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By Saira Ansari, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANERIO, BRAZIL – The people of Rio are in for a major musical treat throughout the month of August and September as the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil brings to the city a show of legendary proportions. Queremos Miles (We Want Miles), titled after the musician’s 1981 Grammy winning album, is a gargantuan retrospective exhibition documenting the life and times of American Jazz maestro Miles Davis (1926-1991).

Miles Davis at the CCBB, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, News
Miles Davis is one of the most celebrated of all jazz musicians, photo by Oliver Nuroclk/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

Miles Davis is a legend and probably one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century. He is an iconic representation of a musician driven by his own need to constantly create and break boundaries, a quality he knew he excelled at.

Davis’ genius and charisma were so explosive that he found believers all across the world, winning over listeners from all kinds of backgrounds. Cariocas had the pleasure to listen to Davis live when he came down to Brazil to perform at the Rio Carnival in 1986.

Brazilians are no stranger to this genre of music, having jazz and bossa nova as integral parts of their culture. This exhibition is following CCBB’s Festival Internacional de Jazz/I Love Jazz that was on from August 9th-14th.

Aside from the CCBB’s I Love Jazz festival, there were multiple free jazz concerts arranged this year, including the Leblon Jazz Festival in May and the Rio das Ostras Jazz & Blues Festival held in June. 

The Miles Davis exhibition is a an elaborate compilation of about 300 items that include recordings, videos, documentaries, photographs, musical instruments, original scores, clothes and other private memorabilia. Many of these items have been gathered from private collections,friends and family members, to portray an accurate depiction of the man.

The man and his trumpet, photo by Rvb/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

Also part of the show are dramatic portraits shot by renowned American photographers Annie Leibovitz and Irving Penn, among others. There are numerous paintings included in the show also.

What is perhaps most fascinating are the correspondence letters between Davis and his record label, where issues of money and artistic integrity are often discussed. They give a rare glimpse into the cogs and wheels that made the show run – the money, the loans, the requests and the concerns.

One of the visitors, Mohammad Rashid, an experimental jazz percussionist and an ardent Miles Davis fan, remarked, “It is brilliant how the exhibition has gone into such minute details. The personal letters are intriguing and the extensive coverage of his music, including lesser known tracks, is just phenomenal.”

The show provides a complete sensory experience and uses acoustic technology and calculated lighting to enhance the effect. The exhibition journey starts from one end and leads to the other by passing through eight phases of the artist’s life. Listening booths in these parts of the exhibit offer insights into some of the more celebrated works of the artist and the influences of that time.

As many seasoned jazz listeners intermingled with younger inexperienced visitors in the halls of the exhibit, it was obvious that Miles Davis’ music still has that innate ability to bridge gaps and differences, just as he had intended it to do so in the first place.

Queremos Miles is on from August 2nd until September 28th at the CCBB RJ – Ground and first floor; Tuesday to Sunday from 9AM to 9PM. Entrance to exhibition is free. Adjunct program consists of talks and a jazz festival. More information available on the website.

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