There are comebacks, and then there are comebacks. Thirty-four years ago, in June 1981, Miles Davis staged a memorable comeback performance in Boston that ended five years of self-imposed silence. The four-night barrage stood the jazz world on its ear, and although the music was formidable, what made it all so head-turning was that it was such an event.
Miles had been out of the public eye for five years, enduring physical maladies and having little desire to play. But he was ready to go again in 1981, and his group had just recorded a new album, The Man With the Horn, and he was going to play at the Kool Jazz Festival in New York in early July. But Davis wanted a tune-up first, and he wanted to do it in a club. So Davis contacted Fred Taylor, for whom he had worked more than ten times at the Jazz Workshop or Paul’s Mall between 1967 and 1977. Simply put, Davis trusted Taylor.
Although Taylor was out of the nightclub business—he was running the Harvard Square Theater at the time—he knew of a 400-seat club that might work for Davis, on the edge of Kenmore Square, called Kix. It was a disco in a converted garage that formerly housed a rock venue called the Psychedelic Supermarket. Taylor booked it for four nights in June, the 26th through the 29th.
Taylor hired Sue Auclair to manage the publicity, and news of the upcoming shows was made public in mid June… Miles Davis in Boston for four nights… two shows per night… ticket price $12.50. The news created a tidal wave of interest, and media people from as far away as Japan turned up in Boston for the opening. Meanwhile, Auclair recruited Boston mayor Kevin White to issue a proclamation declaring the four days in June to be Miles Davis Weekend.