Even though he was born in Illinois and died in California, New York City played—no pun intended—a major role in Miles Davis’ life and career. He had lived in the Big Apple for 25 years, constantly setting new trends in jazz music.
The budding musician first came to New York in 1944, when he was only 18, to study at the Juilliard Institute of Music. His stint at the famed school was short-lived, but his career had blossomed in the city, where he performed with the likes of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie before becoming one of the most influential musicians in his own right.
Recently, the legendary trumpeter (1926–1991) and multiple Grammy award winner has had yet another honor bestowed upon him: a Manhattan street, The Miles Davis Way, was named after him. Miles purchased a brownstone on West 77th Street between Riverside and West End Avenue in 1958, the year his album Milestones was released; Kind of Blue followed shortly after, revolutionizing jazz music with modal sounds he invented and popularized.
Miles was one of the first African-Americans to buy a house in the predominantly white Upper West Side neighborhood, and some of his greatest works came to life there—from the conception of Kind of Blue to the writing of his 1970 jazz-rock fusion breakthrough, Bitches Brew. “This is where the seminal pieces of music were rehearsed,” commented Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn, Jr. “It’s like what Graceland is to Elvis, this is to Miles Davis: Miles Davis Way.
Among his visitors at the townhouse were jazz legends like Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, and Tony Williams. But Davis also seemed to enjoy more “plebian” activities, which, according to the New York Times, included “loitering outside on the stoop, greeting passers-by and chatting with neighbors.”
However, Davis’ Manhattan stomping grounds extended both north and south of his brownstone. Under contract to Columbia Records from 1955 to mid-1980s, he recorded at the label’s studios in East 30th Street. And he often performed, jammed, and grooved at jazz clubs along 52nd Street, at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, Village Vanguard in West Village, and even such landmark venues as Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.
During his tenure in the Big Apple, Davis made an indelible mark on the city’s constantly changing music scene, so commemorating the artist with a namesake street makes a lot of … street sense.