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Flashback: When Miles Davis played with Prince at Paisley Park

Miles Davis at a jazz festival in 1985. (STF/AFP/GettyImages)

When listeners hear the name Miles Davis, they might think of some of his early works like Kind of Blue and Birth of the Cool, but those albums were just the beginning. Even as a young musician, Davis was always ahead of his time. He never liked to look back on the past and was always looking to the future as jazz began to change.

Davis was one of the key musicians of his time to make groundbreaking strides in the music industry and, as he got older, he began to turn his attention to the the next generation of talented musicians that were doing the same.

One of the young artists Davis took notice of was Prince, who he saw himself in as someone who was determined to do something different and push the boundaries of art.

“Prince does so many things, it’s almost like he can do it all,” Davis wrote in his autobiography. “He can be the new Duke Ellington of our time if he just keeps at it.”

Despite a few failed attempts at collaborating with each other in the in the mid-1980s, the two did come together to play a show at Paisley Park on December 31, 1987, where Prince rang in the new year with a benefit concert for the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless. Tickets were $200 per person, with 400 people in attendance that night at Paisley Park.

Although Davis wasn’t on stage with Prince the whole time, the two played together on a rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” and Davis remembered his experience visiting Paisley Park in his autobiography, where Prince actually hosted him overnight, a rare honor.

“When Prince asked me to come to Minneapolis to bring in the new year of 1988 and maybe we could play a song or two together, I went. In order to become a great musician the musician has to have the ability to stretch and Prince can certainly stretch,” Davis wrote. “Me and [bassist] Foley went out to Minneapolis. Man, Prince has got a hell of a complex out there. Record and movie equipment, plus he had an apartment for me to stay in. The whole thing seems like it’s about a half a block.”

In this clip Prince interacts with Davis for a brief moment, scat singing in response to the improvised melodies Davis plays on his trumpet, but he mostly keeps his focus on giving cues to the band.

According to an article by a fan who attended the show, although the video only shows about five minutes of Prince and Davis on stage together, the two jammed on the same song for 30 minutes, with Prince saying to the crowd, “You’ll expect an awful lot for $200.”

Davis died just a few years later in 1991. The performance at Paisley Park would be the one and only time the two legends would play together live.

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Simone Cazares is a student at Saint Paul College. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.

  • This brought tears to my eyes. Two music legends, with so much respect for one another, and respect for the music. And Miles wearing purple. 😊

    • Robert Ramirez

      Yeah, I never knew this happened. I was lucky enough to meet Miles at the Hollywood Bowl and see him live 5 times. Miss them both.