Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cool & contemplative; or a note on photographs of Miles Davis

The other day I wrote about that iconic image of Eric Dolphy and mentioned it to Tony Bolden, who, along with William J. Harris, has been engaging me in an extended conversation about poetry, history, jazz, and cultural history that has lasted some years now. When Bolden looked at the images of Dolphy, he made the keen observation that coolness and contemplation were often linked when it came to photographs of jazz musicians. My mind has been running in multiple directions on that point since he made it a couple of days ago.

Miles Davis might be one of the exemplars in this regard. For years, I've listened to older guys talk about being inspired by Miles, and they weren't only referring to his music. At some point , I started looking at photographic images of Miles and came to understand that he was being admired as a musician, a thinker, and a stylist kind of dude.

You see some of those images and realize that more than simply posing, he's also thinking. Or better, you realize that in addition to striking a cool pose, he's caught in a deep thought. Maybe that's part of what Bolden had in mind when he highlighted the link between coolness and contemplation in jazz.

That iconic images of Eric Dolphy
Jazz artists as icons
• Toni Morrison as icon

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