Since debuting Miles Davis Online in 2009, I have featured 20 extremely talented people in the Artist Series. It has been an absolute joy discovering these artists, exploring their terrific work, and getting to know them as well. The opportunity to showcase their Miles Davis-inspired artwork and photographs has been a great pleasure of mine. Their work certainly makes this place look a lot better!
I look back at the photographs, designs, and paintings, and I marvel at the talent. It’s inspiring. Of course I only focused on the Miles Davis artwork, but these photographers, designers, and painters each have collections that are well-worth visiting online at their official websites.
I’m excited to begin the next volume of artist interviews, which kicks off next week. I will continue my search for artwork inspired by Miles Davis – abstract, portrait, photographs, pencil sketches, and whatever else is out there being created by talented individuals who are artistic… and just so happen to have a love for Miles Davis.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to be part of the first volume in the Artist Series. Discovering your work has been a special treat.
Art Kane’s legendary photograph A Great Day In Harlem is one of my favorite images; a single snapshot of jazz history.
Often times, when I look over the faces of all those jazz greats who gathered on that August day in 1958, I wonder, “Hey! Where’s Miles Davis?”
I was reminded of my curiosity after reading Ian Patterson’s terrific retrospective of the classic, black and white group portrait of jazz musicians.
Patterson notes the prominent names of jazz legends that were not in attendance on 126th street in uptown Harlem for the photo shoot, resulting in an interesting sub-plot to the actual events of the Art Kane photo shoot.
Along with Davis, big names like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald (among others) were also not in attendance.
Patterson writes -
“All those absent giants of jazz, and others too numerous mention, are nonetheless felt somehow to be present—represented by musicians who played with them, and who inspired and were inspired by them. Like with any family reunion, its absent members are with us in spirit.”
But Miles Davis, where was he?
I was lucky enough to speak with Patterson and ask about his theory on Miles’ absence.
“I don’t know where Miles was that day,” says Patterson, “but as none of his usual sidemen around that time (Cannonball, Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe) were in the picture it is quite likely he was out of town with his group that day.”
He added, “I do tend to think that even had he been in town he wouldn’t have been too bothered to turn up for the photo shoot. I don’t think it was his style at all.”
And let’s not forget the shoot took place at 10am – not exactly prime time for jazz musicians, many of whom had probably just gone to bed a few hours earlier after a long night of playing. Then again, some of the musicians might have just gone straight from the gig to the photo shoot.
It’s an interesting parlor game to think about where Miles, Ellington, Coltrane and the other no-shows would be located in the famous photograph.
Looking at the photo now, I wonder where Miles would have been positioned for the photo; would he be front and center with Stuff Smith and Coleman Hawkins, or perhaps he’d rather be off to the (right) side, mingling with fellow trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Roy Eldridge.
Or maybe he walks up, checks the scene and decides to hell with it and goes home.
(Artist Series Volume 20)
I have a personal Top Ten list of my favorite Miles Davis photographs. It changes now and then, depending on new photos I might stumble upon. I have a new entry for the top ten, not sure where, but it’s in there.
It’s actually the above photo, shot by the talented photographer Pieter Boersma. A true professional, the Amsterdam-based Boersma has a long and distinguished career photographing everything from Amsterdam history, experimental music, theater, and jazz, to urban landscapes, citizens movements, development policy in Southern African countries, and much more.
I invite everyone to check out the Jazz Collection, which is quite fantastic.
Boersma was kind enough to indulge me for a brief chat about his work and his photos of Miles Davis – an artist he really didn’t bother to follow after 1963. This is our 20th installment of the Artist Series, and I am pleased to celebrate the Miles Davis Online milestone by publishing two of Pieter Boersma’s wonderful photos of Miles Davis, along with his comments.
Miles Davis Online: You feature many wonderful musicians in your collection. Would you say there is something unique about jazz musicians that make them compelling subjects to photograph?
Pieter Boersma: Of all musicians, jazz musicians show more intensity and are less static. It is the desperate attempt of the photographer to grab the music that produces so many jazz pictures, and it is always a failure, at least one grab the atmosphere.
Miles Davis Online: Can you provide a little background on the two beautiful photos of Miles Davis taken at the 1967 De Doelen show in Rotterdam?
Pieter Boersma: It was a so-called Newport Jazz Festival concert. I came in fact for Archie Shepp. Miles played after the pause. There is nothing more to say then I was there anyway. I didn’t buy records of Miles in that time. As I told you, I like Miles very much until 1963 or so. My interest in jazz went more in the direction of Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, [Eric] Dolphy, Coltrane, Shepp, and the free jazz developments in Europe.
Miles Davis Online: You also feature two terrific photos of Miles from 1969, also taken at a De Doelen show.
Pieter Boersma: This was also a NJF concert, and I came for Cecil Taylor.
Miles Davis Online: Would you like to have worked with him more – perhaps away from the stage and more personal?
Pieter Boersma: Of course I should like to photograph him off stage, he is one of the most important jazz musicians ever.
Miles Davis Online: Even from the stage, were you able to get a good sense of what kind of person he was just by shooting photos of him performing?
Pieter Boersma: No not at all. He was, as far as I know, a very introverted person, just doing his job.
Miles Davis Online: What are you working on now?
Pieter Boersma: Working on my archive. Jazz is about 10% of my archive. I did make jazz photo’s because I love the music and I went to concerts anyway… and photography is an ultimate way of time passing. It was and is impossible to earn a living from Jazz photography.
Miles Davis Online: Favorite Miles Davis album?
Pieter Boersma: Blue Moods, 1955.
© 2012, Pieter Boersma. All artwork, and images of artwork are property of Pieter Boersma. All rights reserved.
Well… it’s really all-time cool guy Steve McQueen ‘in pictures’, but Miles Davis is present. If McQueen wasn’t cool enough already, check the copy of Kind of Blue on the floor.
Nothin’ wrong with that!
And when I think of Miles Davis and Steve McQueen, I am reminded of the classic photo by Jim Marshall of the two gents backstage at the Monterey Jazz festival, 1963.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: A cooler twosome you shall not find.
Photo: Miles & Steve 1963, © Jim Marshall
(pt. 11 in a series)
Title: Nyro & Miles In The Studio
Date created: July 16, 1969
If you speak French this is good news. Even if you do not speak French this is still good news – due to the beautiful photos!
The magazine content includes “On Kind Of Blue,” by John Lewis; Electric Miles, an essay by Lester Bangs; a look at Miles and funk music; a complete discography; 100-plus rare and new photos; Miles Davis and the women in his life; Miles and his photography/painting.
il est merveilleux!
I had an instant reaction to Jamie Parslow’s photography: the work is honest and immediate.
In my search for Miles Davis art and photography, I found Parslow, and with him not only three, marvelous photographs of the jazz legend, but a lovely assortment of photographs taken throughout a long, exciting career; presently residing in Norway, Parslow’s work covers many decades, the photographs a reflection of his life from one adventure to another.
In the ‘70s Parslow spent time at Rolling Stone, so no doubt you will find a lot of great concert photos and shots of famous folks. From Hendrix to B.B. King, Jack Nicholson to Janis Joplin it is a collection well worth your time to peruse.
Each of Parslow’s collections, located on his website, are a delight to view, and I recommend highly doing so.
Parslow was kind enough to take a few minutes and chat with me about his work – especially the three, Miles Davis photographs I love so much.
Miles Davis Online: Let’s start with the two, ‘Peepshow’ photos titled ‘Miles Davis, 1969.’ What’s the story?
Jamie Parslow: These two were taken at the Monterey, California Jazz Festival. I talked my way to a backstage press pass and went from there.
Miles Davis Online: What about the 1970 photo of Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis?
Jamie Parslow: I had moved from San Francisco to New York, and with a nice recommendation from [photographer] Jim Marshall, I had met, and was doing some work for Bob Thiele, the Flying Dutchman.
These photos were taken at a combination 70th birthday celebration for Louis, and recording session for the Louis Armstrong and Friends What A Wonderful World album. Miles was one of many who came to wish Louis a happy birthday. Quite en event. But what did Miles say to Louis…?
Miles Davis Online: What was it like to photograph Miles Davis? Were you able to get a good sense of what kind of person he was?
Jamie Parslow: I can´t say I spent time with Miles, but I found him to be very congenial, cordial and patient with me, especially when I had my camera in his face! He never reprimanded me, never complained, on the contrary was very patient, would pause when he knew I was photographing him. I was in awe.
Miles Davis Online: How would you describe yourself as an artist? Does your work represent a specific ‘style?’
Jamie Parslow: A subjective documentary photographer. It´s a fine line between the personal and the private, a line I try and walk as often as possible.
Miles Davis Online: What will we be expecting to see in your future work?
Jamie Parslow: More personal work.
Miles Davis Online: Favorite Miles Davis album?
Jamie Parslow: I think I have to go with Bitches Brew. What a crew, what a gathering of some of the finest musicians at that time. A phenomenal album, innovative, brilliant!
Photographs are © Jamie Parslow
All of Parslow’s photos are for sale; prices available upon request
Monterey Jazz Festival, September 1969
Photographer: Baron Wolman
(pt. 10 in a series)
Title: Photo of Miles Davis
Date created: 01 Jan 1950