Friday, February 28, 2014

Miles to go. . .

This coming Sunday marks the 55th anniversary of the first session for the largest selling jazz album of all time, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Which kinda got me to thinking about the few times my path crossed his.

One time was when I was hanging with Jean (Great Day in Harlem) Bach of a Sunday afternoon back in the before-time when Davis was at the Vanguard on a double bill with Blossom. (If you have to ask "Blossom, who,?" then you really don't belong here.) Unlike his public rep which depicted him as being quite the grouch, he was amiable and chatty when he sat down at the table with us. Even when some nitwit came up, intruded and told Miles he thought it would be a great idea for him to cut an album called "Live at Carnegie Hall," when, in fact, he had released just such an album the week before, not even then did Davis lose it.

Another encounter with Davis is contained in my memoir, Early Plastic. This, too, occurred at the Vanguard. To whit:

"It's not just the bitchy world of opera that has its divas: Shortly after we met, I went to see jazz pianist Cecil Taylor opening night of an engagement at the popular and long-running Village Vanguard. In the middle of his first set, who should walk in---looking very unlike his late period Electoid From Planet Ten self---but a natty, dapper and Saville Rowed Miles Davis. All eyes left Cecil on stage and turned to focus as Miles and his still somewhat socially taboo, blonde date as the two made their way to one of the club's postage stamp-size tables. They sat down in front of the bandstand, downed one drink apiece, stayed for all of five minutes, then---when Miles gave the signal---split. I was there again the next night when, at nearly the same time, Davis came in once more, this time with a different, but equally stunning Aryan number, and proceeded to do exactly the same thing: five minutes, and gone! Cecil later told me that this jazz equivalent of a head-on clash between Godzilla and Rodan took place for several more nights running. Davis' rancor probably stemmed from feeling Cecil's improperly uncloseted homosexuality, unlike his own more discreet gay ways (including a rather torrid affair with a North American reggae singer), reflected badly on the macho image of jazz. Or. . .maybe he just hated Cecil's off the charts AND walls musicality."

Miles and Me Three:

So there I am seated in the customs waiting room at Kennedy after a flight back from Paris waiting for customs to open and WHO should be seated next to me but my old buddy Miles (who couldn't remember me from Adam Who). He, natch, had flown first class and I, steerage. But customs lounges can oft be quite the democratic leverlers. And I just happened to be carrying a copy of a Buddy Bolden bio (if you have to ask who Buddy Bolden is, then. . .oh, never mind). "Well," I thought to myself, "if THIS isn't THE conversation starter of all time." And so I sez something along the lines of:

ME: Can you believe this? Here I am seated next to Miles Davis and have in my hands a biography of  Buddy Bolden.

MILES: Who's that?

The autodidact in me rears its ugly head and propounds. . .

ME: Well, not only was he the very first jazz trumpet player but is often considered to be the inventor of jazz itself.

MILES: Never heard of him.

ME: I just finished reading it when we landed. Let me give it to you.

He thanked me and graciously accepted my lagniape. But if you think for one minute that I ever honestly believed he had never heard of Buddy Bolden, then. . .. It's not for nothing that Miles Davis was the single biggest stockholder in New Jersey Light and Power!

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