In 1991, a friend sent me seven cassette tapes he recorded off the radio. Back then, with no Internet and no other way to transfer music, this was a big deal. And on them was another big deal: Those seven cassettes made up the entire series of
” which detailed Miles’ life and music through interviews and recordings – some previously unreleased.
The documentary, produced by Steve Rowland and narrated by the actor Danny Glover, follows Miles’ career, adding insight and candid commentary from Miles’ friends and fellow musicians including jazz historian Quincy Troupe, George Duke, Carlos Santana, Joni Mitchell and Olu Dara. Duke talks of Miles the superstar of the ’50s, dressed in fine Italian suits and fancy sports cars; Miles’ ex-wife, dancer Frances Taylor, talks of the two-headed monster Miles, saying she had to walk on eggshells around him, not knowing at a moment whether he was going to hit her or make love to her; and Santana talked of Miles the bluesman with a trumpet, explaining how Miles’ playing was much like that of a blues guitarist getting “inside the note.”
All of these interviews make for fabulous listening.
Accounts from the “Bitches Brew” years are tremendous, with percussionist Airto Moreira relating a story about when he was in Miles’ band opening for the Grateful Dead at the
Fillmore West in San Francisco: “The audience, they were rock ’n’ rollers, man, and they were totally crazy. Everyone was on acid... they would dance to anything.We would play this very complex stuff... it was like a ramble kind of thing and people they were dancing, they were rolling on the floor.” Through it all, Miles’ music is weaved expertly between Glover’s narration and the interviews.
If you’d like to hear the series, it is available by download at www.artistowned.com for $35.
Another way to get your Miles fix is a book by music historian Ashley Kahn called “Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece,’’ published in 2000. Kahn was able to get access to the master tapes of the legendary 1959 sessions, as well as an interview with the last surviving member of the amazing band, drummer Jimmy Cobb. Kahn details how each song progressed as well as conversations that took place and recorded, and puts everything in historical perspective to tie it all together.