One thing about Miles Davis, he’s difficult to mistake for anyone else on the planet. With his high forehead, pinched features, and ultra-raspy voice, he’s so incredibly distinctive a person that it rather impedes any endeavors he might make into vanish into a role in an actorly way—he’s always unmistakably “Miles Davis.” For whatever reason (probably $$$), in 1985 the most restless and innovative jazz musician of the 20th century decided that he wanted to take part in an episode of Miami Vice, at that time one of the hottest shows on TV. Watching the episode, it’s easy to see the appeal the show must have had at the time, the plot is threadbare and the acting attitudinal, but you get the trappings of an R-rated crime thriller without having to think too hard about it.
Davis appeared on season 2, episode 6, “Junk Love.” The idea is that Crockett and Tubbs arrest the owner of a whorehouse, a dude named “Ivory Jones”—played by Miles. They realize that a local druglord (of course) is obsessed with one of his prostitutes…. do you really want me to go on? The key here is that Ivory is a scumbag but collaborating with the local constabulary, which means we get plenty of scenes of him hanging out with Crockett and Tubbs. It’s a challenge to watch Don Johnson and not perceive him as doing a Kevin Costner imitation, but Costner wasn’t very well known yet. Most of Davis’ dialogue is semi-incomprehensible, but you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the genius behind Bitches Brew croak, “Watch that big cabin cruiser, he has a thing about them.”
This episode is, unfortunately, only available on Hulu—actually the Cloo network, but it amounts to the same thing.
Thank you Joe Yachanin!