Menswear in Navy
Photo by Charles Warren
The Miles Davis Sextet, NYC 1958, featuring John Coltrane, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley
When photographer Robert W. Kelley shot a few rolls of film at an intimate jazz gig on May 14, 1958, evidently neither he nor his LIFE editors were jumping out of their skins with excitement. Kelley provided scant notes describing the evening: just the date, the city and the subject’s name, “Miles Davis,” scrawled on the small archival file of the resulting photos. Why the pictures - which capture the great, ground-breaking trumpeter, then just 31 years old, leading his band in an unnamed New York venue - never made it into print remains a mystery to this day.
Maybe Kelley’s 1958 photos never ran in LIFE because seeing and hearing jazz greats on any given night felt so commonplace in New York at the time - the music mecca Birdland, after all, was just around the corner from the Time-Life Building. Maybe pictures of a ground-breaking young master of the art weren’t something to get worked up about. But six decades later, when Miles Davis’ star shines brighter than ever and he’s acknowledged as one of the genuine titans of 20th century music, it’s hard not to get excited by the opportunity to see previously unpublished pictures of the man and the rest of his legendary sextet.