Christie’s will auction off a trumpet both designed and played by Miles Davis next month. Commissioned by Davis in 1980, the Martin Company horn features a distinctive gilt pattern showing crescent moons and stars, with the word “Miles” inscribed inside the bell. Christie’s estimates the instrument’s value at between $70,000 and $100,000.
The trumpet is one of three commissioned by Davis around the time he reemerged from a five-year performing and recording hiatus. The horn up for auction features a deep-blue lacquer finish; a red one with the same celestial pattern remains in Davis’ family’s possession, while a black one is buried with Davis in the Bronx’s Woodlawn Cemetery. The model is a Martin Committee — named because it was designed by a team of five — which was favored by top jazz trumpeters from the Forties through the Sixties, and used by Davis throughout his career. The present owner of the blue “Moon and Stars” trumpet acquired it from jazz guitarist and sometime Davis collaborator George Benson.
“[A] trumpet like this — top quality in its field, beautifully made and, most important, with impeccable provenance — is definitely top in class,” Becky MacGuire of Christie’s tells Rolling Stone in a statement.
A video released in conjunction with the auction announcement shows contemporary jazz luminary Keyon Harrold — who recorded the trumpet passages heard in Don Cheadle’s 2016 Davis biopic Miles Ahead — playing the horn. In the New York–set clip, he discusses how “the fire of the music here” brought him to New York from his home of Ferguson, Missouri, near Davis’ birthplace of Alton, Illinois.
“Miles being one of the coolest of the cool, his energy on the scene really, really inspired greatness,” Harrold says, accompanied by footage of him improvising on the “Moon and Stars” horn in an empty club.
“This is a classic. This is a relic. As a trumpet player holding this horn, this is amazing,” Harrold says of the instrument, while the camera pans over its features. “Knowing the history of Miles as being very, very detail-oriented, I can imagine he designed this totally himself. He was a visual artist as well. The layout of this is so beautiful: the moon, the stars. Just looking at the design, it’s just flawless.”
The Miles Davis “Moon and Stars” trumpet will feature in “The Exceptional Sale” at Christie’s in New York on October 29th.