Born: October 9, 1943 | Died: May 30, 2012 Primary Instrument: Guitar
Pete Cosey is a guitarist most famous for playing with Miles Davis' band between 1973 and 1975. His fiercely flanged and distorted guitar bore comparisons to Jimi Hendrix. Cosey has kept a low profile for much of his career (he has released no solo recorded works), though he remains an active player.
Prior to joining the Miles Davis band in 1973, Cosey was a busy session guitarist with Chess Records, playing on records by Etta James, Rotary Connection, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters (Electric Mud).
Cosey was also an early member of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). He was an early member of The Pharoahs and a group with drummer Maurice White and bassist Louis Satterfield that eventually evolved into Earth, Wind & Fire. Some of his pre-Miles jazz playing is available on an album by Phil Cohran's Artistic Heritage Ensemble.
After joining Miles, Cosey performed on the albums Get Up with It, Dark Magus, Agharta and Pangaea. By 1975, Cosey had developed a remarkably advanced guitar approach--involving numerous alternate tunings, guitars restrung in unusual patterns and a post-Hendrix palette of distortion, wah-wah and guitar synth effects--that has influenced many adventurous guitarists, including Henry Kaiser and Vernon Reid.
Following the 1975 break-up of the Miles Davis Band, Cosey largely disappeared from public view. He played on the title track of Herbie Hancock's Future Shock album, but did not appear on record again until Akira Sakata's album Fisherman's.com (with Sakata, Bill Laswell and Hamid Drake) in 2000. Throughout the '80s, he was involved in a number of Chicago- and New York-based groups with various musicians, but no recordings have been released. In 1987, he replaced Bill Frisell in the trio Power Tools with bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson.
In 2001, he started a group called The Children of Agharta to explore the electric Miles Davis repertoire. The first line-up was Cosey, Gary Bartz, John Stubblefield, Matt Rubano, J. T. Lewis, and DJ Johnny Juice Rosado (studio DJ for Public Enemy). The group's booking agency was recently listing the band as a quartet of Cosey, Bartz, Melvin Gibbs and Doni Hagen.
In 2003, Cosey appeared on an episode of American television's The People's Court, successfully suing a promoter for failing to pay fully for a Children of Agharta gig.
Cosey has also been a featured soloist with the group Burnt Sugar on their album The Rites.
In 2004, Cosey appeared in the Godfathers and Sons episode of Martin Scorsese's documentary series The Blues. The episode followed Marshall Chess and Chuck D (of Public Enemy) reuniting the musicians from Muddy Waters' Electric Mud album to record a new track.
In July 2006, Cosey was fleetingly glimpsed during the finale of Bill Laswell's PBS Soundstage concert (his performance having been edited out of the broadcast).
In 2003, Cosey scored a short film, directed by Eli Mavros, entitled Alone Together. Cosey and Mavros had met the previous year during production of Mark Levin's episode for the PBS Blues series. After appearing on Eli's college blues radio show, Shake Em On Down, on New York University's radio station, 89.1 FM WNYU, he agreed to score the film.
In the spirit of jazz and spontaneity, the soundtrack to the film was improvised by Cosey in real time over several takes, with several different instruments; no two takes were the same. He played guitar (using several distortion pedals, often bowing the strings like a violin), African thumb piano, and a zither given to him by Miles Davis. The film went on to show at several small film festivals.
From September through October 2007, Pete Cosey briefly appeared playing his guitar (no sound, due to narrative voiceover) in two scenes of a national thirty-second television commercial for AARP's Senior Advantage Complete Care Healthcare Insurance.