Let’s take a moment to restate the obvious. Miles is unquestionably one of the supreme figures in jazz. Like Pablo Picasso, he has metamorphosed through an astonishing variety of periods and styles; from his 1940s apprenticeship with Charlie Parker to his current pop/funk preoccupations, his has been a career of constant searching, both outward and inward. Like Thelonious Monk (and, for that matter, Lou Reed), he’s brought it home that ideas, expressiveness, and openness to sound are more important to making music than dazzling technique. He has that haunting tone on trumpet that you can recognize after hearing just a couple of notes. But what I especially dig about Miles is that he has never been a jazz snob. The purists wanted to kick his ass for going electric in 1969 with Bitches Brew, and they’re probably still dismayed that he recorded that Cyndi Lauper song a couple of years back. But Miles, who at 60 manages to be ten times hipper than most players half his age, still refuses to retreat into comfortable (bebop) habits of the past, still insists on concerning himself with what’s happening now. Which makes his 1980s work–if perhaps not quite as monumental as his vaunted masterpieces–still valid, individual, and valuable. Tonight, 8 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 70 E. Congress; 922-2110.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sharon Alouf.