The deeper I dive into Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe, the more I love the legendary trumpeter.
“Music is about style” – Miles Davis
I have seen some of his past concerts on DVD and the first thing that always caught my attention when watching was that he never spoke to the crowd. I had once asked a musical friend of mine if he were deaf or mute not realizing what he was really doing which was playing the system. He was using his identity that he gained through America’s musical genre known as jazz music, against the Jim Crow system that expected him to work in White only establishments only to serve but would not allow him to walk in the front door with everyone else or sit side-by-side his white only fans. He felt that club owners started to believe that they owned musicians just because they shared their talents at their establishments. So he served alright, and that’s it. He didn’t welcome the crowd. He didn’t tell the crowd the names of the songs. He turned his back to them. He basically played, got payed and left. The crowd thought he was rude, but what’s ruder than being allowed to play at a place that has a sign that says no blacks. You have to love the power of his intellect that he shows through an action like that.
Miles Davis said, “knowledge is freedom and ignorance is slavery.” If that is true then he played the system with his free expressions out of his horn that he performed before the face of his oppressors, when he jassed them by pretending he was the stigma that they already portrayed him to be.
Another thing I appreciated was his talking about the experiences he had studying at Julliard. Davis took readers back to an experience at school where a white professor told the class that the reason black people played the blues was because they were poor and had to pick cotton and because they were so sad at that situation, they played the blues and that is where the blues came from. Dizzy immediately rose his hand and said, my father is rich and a dentist and we don’t pick cotton and I play the blues. The teacher was left, green in the face. Shortly after that, Davis quit Julliard because he felt the teachers did not know anything and he was mad and embarrassed at their prejudice, though he received much technical knowledge of music from this school, he got real musical tutelage from Dizzy and Bird. Other influences he had were Clark Terry and Thelonious Monk. He also loved Billie Holiday because he felt she was so talented and very good at improvising and making the music her own.
I am enjoying reading about the life he lived and his crossing paths with the jazz greats that most of us are only privileged to know through the legacies they have left behind. But I am finding it even more cool the way he thought. He really was a very intelligent person and the more I read, the more I respect him as a black man in America, a musician and a person who was very self-conscious about who he was and what he was dealing with in the prejudiced society which he lived.
I will warn readers who are light-hearted. This book contains much profanity. He doesn’t hold back. I can say that every third sentence features a curse word. But it makes the book more meaningful and that is what I appreciate about this book. Davis is real and comes from a sincere place. Miles: The Autobiography is an awesome read.
Disclaimer: I am not a seller, manufacturer or distributor of this book nor will I receive compensation for mentioning the title, author or for discussing
anything in regards to this book. I am simply a book lover and jazz lover sharing information for other readers interested in reading about a jazz great.