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The Cover
April 3, 2013

Filles de Kilimanjaro III (Miles Davis)

JAMA. 2013;309(13):1320. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.1591

Filles de Kilimanjaro” was recorded by the Miles Davis quintet in the late 1960s, a period of transition from the traditional structure of a jazz composition to a freer format that invited improvisation throughout the tune. The painting Filles de Kilimanjaro III (Miles Davis) (cover), by the Japanese-Argentinian artist Kazuya Sakai (1927-2001), takes its title from this recording, and it is fair to ask what the painting and the recording have in common. Sakai and Davis both made changes in their creative processes at some point in their careers. Sakai was a fan of the music of Miles Davis and was no doubt aware that Davis named some of his compositions after other musicians he admired. There is also a structural similarity between the recording and the painting. In the recording, the trumpet and tenor saxophone players harmonize in a sinuous, occasionally dissonant flow, an auditory analogy to Sakai's stream of vibrating colors in the cover painting. Sakai was influenced by artworks in a variety of media, from jazz music to 18th-century Japanese screens and gardens, but the visual evidence of these influences is subtle, especially in comparison with gestural paintings of the mid-20th century, in which drips and dabs of paint on canvas are clues to the artist's state of mind. In the cover painting there are no obvious brush strokes, tape marks, or other telling gestures, but the painter's intent may be inferred from his choices of pattern and color.