There are a couple of proper full-on legends in music that I’ve seen live. One was Leonard Bernstein, who I saw conduct at a BBC Prom in the late 1980s at the Royal Albert Hall.

The other, twice, was trumpeter Miles Davis. He was a brooding presence on stage, the centre of attention in sparkly suits, but shy and somewhat aggressive. Bursts of notes spitting out of his (if memory serves) bright red trumpet.

Listening back to Tutu, it’s remarkably 1980s. And that’s what was I guess so appealing about Miles. He stayed contemporary over the 50 years or so that he was in the world of jazz, from Be Bop with Charlie Parker to the Cool of albums like Kind of Blue. The amazing soundscapes of Sketches of Spain, and his other collaborations with Gil Evans in the 1960s. The acid funk of the 1970s. And then the synth and pop-infused work of the 1980s, covering songs from the likes of Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson.

I had a conversation with my saxophone teacher Gordon Lewis, a remarkable man who had played classical and jazz on clarinet and saxophone. He was dismissive, and wandered around the room where he used to hold his lessons, head bowed, squawking notes out of his clarinet in an unflattering impersonation of Miles. That Davis was able to continue to upset traditionalists throughout his career showed how much he was able to innovate.

You can see the #51for50 project to date here:

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