1. a supporting musician in a jazz band or rock group.
    Posse, does that sound like the magnificent Miles Davis to you?  I was all set for a cage match on that term (used in conjunction with an article on his collaborations with Shirley Horn) – then I remembered that, first and foremost, Miles was a musician.  As with other greats, like Bill ‘Field Fiend’ Evans and my beloved Ahmad Jamal, the music ALWAYS comes first.  ’twas Miles who studied concepts of spacing and dynamics from the vaunted Maestro Ahmad Jamal.. and during his storied career never, ever stopped learning, which made him the musical genius he’s known for to this day.  He brought Maestro Evans into his group because of his genius and in doing so, helped Bill Evans further develop that genius.  Maurice White/David Foster/Earth Wind& Fire (one of the weirdest collaborations, ever – but sheer perfection, for all that!).  Genius working with Genius.  This is logrolling at its absolute best!!!


So it makes perfect sense that Davis might not give a damb about labels.  Sideman?  Pffft.  And why not?  Miles (one of the only maestros I would ever call by first name – after all, there is Only One Miles) supported the magnificent Shirley Horn, playing trumpet on several of her albums  – and his support went beyond that of ‘sideman’, helping her to hone and refine her craft.

This thought came about when I was cataloguing several Malle perfumes – everybody in Perfumistaland knows of my love for Carnal Flower, Fleur de Cassie … and now I think I might be getting it bad for Synthetic Jungle.  As far as I know, M. Malle is the first to have both his own name and the name of the perfumer(s) on his label.  Malle is the creative director, with the initial vision… but that vision cannot come to fruition without the collaboration and talent of his chosen perfumer.   That he puts their name above the title, as it were, is serious respect, indeed.

So which of them in the sideman?  And does it matter?  In the shimmering, haunting tune ‘You Won’t Forget Me’ Shirley Horn sings with only her (very faint) piano, a touch of percussion … and Miles.  It’s completely seamless, completely perfect.  And neither Miles nor Ms Horn could’ve done without the other.  It’s on Shirley Horn’s album, so I guess that gives her top billing but, honestly, I think this one belongs to them both.   And does it matter in Malle perfumery?  Again, nah.  He’s the genius behind the geniuses who bring his visions to fruition. I appreciate his vision and his own appreciation and respect for the perfumers and that’s good enough for me.


What’s your thought on all this ?  Do titles/labels matter to these geniuses?  Do they matter to you?   I was surprised at my visceral response to Miles being labeled ‘sideman’ …. but maybe that’s just because it’s Miles.  Like labeling Godzilla ‘lizard’.  It’s… it’s MILES.  But it’s interesting, that audacity to attempt interpretation of another’s thoughts – not their actions; their THOUGHTS!  As if.  But (and here we go off the Musings rails, again) this from Tara Westover (in re “Educated” – her autobiography)

“A curious thing happens when you offer up your life for public consumption,” Westover writes in a guest essay  (courtesy of The New York Times) today. “People start to interpret your biography, to explain to you what they think it means.”


So.  Maybe it’s okay for me to interpret Miles as Godzilla.  Maybe he did the same.  And what does it matter, anyway.  He’s still genius.  And so is Malle. And I thank Floyd every day for them.


  • Dina C. says:

    Synthetic Jungle is in slot number one on the I Want To Sniff List in my head! Knowing you like it so much makes me even more eager to get my nose near some. Love the passionate way you defend your favorite musicians. Music ignites our hearts and souls when it’s done well…no wonder!

  • Alison says:

    Oh my! Adore Miles and Synthetic Jungle. What’s the likelihood we’d meet here of all places? But then again, where else?

    I think only the truest, most secure Maestro can share top billing or voluntarily take the back seat for another talent. After all we all know they’re there. No one else sounds like Miles.

    • Musette says:

      this is definitely The Place, innit?

      And you’re right – there is no one else like Miles. I’m highly in love with Roy Hargrove’s sound – but he doesn’t sound like Miles. Nobody does.


  • cinnamon says:

    IMHO it’s about confidence and being honest about and secure in one’s talents. The really great ones (musicians, artists, whathaveyou) just do their thing and of course everyone notices even if they are in the background — because the front ground wouldn’t be as great without their background when they choose to be in the background. And you don’t see them commenting. The only people/’artists’ I’ve known of who consistently yammered about their own talents were mediocre. Maybe that isn’t the point of all this, but it’s my two pence worth. 🙂

  • Alityke says:

    Jazz just isn’t my thing unless I fancy jazz dance but as I’ve got older I dance less.
    Sideman as described immediately translated to Wingman in my synapse shortcut thought process. Wingmen are always there, holding you up, keeping you going, encouraging you. When you get banged up on a Saturday night they’re right there with you!
    I always thought of Malle as the art director wingman who made the perfumers fly. Even if they produce a marmite scent Malle would believe in them & put that baby out there.
    Will EL really do the same?

    • Musette says:

      Probably not. But they will keep those perfumers in the black, which is something.
      But I disagree – I think Malle is the determining factor of the direction in which the perfumers put their genius (whew! that’s a mouthful) rather than the other way around.


  • Portia says:

    Hey Musette,
    I’m not much of a jazz love but I do like the term SideMan. It sounds super cool, like closer than right hand man or main man. Like ALWAYS by your side.
    We don’t listen to much else in this apartment, or car, than K Pop and some club female vocals. Momentary stuff.
    Malle? I have a couple. When I first started the perfumista journey he was spoken of in hushed reverential tones. It seems that majestic elevatedness of himself and Serge Lutens is lost among a new breed. So I loved reading of your adoration.
    Portia xx

    • Musette says:

      LOL! I don’t ‘adore’ him – but I do love the direction he took in his label – it was gutsy and it paid off. I think he sold to EL at just the right time (one of the things I admire about him is his pragmatism – he’s got that French Thing going, where he both takes and doesn’t take things too seriously – including himself. Uncle Serge is a whole ‘nother ball of wackitude and I am TOTALLY here for him. We need those Crazy Geniuses, just as much as we need the pragmatic ones, like Malle.


  • March says:

    I’m not going to let the fact that I know nothing about the industry (or the music) stop me from having an opinion … “side man” as I read it up there doesn’t suggest or imply anything … “lesser” to me. Like, Miles Davis IS supporting Shirley Horn — with his absolute, uncontested genius. It’s not like they’re calling him “second fiddle” or “the best we could do in a pinch.” I occasionally read interviews with other well-regarded, more contemporary musicians (lord, don’t ask me to name any) and what gets me is how … GAME they are. How the music, the sound, is ev-er-y-thing. How they saw a new technique, or heard a new chord combo or something, and it blew them away. And I’ve always loved Malle for giving the perfumers the proper credit. Xo

    • Musette says:

      I think you nailed it. And my intrigue is more about my response – I don’t think Miles would’ve given a good dogdamb about any of it. He wasn’t even on this plane, he was such genius. xxoxo

      and ditto re Malle.

  • Tom says:

    I don’t know about the term “sideman” in music (It does seem weird to give Miles any sort of even perceived second billing but..)

    As far as FM I sort of look at it like the movies: the producer is the one who get’s the Best Picture Oscar, no matter his role in the actual creation of the movie. So it was David O. Selznick who got it for “Rebecca” and not Hitchcock. But who’s name do you remember? Us ‘fume nerds will and at least FM gives credit right there on the bottle.

    • Musette says:

      Excellent point! I think of Malle as a music producer, which is closer to director. so producer/director. ‘fume heads will remember both him and the perfumer, just as film heads know both Selznick and Hitch (hold the cock)


  • Pam says:

    Omg! I’ve got to look for that American Masters on Miles! We’ve just lately got PBS back after missing it a few years. Miles as sideman is like having Meryl Streep in a cameo and then she takes the Oscar. But it’s all about the music.

  • Rina says:

    I just watched an American Masters episode on PBS on Miles! Have you seen it? Amazing! I really love Synthetic Jungle too, and POAL is as close to a signature as I have (i.e the one all my friends associate with me). My impression is FM is the sideman, but no, it doesn’t matter. I’m just glad they/it exists!

    • Musette says:

      I think FM is that rare hybrid that you occasionally find in music – a producer who also functions as a sideman. POAL is a gorgeous scent to be your signature!