Miles Davis

(from a Brick’s Picks in the LA Weekly, 2010)

Miles Davis. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Colombia Records is just making sure.  They’ve repackaged everything He did for them, then repackaged the repackages, finally they stuck all the repackages into a trumpet case and are selling it for a jillion dollars. One of those way limited editions that millionaire jazz fans just have to have. Not even critics get that thing. They’d probably just sell it to Amoeba anyway. Critics do get invited to the fancy release parties though. Free food, free booze, free respect. Colombia and the Miles Davis Estate do these things up good. The Bitches Brew one was atop a fancy Beverly Hills hotel. Rooftop, baby. Look at all those rich people way down there. They had live Miles projected on the side of a building and he was like a dozen feet tall. A giant, huge Miles. A young hippie-ish Chick Corea was mad on the keys, and Wayne Shorter was so rad. If you stood just right the light reflected on the glass wall surrounding the roof and a gigantic mega-Wayne Shorter loomed over the Hollywood Hills, blowing crazy saxophone. A sky god. Unstoned, it looked cool. It might have been terrifying stoned. The thing is, though, that Wayne does not loom vast over the city. Not even Miles does.  That’s why they were throwing this big bash. So we’d tell you about this new Bitches Brew reissue that we’ve had in the changer here now for weeks. It’s a good one, people. Real real good. But we wish this stuff did loom over American culture like that giant Wayne Shorter. And that music meant as much to people nowadays as it did a generation ago. Oh well. Those were different times. The poets, they studied rules of verse, and the ladies, they rolled their eyes.

[Yes, the last couple lines there were copped from Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane”….]

Red Carpet


Had pictures taken on the red carpet again last night. That’s Hollywood. You show up to an event as a bum. Well dressed, nice car, but still a bum. You hang around the somebodies and drink expensive free wine poured by a tall gorgeous thing named Melinda. I didn’t ask her name, she offered it. Probably because I was the only one tipping. More beautiful things slip silently around the room, bearing platters of edibles you can’t identify, usually. Never admit it, though. Never a what the hell is that, lady? Just take, eat, and thank her.  Every one around you knows everyone around you except you, it seems, then you know everyone around you too, for a moment, then you move to another part of the room seeking more oxygen and less carbon dioxide and don’t know anyone around you all over again. You watch. The dudes look cool, almost all of them, they got it. And there are far too many gorgeous dames for such a smallish room. Art everywhere, mostly musicians in photos and portraits, and album covers. This Aladdin Sane really stands out, as does Miles Davis in a grey suit, looking bad ass. There’s Hendrix over there. The Beatles. Stones. The sixties seem to dominate everything still, and always will. My time not so much. The seventies were too underground and small. Oh well. Don’t dwell on it, not here. Lay off the moody intellectual crap and get busy schmoozing. Meet new people, find unexpected connections, actually have to hand out business cards, how droll. This is a Miles Davis party, yet another one, he’s a whole party industry, and he’s not even around to stand us up. There’s a book, Miles Davis, the Collected Artwork, lovingly assembled by son Erin Davis and nephew Vincent Wilburn Jr., and it’s a vast thing, a superb coffee table tome so heavy you could kill someone with it, like in a murder mystery. People crowd around the table. It’s a hit and they’re grabbing them at fifty bucks a pop. One guy struggled with three, had he dropped one he would have smashed toes, but he didn’t. Look around again…there’s Summer Watson looking lovely, been ages, big hug. She’s with John Altman who knows everyone in the known hip universe and he did here too, the Miles Davis offspring, Wah Wah Watson, everybody. He offered introductions. I demurred. No Idea why. The crowd grew and grew. I hid in the back room a bit where there was air and remarkable jazz record collection, every time I pulled out an album at random, it was classic. I asked about them. The gallery owner (Sam Milgrom, a cool guy) had run a record store in Chicago and moved out here and opened this place, Mr. Musichead Gallery. They have a nice website, but in real life they’re a great little gallery a couple doors down from the Guitar Center. Rock stars past and present probably wander in here and buy something for the studio wall. I wanted to buy the Miles Davis LP cover. I didn’t (well, couldn’t). Back into the crowd. The deejay had tried valiantly to play acoustic Miles but gave up. I heard Bitches Brew later. Began to recognize people now. They nod, I nod back. Back at the table I flip dreamily through the book again. The art is really striking. The kind of thing a jazz lover buys himself for Christmas. But alas, it’s time to leave. The wine was too fine. And free. Out the door, through, we were ordered onto the red carpet. Smile! We smiled. A half dozen quick snaps. The valet brought round the car, and back we were, bums again.  What an odd world Hollywood is. You can almost get used to it.

Mostly White People Miles Davis

I keep seeing stuff about Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s Kind of Blue and I keep thinking Australian Pink Floyd, who’ve made their own killing playing Dark Side of the Moon note for note for people who really ought to know better. Maybe this is the same thing. They’re much better musicians the Australian Pink Floyd (saxophonist Jon Irabagon is an especially fine player), and their Kind of Blue is more Kind of Blue than the Australian Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is Dark Side of the Moon, but we’re talking textures here. Both have all the notes right. And that’s what people are looking for, the notes. And that could be a lot of people. They really could make a killing at this. Mostly White People Miles Davis playing Kind of Blue, just like the album. At the Wiltern before you know it. Continue reading

Miles Davis, once removed

One time I was asked to attend an event–one of those Miles Davis events, some album cover art thing again–and when I got there I was literally the only person from the jazz world present. No critics, no players, no fans that I could tell. A lot of arty types, and some very beautiful women, and dudes in slick suits and bling. There was no food and the scenesters started splitting. I looked at all the paintings (alas, I’m an art ignoramus) and was about to leave when the publicist grabbed me and said she wanted me to meet Miles’ daughter. I was introduced. Miles’ daughter looked bored and tired and sick to death of hangers on and sycophants and especially critics. She rolled her eyes, sighed, and turned away without saying a word. The publicist blanched but I remember thinking how cool…I was just totally dissed by Miles Davis’ daughter. It was too perfect. It was almost like having a Miles Davis experience. Jazz was once full of Miles Davis experiences. His raspy voice, his sighs, his sting. Jazz musicians tell and retell those stories their whole lives. Critics still wince remembering their own painful encounters. Alas, I’d come along too late for that. But this was the next best thing. A story I’d be telling for years. His son, though, was a real disappointment, friendly, polite, affable and apparently pleased to meet me. A nice guy. We talked a while, and I wondered if he was adopted. OK, I didn’t. That’s ridiculous. But what a contrast. Anyway, the event was pretty dull, but Miles Davis’ daughter made my night. I met her again later, at some other function, and she was perfectly sweet. But I had lucked out that first time and caught her on a bad night. When you’re a critic with lots of readers you get a lot of fawning attention, it’s unavoidable. It used to drive me nuts, every one being so nice to me. Secretly I couldn’t stand it. So getting the full Miles from someone who was part Miles…that was priceless. One of my favorite jazz memories, in fact. I had my own Miles Davis experience, once removed.