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Watching films of Miles Davis performing in the 50's and 60's I noticed that whenever his solo was done he would take his index finger and press it beneath his right ear. Sometimes he would also shake his head as if it were painful to do so. I'm not sure if he did this later in his career or not. He acted very differently on stage in the 70's and later.

Is the pressure from blowing the horn forcing air into someplace it shouldn't? Why only his right ear? Is this common among trumpet players?

Here are a few stills of him doing this:

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The best I found via lmgtfy was these:

From reddit

I always heard Miles would cover his ears to hear the other soloist better.

OTOH, an interview side note suggests it's purely a habit:

"Had to drink some water 'cause I get dehydrated," Miles explained. "Loretta knows. Sometimes I'll say, 'Loretta, something's funny about me. What is it?' And she'll look at me and say, 'Fix your hair. It's sticking out over there.'"

Miles touches his hair behind the right ear.

"You know, Sy, chicks just know about you. Cicely [Tyson] knows when I don't feel good, and she'll call me up and say, 'What's the matter, Miles?'"

As does this review:

Every gesture seems choreographed but effortless, the way he nonchalantly walks onstage, rubs just behind his ear, puts his impeccably manicured fingers to his lips just before bringing the horn to his mouth.

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I believe it was to complaint to the band of some other aspect of the performance(intonation,rhythm, etc) he did not like. I do not have any specific source to back this at the moment, though I know that he was extremely sensitive of musicians playing slightly out of tune.

  • It doesn't appear to be anything having to do with the other musicians. He was usually walking off the stage when he did it and he would shake his head like something was hurting him – Tom Oct 4 '16 at 0:33
  • Regarding the main question, note that he also touched his hear in the middle of his own playing and stop the solo with a face of displease and then go back to it. Also the other answer support that the gesture is related with the band. That said it was probably an habit of some sort so he may have done it sometimes for no reason. – Septimus G Oct 5 '16 at 13:33

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