Monday, November 02, 2015

Miles on Monday: A new campaign to restore Miles Davis' childhood home, and more

This week in Miles Davis news:

* A new campaign to restore Davis' childhood home in East St. Louis will kick off with a fundraising event later this month, according to a post made last week on

Per the invitation reproduced on the site, the event will take place starting at 5:00 p.m. at a private home located at 910 North 87th St. in East St. Louis. There's a notice that "YOUR DONATION IS TAX DEDUCTIBLE!" and just below that, "$500", which presumably is the price of admission. There are no further details about the event included.

Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP no later than this Friday, November 6 via email to or by mail to House of Miles East St. Louis, P.O. Box 243, East St Louis, IL 62201.

As documented in 2011 by the Riverfront Times and local NBC affiliate KSDK, the Davis home has been in dire condition since vandals stripped it of aluminum siding, plumbing, and anything else that could be sold for scrap. Photos published last year by a user of show the building in even worse condition than in the KSDK and RFT stories.

The Davis estate, which still owns the property, issued a statement at the time of those 2011 stories (reproduced in full at the KSDK link above) detailing their efforts over the years to secure and maintain the home and concluding, "Miles Davis Properties, LLC has put forth every effort possible to position the home as an historic site; to donate the property to charity and to the City of East St. Louis; and to regularly maintain the home and property from the effects of repeated vandalism."

Since then, there's basically been nothing at all in the news about the home, until last week's word of this new effort, which is being headed by East St. Louis' former mayor and current city manager Alvin Parks. Parks, like many East St. Louis politicians before him, has been a controversial figure, and though a detailed discussion of his terms in office and the past and present political situation in ESL is way beyond the scope of this post, the complete lack of local publicity for a $500-per-person fundraiser being mounted on a short time scale does raise some concerns about the potential viability of the campaign.

For what presumably will have to be a major fund-raising effort, relatively few pieces seem to be in place so far. An online search for "House of Miles East St. Louis" shows that there's a not-for-profit corporation by that name, with the ESL post office box noted above as a return address; and Parks' sister Lauren Parks, who worked as his administrative assistant while he was mayor, in July of this year registered the online domain "", though at present there's nothing there except a page of PHP code. There's also a "House of Miles East St. Louis" Facebook page, which as of this writing contains absolutely no information at all about the fundraiser or anything else.

In an ideal world, the Davis property could be preserved, restored and perhaps turned into something along the lines of the Louis Armstrong House Museum in NYC. A similar project now is underway at the former home of saxophonist John Coltrane in Dix Hills, NJ.

Both projects have involved extensive efforts over many years, with attendant publicity both locally and nationally. It seems unlikely that an effort to restore the Davis home can succeed without a similar level of commitment and public awareness. Is this upcoming fundraiser the beginning of a credible long-term effort? Watch this space, as StLJN will be following up on this story...

* Saxophonist and former Davis sideman Dave Liebman shared his liner notes for the reissues of Davis’ albums Dark Magus and Get Up With It.

* The Times of India reviewed the compilation CD The Best of Miles Davis.

* The website Quarto Knows shared an excerpt from the book Miles Davis: The Complete Illustrated History dealing with Davis' early years.

* Opera singer Stephen Costello picked Davis' version of "Bess You Is My Woman" Now to lead off his mix for the "Soundtrack" feature at the website Dinner Party Download.

* Milestones: A Miles Davis Archive has posted to YouTube an audio-only recording of a Davis performance on November 4, 1981 at the Bradford Hotel in Boston. The recording features Davis, saxophonist Bill Evans, guitarist Mike Stern, bassist Marcus Miller, drummer Al Foster, and percussionist Mino Cinelu performing a pretty typical early-80s setlist including "Back Seat Betty," "My Man's Gone Now," "Aida," "Fat Time," and "Jean Pierre".

Edited after posting.

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