Dressed to Thrill vol.1

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.

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One Response to Dressed to Thrill vol.1

  1. Edward Darden says:

    Another aspect in Miles impact on style comes in his physic. He was a small man and a dark skinned man which were not the high mark for men of any color in his career. Miles made himself. Unlike entertainers whose cache rested on their color or identification with their race, Miles was so far from such consideration that these questions were never attached to him. Eventually writers used monikers like “Dark Prince” but always in reference to his mood or the frame of his music never as a”credit to his people” as others were so often marked. Miles was a Free Man. As a boy, he assumed the freedom to impregnate a girl and carry his paternity as an honor and mark of superiority among his peers. As a young man he captured the most beautiful and desirable women, deciding in America to focus on black women rather than the ordinary interracial mix. He went into middle age, determined to retain his exotic beauty, using his gaze, smooth complexion, hair style, and unique wardrobe to please the eyes of watchers and to please himself. Altogether Miles is the archetype of how to be Free, Self-Possessed, Manly Beauty,and Genius in the world. We cannot isolate one aspect or another of his complexity; we must see him as he presented himself, as a whole man. That is his due.

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