Certain jazz musicians have for generations been some of music’s most fashion-forward exponents. For years jazz musicians have been featured in occasional jazz-centric fashion spreads in general interest periodicals, notably in GQ magazine. A cursory review of jazz magazine covers provides additional evidence of the sartorial splendor of many of our finest jazz practitioners. To some we seem to have lost that element as succeeding generations appear to take a decidedly more casual approach to how they present themselves onstage sartorially. For whatever reason it seems many modern musicians have adopted the attitude that the audience came purely to hear them play well, and if they deliver on that promise there’s no need to carefully consider their onstage appearance, much less address their audience to provide some sense of what they’re playing and why they’ve made their choices.
However there remains a school of thought that your onstage appearance is a positive (or negative) reflection on whether you’ve arrived onstage to truly take care of serious business. Some musicians seem to forget, overlook, or outright dismiss any sense that their onstage appearance makes any difference in their audience’s perception and ultimate appreciation of their work. In my experience observing and developing audiences as a presenter, journalist, and educator I can tell you that without question a musician’s onstage appearance does make a difference. With that in mind we introduce an occasional Independent Ear feature we’ll call Dressed to Thrill. Apropos the release of Stanley Nelson’s warmly received new Miles Davis documentary film “Birth of the Cool,” we begin our Dress to Thrill features with one of jazz music’s all-time fashion forward musicians, Miles himself. And speaking of general interest magazine coverage of jazz musicians, dig the Jet magazine cover at the bottom.