According to the New York Times there’s a Miles Davis movie in the works. Again I shudder. Hollywood is really starting to get on my nerves. (see this)
My brother, Larry, had a girlfriend that worked at Eaton’s record department. I was turning 14 . . . he asked her to recommend something for my birthday. I got Miles’ Porgy and Bess. Brand new release – everybody loved it she told him. I didn’t like it and took it back for an exchange. I didn’t think I liked it but I was wrong. I just wasn’t ready for it. I was listening to Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman . . . Manny Albam’s Drum Suite was probably the most advanced thing I had. It wasn’t the first or last time I made this mistake. I couldn’t get the music out of my head and within a few weeks I went downtown and bought the thing. When I got it home and put it on my portable monophonic record changer and sat down on the edge of my bed to listen to it . . . well I was lifted immediately several feet off the bed and hovered over it somewhere in the middle of the room for the twenty-odd minutes the side lasted. Then flipped the record and continued. I still remember, vividly, that feeling of whole new worlds filled with light opening up for me. Miles Davis became the centre of my universe for years to come. I bought every record there was, each new one as it came out.
Just look at that cover. I studied that photo endlessly. It represented for me the whole promise of life, it contained everything I was waiting for, everything to live for. I dreamed of Miles Davis. I dreamed he came to play at my high school where no one knew him but me. I’m not kidding. This was a recurring dream for years and as a matter of fact I had it again just last week. Miles was my friend. In my dreams, I mean.
In fact I never met him. I saw him three or four times but never met or was within speaking distance of him. Around 1977 or 78, maybe 79, Todd Barkan (owner of Keystone Corner in San Francisco and major producer of great jazz) called to ask if I’d be interested in booking Miles for a concert in Vancouver. I remember the money was six grand, a fortune for me at the time but I said yes yes yes. Within days word came that Miles was sick and touring was off. He did come to play here a few more times before he died in 1991, and I saw him every time but one.
The more I came to know about the life of Miles Davis the more I wondered about Art and Life, Truth and Beauty – because some of the most beautiful music in the world came from the heart of a man who – there’s no polite way to say this – was truly fucked up. Egotist, junkie, wife-beater, arrogant jerk. If they want to make a movie about Miles Davis it should be about someone like me, alone in a room, listening to Miles Davis on a shitty old record player and imagining the most tender and promising moments in life.
[Cover photo by Roy DeCarava]