Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A note on the post(er) below

“What we did on Bitches Brew you couldn’t ever write down for an orchestra to play. That’s why I didn’t write it all out, not because I didn’t know what I wanted; I knew that what I wanted would come out of a process and not some prearranged shit. This session was about improvisation, and that’s what makes jazz so fabulous. Any time the weather changes it’s going to change your whole attitude about something, and so a musician will play differently, especially if everything is not put in front of him. A musician’s attitude is the music he plays. Like in California, out by the beach, you have silence and the sound of waves crashing against the shore. In New York you’re dealing with the sounds of cars honking their horns and people on the street running their mouths and shit like that. Hardly ever in California do you hear people talking on the streets. California is mellow, it’s about sunshine and exercise and beautiful women on the beaches showing off their bad-ass bodies and fine, long legs. People there have color in their skin because they go out in the sun all the time. People in New York go out but it’s a different thing, it’s an inside thing. California is an outside thing and the music that comes out of there reflects that open space and freeways, shit you don’t hear in music that comes out of New York, which is usually more intense and energetic.

“After I finished Bitches Brew, Clive Davis put me in touch with Bill Graham, who owned the Fillmore in San Francisco and the Fillmore East in downtown New York. Bill wanted me to play San Francisco first, with the Grateful Dead, and so we did. That was an eye-opening concert for me, because there were about five thousand people there that night, mostly young, white hippies, and they hadn’t hardly heard of me if they had heard of me at all. We opened for the Grateful Dead, but another group came on before us. The place was packed with these real spacy, high white people, and when we started playing, people were walking around and talking. But after a while they all got quiet and really got into the music. I played a little of something like Sketches of Spain and then we went into the Bitches Brew shit and that really blew them out. After that concert, every time I would play out there in San Francisco, a lot of young white people showed up at the gigs.

“Then Bill brought us back to New York to play the Fillmore East, with Laura Nyro…….

“Those gigs I did for Bill during this time were good for expanding my audience. We were playing to all kinds of different people. The crowds that were going to see Laura Nyro and the Grateful Dead were all mixed up with some of the people who were coming to hear me. So it was good for everybody.

“Bill and I got along all right, but we had our disagreements because Bill is a tough motherfucking businessman, and I don’t take no shit, either. So there were clashes. I remember one time—it might have been a couple of times—at the Fillmore East in 1970, I was opening up for this sorry-ass cat named Steve Miller. I think Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were on that program, and they were a little better. Anyway, Steve Miller didn’t have shit going for him, so I’m pissed because I got to open for this non-playing motherfucker just because he had one or two sorry-ass records out. So I would come late and he would have to go on first, and then when we got there, we just smoked the motherfucking place and everybody dug it, including Bill!

“…..After this gig, or somewhere around this time, I started realizing that most rock musicians didn’t know anything about music. They didn’t study it, couldn’t play different styles—and don’t even talk about reading music. But they were popular and sold a lot of records because they were giving the public a certain sound, what they wanted to hear. So I figured if they could do it—reach all those people and sell all those records without really knowing what they were doing—then I could do it, too, only better. Because I liked playing the bigger halls instead of the nightclubs all the time. Not only could you make more money and play to larger audiences, but you didn’t have the hassles you had playing all those smoky nightclubs.

“So it was through Bill that I met the Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia, their guitar player, and I hit it off great, talking about music—what they liked and what I liked—and I think we all learned something, grew some. Jerry Garcia loved jazz, and I found out that he loved my music and had been listening to it for a long time. He loved other jazz musicians, too, like Ornette Coleman and Bill Evans. Laura Nyro was a very quiet person offstage and I think I kind of frightened her. Looking back, I think Bill Graham did some important things for music with those concerts, opened everything up so that a lot of different people heard a lot of different kinds of music that they wouldn’t normally have heard. I didn’t run into Bill again until we did some concerts for Amnesty International in 1986 or ’87.”

Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe: Miles, The Autobiography

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