Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mile Davis So What

The Sounds Of Miles Davis CBS TV Show April 1959

One of those magical moments in musical history was captured by CBS when they filmed Miles Davis performing "So What" for a TV special called "The Sound Of Miles Davis" in April 1959. The show broke all the conventions of the time. The first item was a near 9 minute work out of "So What"which took the show up to the first commercial break. The second half of the show Miles and Gil Evans with an orchestra playing 3 pieces for the "Miles Ahead" album; "The Duke", "Blues For Pablo" and "New Rhumba".

The programme was not aired until July 1960, when it caused a sensation because of its casual relaxed style with little regard to the conventions of the day. The cameras are clearly visible, the guys are wearing ordinary street clothes and Miles at one stage just wanders "off stage" to chat with someone. There are also memorable solos from John Coltrane who was in Miles's Quintet at this stage.

A Kind Of Blue

The song "So What" was the opening track to the album "Kind Of Blue". It is a variation on the call-and-response technique, with the bass calling and the horns and piano saying "amen" or "So What" to each of the bass's statements. The solos from Miles and Coltrane are beautifully stripped down austere pieces

Playboy Interview Early 60's Extract

Playboy: Linked with your musical renown is your reputation for bad temper and rudeness to your audiences. Would you comment?

Davis: Why is it that people just have to have so much to say about me? It bugs me because I'm not that important. Some critic that didn't have nothing else to do started this crap about I don't announce numbers, I don't look at the audience, I don't bow or talk to people, I walk off the stage, and all that.

Look, man, all I am is a trumpet player. I only can do one thing -- play my horn -- and that's what's at the bottom of the whole mess. I ain't no entertainer, and ain't trying to be one. I am one thing, a musician. Most of what's said about me is lies in the first place. Everything I do, I got a reason.

The reason I don't announce numbers is because it's not until the last instant I decide what's maybe the best thing to play next. Besides, if people don't recognize a number when we play it, what difference does it make?

Why I sometimes walk off the stand is because when it's somebody else's turn to solo, I ain't going to just stand up there and be detracting from him. What am I going to stand up there for? I ain't no model, and I don't sing or dance, and I damn sure ain't no Uncle Tom just to be up there grinning. Sometimes I go over by the piano or the drums and listen to what they're doing. But if I don't want to do that, I go in the wings and listen to the whole band until it's the next turn for my horn.

Then they claim I ignore the audience while I'm playing. Man, when I'm working, I know the people are out there. But when I'm playing, I'm worrying about making my horn sound right.
And they bitch that I won't talk to people when we go off after a set. That's a damn lie. I talk plenty of times if everything's going like it ought to and I feel right. But if I got my mind on something about my band or something else, well, hell, no, I don't want to talk. When I'm working I'm concentrating. I bet you if I was a doctor sewing on some son of a bitch's heart, they wouldn't want me to talk.

Anybody wants to believe all this crap they hear about me, it's their problem, not mine. Because, look, man, I like people. I love people! I'm not going around telling everybody that. I try to say that my way -- with my horn. Look, when I was a boy, 10 years old, I got a paper route and it got bigger than I could handle because my customers liked me so much. I just delivered papers the best I could and minded my business, the same way I play my horn now. But a lot of the people I meet now make me sick.

Looking back, there was definite racism in the tone of the contempory critics of Miles Davis's behaviour. You can read the full interview here.

Back in the next post with a track by Eddie Jefferson defending Mile's stance.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:26 AM

    Splendid! Thank you for that.