Pete Cosey, (October 9, 1943–May 30, 2012), electric guitarist.

Pete Cosey was one of the most underrated, yet influential guitarists of the last 40 years. He was born in Chicago into a musical family and later grew up in Arizona. After completing his education, he returned to Chicago and became a house musician for Chess Records, where he played on hits by Etta James, Chuck Berry, and Fontella Bass’s “Rescue Me”. He also did session work for Motown, including songs by the Four Tops and Marvelettes. His early style was influenced by the blues, but his musical skill and adventurous ear led to him explore various sonic effects through the use of distortion, wah-wah pedals, and numerous alternate tunings, often stringing his guitar in unconventional ways. Through this, he was an early influence on Jimi Hendrix. While with Chess, he played on controversial psychedelic blues records by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. He also played in a jazz/R&B band with drummer Maurice White that eventually became Earth, Wind & Fire. In addition to his session work, he was an early member of the Chicago avant-garde jazz scene, most notably with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Cosey with Miles Davis

His most famous association was with Miles Davis, whose band he joined in 1973 at the age of 30. Cosey’s unique lead guitar work became an important solo voice alongside Davis and saxophonist Dave Liebman. Cosey was a key contributor to some of Miles’ most criticized and misunderstood recordings during the early to mid 1970’s, including “Get Up With It,” and the live recordings “Dark Magus,” “Pangaea,” and most notably on “Agharta.” the latter two being Miles’ last recordings before his performing hiatus from 1975-1980. (Cosey’s studio work with Miles is available as part of the Complete On The Corner Sessions box set.)

After Davis’ semi-retirement, Cosey returned to Chicago. Although he continued to perform locally, he largely disappeared from the national scene, with occasional appearances on recordings, including Herbie Hancock’s smash album “Future Shock”. He formed a Miles tribute band, the Children of Agharta, and later replaced Bill Frisell as a member of the experimental jazz-rock trio Power Tools. One of his last notable recorded appearances was on the 2008 CD “Miles From India,” which featured several former Davis sidemen alongside Indian musicians performing several Miles classics. He was also included in part of Martin Scoresese’s documentary The Blues. Although he never released a solo album, his influence on guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Henry Kaiser (from the “Yo Miles Project”) and Living Color’s Vernon Reid were enormous. Due to his low profile, he never got the wider recognition that he deserved. His ability to play with so many tunings and string set-ups left other guitarists in jaw-dropping astonishment.

Pete Cosey died in Chicago at the age of 68, following complications from surgery.

“Pete gave me that Jimi Hendrix and Muddy Waters sound that I wanted.” – Miles Davis