Pete Cosey: 1943-2012

Pete Cosey, largely known for playing guitar with Miles Davis between 1973 and 1975, died today at age 68. Before joining Davis’ band he was a session guitarist with Chess Records, playing on records by Etta James, Rotary Connection, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters.

Check out his slashing electric 12-string work about five minutes in.

Cosey was a member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).  During his Chicago years he played with drummer Maurice White and bassist Louis Satterfield later of Earth, Wind & Fire. With Miles, Cosey performed on Get Up with It, Dark Magus, Agharta and Pangaea.

Cosey’s guitar style involved numerous alternate tunings, and effects like distortion, wah-wah, and guitar synth. His experimental approach influenced better-known  guitarists, like Henry Kaiser, Vernon Reid, and others.

Following the 1975 break-up of the Davis Band, Cosey played on the title track of Herbie Hancock’s Future Shock album, and in 1987, he replaced Bill Frisell in the trio Power Tools with bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson (a live recording is available through RSJ’s website).

In 2001, his group, The Children of Agharta, explored the electric Miles Davis repertoire. At times the group included Gary Bartz, John Stubblefield, Matt Rubano, J. T. Lewis, and DJ Johnny “Juice” Rosado (studio DJ for Public Enemy), Melvin Gibbs and Doni Hagen.

In 2003, he scored a short film by Eli Mavros, Alone Together. Cosey improvised the soundtrack in real time on guitar (using distortion and bowing the strings), kalimba, and a zither given to him by Miles Davis.

The guitarist appeared Martin Scorsese’s documentary series The Blues. The episode Godfathers and Sons, followed Marshall Chess and Chuck D (of Public Enemy) reuniting the musicians from Muddy Waters’ Electric Mud album to record a new track.

In 2007-08, Cosey contributed to Miles from India,  a cd celebrating the music of Miles Davis. He played on five tracks: “Ife (Fast),” “It’s About That Time,” “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down,” “Great Expectations,” and “Ife (Slow),”

For a vivid picture of this pioneer of modern guitar check out Peter Margasak’s columns in the Chicago Reader from 1997 and 2003.


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