“Kind of Blue (Legacy Edition)” (Miles Davis)
Speaking of police arresting iconic black dudes, Miles Davis had his own dustup with the police, as Bernard Chazelle reminds us:
Why didn’t Professor Gates keep his cool? Not sure. Let’s ask the man who gave birth to the cool. In the words of Leonard Feather,
After escorting a young white girl out of the club to a taxi [outside Birdland in NYC] he was standing on the sidewalk when a patrolman came by and asked him to move on. When Miles said, “I’m not going nowhere — I’m just getting a breath of fresh air,” the patrolman threatened to arrest him. Miles said, “Go ahead, lock me up.” When the patrolman seized his arm, a scuffle ensued during which a painclothes cop passing by began hitting Miles with a blackjack. With blood dripping all over his clothes, he was taken to the police station where, with his distraught wife, Frances, at his side he was booked on charges of disorderly conduct and assault. At a hospital, 10 stitches were taken in his scalp.
Feather doesn’t tell us if President Eisenhower had the cops over for a beer.
[Click to continue reading A Tiny Revolution: “So What”]
[Miles Davis after resisting arrest]
From Miles Davis’ autobiography:
I had just finished doing an Armed Forces Day broadcast, you know, Voice of America and all that bullshit. I had just walked this pretty white girl named Judy out to get a cab. She got in the cab, and I’m standing there in front of Birdland wringing wet because it’s a hot, steaming, muggy night in August. This white policeman comes up to me and tells me to move on. At the time I was doing a lot of boxing, so I thought to myself, I ought to hit this motherfucker because I knew what he was doing. But instead I said, “Move on, for what? I’m working downstairs. That’s my name up there, Miles Davis,” and I pointed to my name on the marquee all up in lights.
He said, “I don’t care where you work, I said move on! If you don’t move on I’m going to arrest you.”
I just looked at his face real straight and hard, and I didn’t move. Then he said, “You’re under arrest!” He reached for his handcuffs, but he was stepping back. Now, boxers had told me that if a guy’s going to hit you, if you walk toward him you can see what’s happening. I saw by the way he was handling himself that the policeman was an ex-fighter. So I kind of leaned in closer because I wasn’t going to give him no distance so he could hit me on the head He stumbled, and all his stuff fell on the sidewalk, and I thought to myself, Oh, shit, they’re going to think that I fucked with him or something. I’m waiting for him to put the handcuffs, on, because all his stuff is on the ground and shit. Then I move closer so he won’t be able to fuck me up. A crowd had gathered all of a sudden from out of nowhere, and this white detective runs in and BAM! hits me on the head. I never saw him coming. Blood was running down the khaki suit I had on. Then I remember Dorothy Kilgallen coming outside with this horrible look on her face–I had known Dorothy for years and I used to date her good friend Jean Bock–and saying, “Miles, what happened?” I couldn’t say nothing. Illinois Jacquet was there, too.
It was almost a race riot, so the police got scared and hurried up and got my ass out of there and took me to the 54th Precinct, where they took pictures of me bleeding and shit. So, I’m sitting there, madder than a motherfucker, right? And they’re saying to me in the station, “So you’re the wiseguy, huh?” Then they’d bump up against me, you know, try to get me mad so they could probably knock me
[Click to continue reading Hot House: Race Relations, 50 Years Later]
Miles Davis after being arrested for standing next to a white girl, helping her catch a taxi
Back to Mr. Chazelle who subsequently enters into another kind of discussion, the kind I can read all day without really understanding the details. Just the feeling is enough. D-minor is a favorite chord of mine, albeit on guitar. I have never had a piano of my own that I could noodle/learn on, so haven’t ever figured out what chords are what without laboriously putting them together. I mean, I can create melodies on a piano, but don’t have enough formal musical training to sustain an entire 10 minute jam, much less explain what the hell Dorian modal scales are.
OK, What about the music? “Kind of Blue” is the most extraordinary jam session ever, featuring a dream team of jazz musicians (Miles, Evans, Coltrane, Adderley, Cobb, Chambers). It’s one of the most influential albums in jazz. It broke from bebop in a big way by going modal. But that’s not why I can listen to it a million times without ever getting tired. The reason for that is the dream team. All the modality does is give them space to breathe and explore melodic ideas that are ruled out in chord-heavy bebop (unless you’re Bird and you can play a full-fledged melody in two-and-a-half seconds).
“So What” is harmonically straightforward: you go Dorian for the first 16 bars, then move up half a step for 8 bars and then back to the original key for the last 8. Sounds so simple. Until, of course, it’s your turn to solo right after Coltrane. Good luck! It’s often said that jazz introduced modes to modern music. Nothing could be further from the truth. Satie, Debussy, Ravel and all those guys used modes heavily a good 50 years before Miles, using far more complex arrangements. But who cares? This video alone gives you a good sense of why jazz is the music of the 20th century par excellence.
Click to continue reading A Tiny Revolution: “So What”
Miles Davis and John Coltrane play one of the best renditions of SO WHAT ever captured on film-Live in 1958. Edit : in fact, was in New York, april 2, 1959. Recorded by CBS producer Robert Herridge. Cannonball Adderley had a migrane and was absent from the session. Wynton Kelly played piano–he was the regular band member at this time–but Bill Evans had played on the original recording of “So What” on March 2, 1959. The other musicians seen in the film were part of the Gil Evans Orchestra, who performed selections from “Miles Ahead”. Jimmy Cobb on drums.