Miles Dewey Davis
Miles Davis was one of the world's greatest musical forces. His life's work has affected me deeply and his influence is obvious in all of my later music. My favorite recordings of his are Filles de Kilimanjaro, Kind of Blue, Miles Smiles, Seven Steps to Heaven, The Sorcerer, ESP, Workin'; and yes, even Amandla and Tutu.
My album VIRTUAL MILES is dedicated with great respect to one of my most important musical influences, Miles Dewey Davis. I was fortunate enough to play with two of his drummers (Philly Joe Jones and Anthony Tilman Williams). Miles runs through everything I play. He courageously kept to his path and created music that was controversial and not always well-received by critics and audiences. His legacy is profound.
Virtual Miles - Composed and performed by Jessica Williams
Note: Volume Two was recently released
Reflections on MDD
I was just sittin' in with the Miles Davis Quintet. Miles was using his harmon. Trane was there (comping behind Trane is such a thrill!) as well as Paul Chambers and Philly Joe. Of course, I had to compete with Red Garland (I was no match for him) because he's on that record too (the record I was playing along with).
'Workin''. First tune up was 'It Never Entered My Mind' in A flat. Then comes 'Four' and playing again with Philly brings a tear to my eye (I was in his band back in 1976).
I realize just how powerful and vital and elegant and difficult this music was and is, then and now.
I see that it was, among other things, a statement of individuality and dignity made at a time when a whole race of people were still not recognized as full, complete members of the country they found themselves in.
Never before, or since, has such greatness, such GENIUS arisen out of such an intolerable situation.
The deep and driving rhythm of Philly and Paul is impossible to ignore. Can't keep my feet still. I'm back at the beginning and finding my roots again in the music that I grew up loving.
I could go on about the reasons I was attracted to jazz, but, to tell the truth, I can't imagine someone NOT being blown away by Trane or Miles or Monk.
So while I go through the usual litany of self-doubt ('what do I have to contribute', 'who am I to presume to play this Music', 'it's all been done, and twice as well') as do all serious musicians who love this art-form, I have to stop now, having just played the 'Theme' with the quintet, and realize the truth on a visceral (not cerebral) level:
It's all still here, saying the same things about freedom and dignity and human rights, and about the wonderful charge we all get from working and playing together.
Nothing has changed, except that, because of Miles and people like him, everyone is supposedly allowed to participate and contribute.
In situations that deny or discourage 'access', it is appropriate to cause trouble and raise a stink.
Miles made some enemies when he hired Bill Evans.
Like the tune said, 'SO WHAT?'
I think that what distinguishes us from other primates is our inherent ability to play a few wailing choruses of 12-bar, B flat blues!
So instead of whining about the 'death of jazz' (I meekly admit to personally adding my own lament to the chorus at times) and the inequities and unfairness of life in general, it's time to get back to work.
Time to 'GET UP WITH IT!' as Rahsaan would say, time to get those chops back together and pick up the challenge of making torturously beautiful, at times murderously difficult music for the new generations of art-starved audiences who are getting tired, REAL tired, of hackneyed, meandering, self-indulgent and largely meaningless recordings and performances whose only purpose is to aggrandize and popularize a personality (rather than to create a thing of lasting truth and beauty, like 'All Blues').
It's a new age with new rules, and the rules are pretty simple. Play your heart, sing your song, have faith, don't give up, believe in your dreams, risk everything when it feels right, don't ever 'play small' or put yourself down, don't accept abuse, fight for freedom, follow your bliss, and be careful out there.
I guess the rules are pretty much the same as always, but with a lot more room for EVERYONE to play the game of life.
I wish Miles and 'Trane (and my friend Philly Joe) were here to dig this.
They'd live longer, hurt less, feel more welcome.
And I sure would love to go see them and hear them play.
Meanwhile, I hear them all the time in my head, and when my hands meet the keys they just come out of me like I'm channeling or something. It's not copying or ripping off. It's just paying the greatest respect I have.
And I'll say this:
Red Garland was one INCREDIBLE pianist and musician!