In his autobiography, the late Miles Davis predicted that after his passing, the record companies would release never before heard recordings of his. Davis also pointed out that the record companies would heap huge financial earnings at his expense of not being alive to share in the profits and accolades. It has been over twenty years since his death and in the last ten years, there has been numerous reissues along with releases of never before heard studio and live performances. Some CD's have been given the deluxe box edition treatment and there have been DVD releases of live concerts performances. They covered the various musical stages of Davis's career. The releases have received postive reviews and are top sellers.
We can only wonder what Miles would of thought of this latest release, not by a record company, but by a branch of the United States Government.
In a ceremony fit for a musical queen and king, the United States Postal Service honored the late French singer Edith Piaf and jazz musican Miles Davis by issusing their own postage stamps. The first day of issue event took place at the Rubin Musuem of Art in New York City on Tuesday June 12th. Edith Piaf was a popular French singer who became a household name in the United States. She and MIles Davis were known and beloved for their artistry around the world.
Before a standing room crowd inside the the Musuem's theater, these two artists were given a tribute of personal recollections and musical performances. Soprano June Townes opened the event with a stirring rendention of the National Anthem before the audience which included celebrites such as the actress Doris Roberts, veteran conga player Candido and film maker Warren Harrington.. The event was
MC by Mark Ruffin, director of Real Jazz on Sirius Satellite Radio. He spoke of Piaf and Davis as being two of the greatest musical heroes who ever lived.
One of the first speakers was Rainy Smith, a postal worker for the past twenty years. Along with her tenure, she is the daughter of the late jazz pianist Shirley Horn, who was close friend of Miles Davis. Ms. Smith spoke of the early years when Davis bought the aspiring pianist to New York to work in the local jazz clubs. She also noted that one of Davis's last recordings was on a Shirley Horn CD.
Deputy Post Master Ronald A. Stroman spoke on how hard it
was to get these individuals chosen for stamps. He stated, "Miles was chosen due to he defies catergory." Stroman also thanked the French Government for honoring these two artists in a separate cermony in France.
Edith Piaf's biographer Carolyn Burke recalled her teenager years in Paris during the late fifties and being anxious to see her idol in concert. Grammy Award winning songwriter Mike Stoller reflected on being a teenager in New York and seeing Miles Davis and other jazz legends playing on the legendary fifty second street. Stroller also recalled being a young songwriter who travel to Paris to meet Edith Piaf who was interested in recording one of his songs.
It was only natural that musical performances would take place for these two icons. The first was a tribute to Piaf by European singer actress Maria Elena Infantiono. She was supported by Tania Stovreva on piano and they covered two of Piaf's biggest hits: "La Vie en Rose" and "Non, Je-Ne Reglette Rein." Ms. Infantiono wearing a wig to look like the late singer gave a full impression by singing as well as taking and joking between songs. Ms. Infantiono as Piaf even acknowledged Davis's family who were in the audience.
After the perfomance, the audience heard more tributes, including one from Davis's nephew , drummer Vincent Wilburn, Jr. He shared family stories and acknowledged that his Uncle was a major influence on him getting into music.
Actress Cicely Tyson who was once married to Davis told a hilarious story on while working on a movie in Russia, the late trumpter was able to crash the worldwide phone calling curfew imposed by the Soviet Government and tracked her down.
The President of Blue Note Records Don Was who sported the look of a refined hippie described Davis as being "simply amazing." He went on to compared Davis's classic sixties quintet to the nineties's champions Chicago Bulls. Was pointed out that Davis was like Michael Jordan who had a great supporting cast of teammates who worked as one by feeding off one another.
It was only fitting that the next speaker was bassist Ron Carter who was part of that group along with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams. The legendary bassist spoke of his friendship with Davis off the bandstand and how helpful he was to Carter's family. Carter also spoke on how Davis introduced him to various sports figures and artists of the Black Arts Movement of the sixties and seventies.
The last speaker was former Columbia Records producer
George Avakian. The producer who proudly reveal his age at ninety four years old, spoke of working with both artists at the beginning of their recording careers.
The event closed out with a musical tribute to Davis by the Julliard School of Music jazz band. In a nod to the icon who also attended the school, the band had a front line trumpet section. It consisted of Alphonse Horne, Randall Haywood and Mike Cottone. They along with Bryan Carter on drums, Luke Celenza on piano and Clovis Nicolas on bass, soared thru
Davis's classic tunes as "So What" and "Seven Steps to Heaven." They closed out with a upbeat verison of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature." Davis added this popular tune to his repertoire when he return to live performing in the early eighties.
Afterwards, the audience was able to buy first day issue stamps and sets of Piaf and Davis. Music lovers can purchase stamps of these artists at their local Post Office.
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