Miles Davis Guitarist Pete Cosey R.I.P.


Put his indelible
stamp on the Dark Magus’ most out-there recordings.


By Fred Mills


In a year already punctuated with way too many music world
deaths, here’s one we somehow overlooked – but still a huge loss. As the New
York Times is reporting
, guitarist Pete Cosey passed away at the age of 68 on
May 30. He died in Chicago,
with the cause being listed as “complications of surgery, said his daughter
Mariama Cosey.” Cosey was born in 1943 in Chicago
and grew up in Phoenix.


Cosey, of course, contributed his phenomenal brand of
rhythmic, wah-wah powered fretwork to such groundbreaking Miles Davis
fusion-era albums as Agharta, Pangaea, Get
Up With It
and Dark Magus,
records long prized by hardcore Davis
aficionados immersed in the iconic trumpeter’s experimental phases. Once the CD
milieu unfolded, collectors in the know routinely had to scour mail order lists
from Japanese outlets for high-priced CD editions of those albums, as for a
long time they were considered far too outré by Columbia for the American market to release domestically. And Cosey’s alternately
angular and reverb-drenched solos were certainly key to the early/mid ‘70s Davis
albums’ appeal; yours truly recalls hearing them for the first time and
spending hours upon hours trying to decode the music, with Cosey’s playing as
constantly front and center as Davis’.


Cosey previously had been heard on Muddy Waters’ 1968
classic Electric Mud and Howlin’ Wolf’s
The Howlin’ Wolf Album from ’69. He
later worked with Herbie Hancock, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Melvin Gibbs and
Burnt Sugar. The Times Ben Ratliff notes
that he influenced everyone from Vernon Reid to Henry Kaiser to Arto Lindsay,
describing him thusly:


“Sitting in a chair
behind a row of guitar pedals, with dark glasses, tall Afro and long beard, he
used original tunings, sometimes on a 12-string guitar, chopping through the
dense rhythm with wah-wah and downstrokes, pushing his solos toward ghostly
delicacy or scrabbling arias striped with reverb and feedback.”


Amen to that. Let’s watch the man in action with the Davis group in ’73:



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