Miles Davis saluted with a stamp

Edith Piaf and Miles Davis stamps
Edith Piaf and Miles Davis stamps

(CBS News) Almost 21 years after his death, Miles Davis is paid tribute by America and France in the form of a postage stamp.

The influential jazz trumpeter is depicted on a pair of commemorative stamps along with legendary French singer Edith Piaf, issued on Tuesday by both the United States Postal Service and France's postal agency La Poste.

A first-day ceremony for the stamps was held at New York City's Rubin Museum of Art, attended by members of Davis' family and former colleagues.

"He was a man of many facets and I have been blessed to benefit from most of them," said actress Cicely Tyson, who is Davis' former wife. "He was a man who communicated through his music. Through his music, you knew his physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state. That's how he spoke to everyone."

Bassist Ron Carter, who played with Davis as a member of his quintet from the mid to late '60s, shared his memories of his former bandleader. "I met Miles in 1960 at a concert, so I've known him up until his passing," he said. "Miles was a person who always had something else to do. He and I were kind of the buddies in the band...He never advised Wayne [Shorter] how to write...he never told Tony [Williams] how to play the drums." He later added: "He played trumpet and he was my friend."

In the headline of a New York Times obituary in 1991, Davis was described as a jazz genius who defined cool. Never one-dimensional, he tackled different styles in jazz from bebop to cool to fusion. Davis had previously said: "I have to change. It's like a curse."

Born in Alton, Illinois in 1926, Davis attended Julliard School in New York City and performed with jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker during the bebop movement of the '40s. He started leading his own groups and collaborated with arranger Gil Evans on "Birth of the Cool" in 1949.

Among some of his best-known albums during his tenure at Columbia Records include "'Round About Midnight" (1955), "Porgy and Bess" (1958), "Kind of Blue" (1959), "Sketches of Spain" (1960), "In a Silent Way" (1969) and "Bitches Brew" (1970). Many jazz musicians who have played in Davis' bands would go on to forge their own successful careers, including John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Ron Carter, Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea.

In the '80s, Davis incorporated pop music in his repertorie with his renditions of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and Michael Jackson's "Human Nature." Before his passing in 1991 at the age of 65, Davis tackled hip-hop on the posthumous album "Doo/Bop" (1992).

Since then, his music continues to be reissued and repackaged. In 2009, Congress passed a bill honoring the "Kind of Blue album" as it marked its then-50th anniversary; it was also added to the National Recording Registry in 2002. Davis was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

A band from the Julliard School of Music performed on stage several of Davis' songs including "So What" off of "Kind of Blue."

French singer Edith Piaf (1915-1963) was also acknowledged at the ceremony in remarks made by American songwriter Mike Stoller and producer George Avakian. She is best known for the songs "La Vie en Rose" ("Life in Pink," which was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998) and "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" ("No Regrets"). Piaf's songs were performed at the ceremony by singer Maria Elena Infantino.