By Paul Gessell, Ottawa Citizen

Where are we going today?
To see We Want Miles, a lively exhibition about the late American jazz musician Miles Davis at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1380 Sherbrooke St. W.

Why does an art museum have an exhibition about a musician?
Well, Davis was often called the Picasso of jazz. And he could paint, at least better than Picasso could play a trumpet. But the main reason is simply that Davis is an important cultural figure of the 20th century.

To put this more poetically: “A painting is music you can see, and music is a painting you can hear.” Davis said that. His music is as much art as a Rembrandt painting.

So, what do you see at We Want Miles?
Evocative photographs, film footage, album covers and letters. And even paintings, some by Davis and some by his visual art soulmate, Jean-Michael Basquiat. Both Davis and Basquiat favoured a primitive, graffiti-like style in their painting.

And what do you hear at the exhibition?
Davis in all his glory. Small, intimate rooms have been carved out of the large galleries so that visitors can hear samplings of Davis’s work from his early bebop days, through his cool jazz period, his flirtations with rock and his voyage into funk.

What is the overall atmosphere like in the exhibition?
The walls of the galleries are painted black. You have the feeling of being in a jazz club. Music leaks out from the small partitioned rooms. It is a journey through the 20th century from the Jazz Age of the 1920s to the psychedelic 1960s and the conspicuous consumption of the 1980s.

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