse. There were deep struggles with the rawness of life, fame and racism — a heavy-woven texture of the many things life can throw at you — and still, through and with all of it, the amazing music and the amazing artistry.

The Artistry of… airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish.