Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop

By Jeremy Yudkin | Go to book overview

Introduction

Miles Davis was an icon of twentieth-century America—instantly recognizable both in pictures (S-shaped back, trumpet at a downward angle) and in sound (muted on trumpet, hoarse of voice). He was also an outsider. The first reason for this is that he lived in the world of jazz. Jazz musicians speak their own language, the language of flat seconds, altered chords, and tritone substitutions. And yet, of course, they also speak to nonexperts, for alongside their language is a metalanguage—the language of feelings, in which wit, melancholy, joy, anguish, pain, solitude, togetherness, frenetic intensity, and dreamy calm are expressed and received in a place beyond words. We all know this. And Miles Davis learned the secret of meaningful communication: speak only when you have something to say. His thoughtful, laconic phrasing, his careful choices of notes, the personal quality of his sound, the sense that he is constantly striving for expression—these make his conversations with us like that of no other musician in jazz.

Davis was an outsider for other reasons, too. He was black in a predominantly white culture. He was reminded of the color of his skin on many occasions. At one point, standing outside a New York club whose marquee bore his name, he was struck repeatedly on the head by a white policeman wielding a truncheon—and then charged with resisting arrest. This horrible incident is emblematic of the constant incidents of racism woven into his daily life.1

He was also small, and he made up for this by developing a tough exterior and by learning how to box. He was preternaturally handsome, and women black and white were strongly attracted to him. He became rich and famous, and he had to hide

-xi-

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Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - Miles Smiles? 1
  • 2 - Birth 8
  • 3 - Groove 17
  • 4 - Voice 31
  • 5 - Kind of Blue 43
  • 6 - "There Is No Justice" 52
  • 7 - Not Happening 58
  • 8 - The Second Quintet 66
  • 9 - The Album Miles Smiles, Side 1 70
  • 10 - The Album Miles Smiles, Side 2 104
  • Conclusion- Miles Does Smile 122
  • Notes 125
  • Bibliography 145
  • Select Discography 151
  • Index 155
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