Miles Davis: Feeling the Pulse

When his fingers were pressing the valves of his trumpet, they might as well have been on America’s pulse. At every curve in the culture, Davis was there.

This folio features biographies of Miles Davis and Edith Piaf, as well as a sheet of 20 stamps and two First Day of Issue cards (click image for more information).

Throughout his career, Davis set the trends. He wasn’t yet 20 years old when he made his first recordings in the 1940s, including “Now’s the Time” and other early bebop tunes. Then, in 1949, he made recordings with a nine-piece band that, after their initial release, were reissued under the title Birth of the Cool. While bebop is characterized by fast tempos and virtuosic improvisation, “cool” jazz is quieter, more melodic, and gave more emphasis to arranged ensembles as frames for improvised solos. With his understated, lyrical playing and charismatic personal style, Davis became known as the embodiment of the “cool” aesthetic.

Davis remained in the forefront of jazz musicians in subsequent decades, with notable forays into jazz-rock fusion and funk. His restless musical exploration sometimes confounded critics and fans, while making him a hero to others. Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz album of all time, was recorded in 1959. Notwithstanding its listener-friendly playing, the album represented a formal breakthrough in jazz composing. All of the songs were modal compositions, with each musician improvising around a scale instead of harmonies or chord progressions, resulting in simpler, “thinner” sound than was typical of other jazz styles such as bebop.

Little more than a decade later, Davis made another bold, experimental move by fusing jazz and rock on masterpieces such as In a Silent Way (1969) and Bitches Brew (1970). On these albums, electronic instrumentation and studio technology radically changed the character of his music; in another sign of the changing times, the fine suits Davis customarily wore gave way to bellbottom trousers and vests.

Later in his career, Davis moved into funk, attempting to win new listeners with works such as On the Corner (1972). He recorded albums such as Tutu (1986) in a layered studio process, playing his solos over pre-recorded backgrounds.

“As a musician and as an artist,” Davis wrote in his Autobiography, “I have always wanted to reach as many people as I could through my music.” One of the countless people he reached was the singer and songwriter Joni Mitchell. “Miles,” she once told him as he came off stage, “you played beautifully.” “Never mind that,” he replied. “How’d I look?”

The Miles Davis and Edith Piaf (Forever®) stamps are available online and in Post Offices nationwide.

Name, image and likeness of Miles Davis with permission from Miles Davis Properties, LLC.
Edith Piaf Photograph by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Miles Davis Photograph © 2011, the estate of David Gahr. All rights reserved.

The Picasso of Jazz

Miles Davis was one of the most important musicians of his era. While beloved in many countries around the world, he is a particular favorite in France, where he performed frequently and was made a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor, roughly equivalent to being knighted. The French culture minister who presented the award on July 16, 1991, described Davis as “the Picasso of jazz.” The comparison is apt: Davis was a creative genius who changed the course of jazz multiple times during his career.

With his understated, lyrical playing and charismatic personal style, Davis became known as the embodiment of the “cool” aesthetic—but his talent on the trumpet was certainly hot. Davis made his first 16 known studio recordings before the age of 19, and for decades after was in the forefront of jazz musicians, setting trends and exploring musical styles from bebop through cool jazz, fusion, and funk.

The Miles Davis and Edith Piaf joint issue with France celebrates a lively musical conversation between nations. Issued in June, the commemorative stamps pay tribute to two groundbreaking artists who crossed international barriers with their music.

Name, image and likeness of Miles Davis with permission from Miles Davis Properties, LLC.

Keep the Jazz of Miles Davis and Edith Piaf Alive Forever

In preparation for the joint issue with France’s La Poste, we immersed ourselves in the songs and lives of Miles Davis and Edith Piaf. But just because the First Day of Issue ceremony is over doesn’t mean the music has to be.

Now you can immortalize your love for these two international performers with Distinct Voices: A Miles Davis and Edith Piaf Commemorative Folio. This keepsake comes with everything you need to fan the flame of your love for Davis and Piaf, including beautiful images and biographers of each artist, a pane of 20 Miles Davis and Edith Piaf (Forever®) stamps, two cards featuring the First Day of Issue cancellations from the U.S. Postal Service and La Poste, and more.

This folio is a perfect addition to any collection, and it makes a great gift, too! Quantities are limited and they’re sure to go fast, so make sure to get yours today!

Name, image and likeness of Miles Davis with permission from Miles Davis Properties, LLC.

Edith Piaf Photograph by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Miles Davis Photograph © 2011, the estate of David Gahr. All rights reserved.

Davis and Piaf Making Waves

The Miles Davis and Edith Piaf (Forever®) stamps are making history. Not only were the stamps the first joint issue with France since 1989, each stamp pane features something very special.

For the first time in U.S. Postal Service history, each of the Miles Davis and Edith Piaf stamp panes include a QR code on the back, linking users who scan the code with their cell phones to songs by, photographs of, and information about both musicians. That’s double the Davis and Piaf all for the price of a pane of 20 Forever stamps!

Have you picked up yours yet?

Name, image and likeness of Miles Davis with permission from Miles Davis Properties, LLC.

Miles Davis Stamp Celebration in Hollywood Tonight

We are very excited to announce that USPS and the Hollywood Bowl will honor Miles Davis during a stamp dedication and unveiling ceremony prior to the “A Celebration of Miles Davis” concert tonight. The ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. on the Museum Terrace. The concert begins at 8 p.m.

Attending the ceremony are:
Eduardo H. Ruiz, Los Angeles District Manager, U.S. Postal Service
Arvind Manocha, Chief Operating Officer, Los Angeles Philharmonic
Miles Davis family members Cheryl Davis, Erin Davis, and Vince Wilburn, Jr.
Bubba Jackson, award-winning KJazz 88.1 radio personality
Mark Anderson, Los Angeles Postmaster
Joshua Ledet, American Idol finalist
Gabriel Johnson, jazz artist
Henry Rollins, actor, musician, and author

The Hollywood Bowl is located at 2301 North Highland Avenue in Hollywood, California 90068.

Hope to see you there!

Name, image and likeness of Miles Davis with permission from Miles Davis Properties, LLC.