The Davis family is overjoyed. “We couldn’t be happier,” said Erin Davis, the youngest son of Davis. “People have been writing in for years and saying Miles needs to be on a stamp. We certainly have lobbied for it. It couldn’t have come at a better time. There’s no better time than the present.”
The two stamps are a joint project of the U.S. Postal Service and France’s La Poste. The Davis family thinks that is appropriate. Davis was revered in France, and received the Chevalier in the Legion of Honor. “France was a second home,” said Erin Davis, 41, the son of Marguerite Cantu and Davis.
Both Davis and his cousin, Vince Wilburn, Jr., are musicians, who uphold the Miles Davis legacy and create their own music.
Ron Carter and Don Was will speak at the unveiling in New York on June 12. For a Hollywood Bowl dedication June 27, Wilburn has organized many of the men who played with Miles and travel as the Miles Electric Band. “We are also having Jimmy Cobb, the last surviving member of the ‘Kind of Blue’ band,” said Wilburn.
Davis, who grew up in East St. Louis, heard saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie in 1944, and the direction for his life was set. In 1954, he released an album “Birth of the Cool,” starting decades of fame and musical exploration. “Kind of Blue,” the best selling jazz album of all time, was recorded in 1959. Davis died in 1991.
When Erin Davis was 14, his father took him on tour for a summer. “We were on the road in Europe and Japan. They started off the show and I was like wow, this is what I want to do for a living,” said Davis. “The first year I didn’t have to do much, bring them water and towels. Going to the Montreal Jazz Festival, that was my first trip out of the states. Then we went to Greece.”
Wilburn was playing drums in the band that summer. “To be on stage with an iconic figure who happens to be your uncle...We were like sponges,” said Wilburn. “Being around Miles was to expect the unexpected. You always had to be ready for anything he threw at you. It was past being nervous. You had to be ready for the shift change. We would play a set list every night but the songs would sound different every night.”
Of all the questions Erin Davis is asked about his father, people want to know about the “cool” factor. “People want to talk about his personal style and the evoking of cool. Bill Cosby said, ‘If you had a Miles Davis record and you were on the bus, just holding it you were cool.’ Part of his legacy is that he never rested on his laurels. He never rested on one band, one record. He would hear a new sound in his head and he would find new musicians, new instruments, new ways to record things,” Davis said.
The Davis photograph was taken in 1970 by David Gahr.
Everyone will have a chance at the Davis cool. The Postal Service is printing 30 million stamps.