Our next stop was the well-known “Jazz Corner”. Keister describes it as follows:

Up until the Reformation in the sixteenth century there were few formal cemeteries. Most people were buried in small family plots or were unceremoniously disposed of. However, the elect and the well-to-do were often buried inside churches. Travelers to Europe often remark about vising cathedrals and seeing flat grave markers on the floors, crypts on the walls, and tombs and sarcophagi ringing the interior of the cathedral. And just like real estate, the placement of earthly remains was all about location, location, location. The closer to the altar, the better chance of being inched towards the heavens by the parishioners’ prayers. The intersection of Fir, Wild Rose, Alpine and Hillcrest Plots at Woodlawn has become a sort of outdoor cathedral for fallen jazz greats. And if there is an altar, it has to be Miles Davis’s black granite tombstone.

His ‘Find a grave’ entry reads:

Birth: May 26, 1926, Alton, Madison County, Illinois, USA. Death: Sep. 28, 1991, Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California, USA.

Jazz Musician. The son of a middle-class dentist from Alton, Illinois, he won a scholarship to Julliard in 1944, but there is no evidence that he ever attended the institution. Rather, upon his arrival in New York, he joined up with the modern jazz leader Charlie Parker, joining his “All-Star” quintet on trumpet. Quickly learning that he would never be able to match Parker’s technical virtuousity, Davis adopted a cooler, more laid back approach to his solos, playing very few notes and concentrating on harmony and tone, often employing a characteristic Harmon mute. He would explore these ideas further in 1949 with a nine-piece band under the direction of Gil Evans. This ensemble echewed the blues-based tonality common to most previous jazz styles, opting instead for a “cooler” timbre which would lend its name to their best-known recording, “Birth of the Cool.” He led more traditional jazz quintets through the 1950s, but would reach an epiphany leading a sextet of renowned musicians in 1958 and 1959. With John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Julian “Cannonball” Adderly on alto sax, Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums, the group explored “modal” pieces, replacing the traditional ideas of chord progression with patterns based on scales. Their 1959 album, “Kind of Blue”, is widely regarded as the greatest jazz album of all time. Miles Davis would lead similar groups through the 1960s, including such luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea, Joe Zalwinul, Wayne Shorter, and John McLaughlin. In the late 1960s, his style radically changed, embracing the influences of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone to create the embryonic style of jazz-rock, also known as fusion, as exemplified on his albums “In a Silent Way” (1969) and “Bitches Brew” (1970). He would continue in this style until a self-imposed retirement in 1976. Miles Davis returned to recording in 1982 with “The Man With the Horn,” this time playing in a more commercial jazz-pop idiom. He would continue with such lighter fare until his death from pneumonia in 1991. (bio by: Stuthehistoryguy)

To my eternal regret I seem to have turned this solemn picture into a selfie. I didn’t notice until I looked at it on the computer that my friend George and I are reflected in the brightly polished marble.

Leave a Reply