Miles Davis : Jazz Face to Face with its Legend

October 16, 2009 – January 17, 2010
Musée de la Musique/Cité de la Musique
Curator: Vincent Bessières
Associated curator: Éric de Visscher

Sixty years after his first trip to France to perform at the Salle Pleyel, fifty years after recording his masterpiece Kind of Blue (Grammy Award winning and best selling jazz record of all time), and the magnificent Sketches of Spain and forty years after the revolutionary Bitches Brew, the Musée de la Musique presents an ambitious retrospective devoted to one the greatest music makers of the twentieth century: Miles Davis (1926-1991). Organized with the support of Miles Davis Properties, LLC., this exhibition charts the jazzman’s musical trajectory from his childhood in East St. Louis to the retrospective concert he gave, actually at La Villette in Paris, just a few weeks before he passed away.

Following several years of silence out of the public eye, Miles Davis came back in 1981 with the album The Man with the Horn. Shortly after, his come-back was confirmed by a live album aptly named We Want Miles – a title that reminds us how eagerly he had been awaited by his fans. In tribute to the passion the musician inspired throughout his whole career, the Musée de la Musique’s first exhibition devoted to jazz bears the same title as the album that emphasized his return on the forefront of the scene. Almost thirty years later, this title, acting like a slogan, is at once an invitation and a wish. An invitation to rediscover the music and measure the immense talent of an artist who never ceased to question the boundaries of jazz. A wish to better understand the man’s complexity as well as his musical genius and mystery, a man who forged his own image throughout his lifetime. We Want Miles: jazz face to face with its legend.

Covering a surface of 800 m2, the exhibition is divided into thematic sequences arranged chronologically and presenting numerous artifacts, many of which are presented to the public for the first time: rare or previously unscreened footage, original manuscript scores, an exceptional ensemble of trumpets and instruments his fellow-musicians played, original documents relating to his albums, stage costumes, vintage pressings of his records, as well as numerous pictures taken by the greatest photographers. The exhibition also displays works of art, that bear witness to Miles Davis’s aura beyond the mere sphere of music.

Conceived by the Projectiles team, the exhibition is entirely designed to facilitate the appreciation of sound and ease of listening. It pays homage to the music by displaying several “mutes” throughout the itinerary. These so-called mutes – coined in reference to the very particular sound Miles Davis obtained from such devices – are oval-shaped spaces; small listening rooms designed to allow the public to discover the artist’s emblematic works in optimal conditions. Moreover, equipped with headphones – either their own or ones lent by the museum – visitors can entertain themselves plugging into interactive audio and video stations that complete the show’s musical circuit.

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Contact: Hamid Si amer
Phone: 00 33 (1) 44 84 45 78