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Kind of Review
July 17, 2012 9:29 PM   Subscribe

Miles Davis does a blind listening test, identifying and rating other jazz musicians.
posted by grouse (41 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
"That’s got to be Eric Dolphy – nobody else could sound that bad! The next time I see him I’m going to step on his foot. You print that. I think he’s ridiculous."

Good ol' Miles, hahah
posted by Modica at 9:38 PM on July 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


I really feel like most of this is just because Leonard set Miles up to be in a bad mood by playing another band's version of Miles' tune "All Blues" at the beginning.

Of course, he could always be irascible.

This is the third of four blindfold tests Miles did with Downbeat over the years. Here they all are: 1, 2, 3, 4. Worth noting that the first two are a lot more complimentary, and the fourth isn't quite as feisty, to my reading.
posted by koeselitz at 9:42 PM on July 17, 2012 [12 favorites]


(Of course, Leonard contradicts me in that link. Who knows. Guess he was just being Miles.)
posted by koeselitz at 9:43 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


That’s some old shit, man. Sounds like Steve Allen’s TV band.

A blindfold test of my own. The public radio station here has an evening jazz show. One night it played the dreariest, most godawful thing I'd ever heard. Turned out to be something off Miles Ahead.

Had I known it was one of the famous Gil Evans collaborations, I would have tried harder not to dislike it. But I don't think I would have succeeded.

Then again, I was always more of a Jack Johnson man.
posted by Egg Shen at 9:48 PM on July 17, 2012


Glad to know Miles hated Cecil Taylor!
posted by ReeMonster at 9:51 PM on July 17, 2012


It seems appropriate to post this photo here.

Kenny G meets Miles Davis

Miles' face says it all.
posted by triceryclops at 9:52 PM on July 17, 2012 [39 favorites]


i frickin love eric dolphy but that's one of the funniest cracks ever.
posted by facetious at 10:01 PM on July 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is a story that I heard from a saxophonist friend of mine way back in middle school band camp.

Allegedly at one of these blindfold listening interviews, someone played Miles some Kenny G. They asked him what he thought and he said something like, "This shit is awful. Turn it off".

The interviewer asked him "Miles, what would you say to the critics who cite albums of yours like Birth of the Cool and Bitches Brew as predecessors of 'adult contemporary' music like this?".

Miles thought for a moment, then said, "Fuck you. Next question".

I'm sure that this is somewhat apocryphal, but it always made me laugh. And hearing it at a young age and knowing that I got his point made me feel like a pretty smug-ass middle school jazz trombonist. I am now an elementary general music teacher and whenever I find myself falling into the trap of music snobbery, I like to remember this story.
posted by rossination at 10:04 PM on July 17, 2012 [12 favorites]


Tough crowd.
posted by eugenen at 10:05 PM on July 17, 2012


Miles Davis kicks Wynton Marsalis off stage. “Wynton can’t play the kind of shit we were playing”.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:19 PM on July 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Famously Irascible Asshole Shows Self To Be Famous, Irascible
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:41 PM on July 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


Miles giving a youngster a little encouragement
posted by quazichimp at 12:03 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Spoilers: He doesn't like sadness and record companies.
posted by meows at 12:24 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


He loved Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto. That was true warmth.
posted by kandinski at 2:36 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Miles giving a youngster a little encouragement
posted by quazichimp at 8:03 AM on July 18


Thing is Miles was completely right about that kid. No phrasing and intonation problems. BUT - he shouldn't have said that about the kid in front of everyone. He should have just said "Thanks for playing that - I wanna talk to you later" and then he could have told that kid one on one, like a teacher does.
posted by awfurby at 4:58 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Miles Davis kicks Wynton Marsalis off stage

Purportedly, the reason Davis ended his 30 year relationship with Columbia Records is that one of their producers encouraged him to send birthday greetings to Marsalis.
posted by Egg Shen at 5:17 AM on July 18, 2012


Back when I was a fully fledged music snob I could do that shit about any band at any time and mean it (with the exceptions of the Go-Betweens' first two albums, Marquee Moon and anything by The Fall).

As I've got older and played lots more music myself, I've kind of learned to appreciate all kinds of shit. Billy Joel, Elton John, Supertramp, stuff that my younger self would have executed me for. You don't actually have to like music to appreciate it. And just because you don't like it doesn't mean it isn't good.

That said, Wynton Marsalis @ Montreal was a complete dick move. Who the fuck walks on stage unannounced when a man you have a well-publicized beef with is in the middle of a set? Kind of impressive to out-dick Miles, though.
posted by unSane at 5:21 AM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


1964:
> That’s what’s fucking up music, you know. Record companies.
> Record companies should be kicked in the ass. Somebody should take a picket sign and picket the record company.
> ...it’s the record company’s fault again.
> ...That’s the reason I don’t buy any records.

Just in case you kids think that current sentiments regarding the major labels are a new thing.
posted by ardgedee at 5:31 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


one of their producers encouraged him to send birthday greetings to Marsalis.

Clive Davis.
posted by Wolof at 5:33 AM on July 18, 2012


The blindfold tests were always my favorite part of Down Beat. I wish more of them were available online.

John Coltrane

Thelonious Monk

Maynard Furguson
posted by Longtime Listener at 5:56 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I swear you can take some of Miles' comments and just cut and paste them into a music thread here with no editing. Not sure what that means, but there it is.
posted by tommasz at 6:06 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The man wasn't wrong much.

But a bit of a dick.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:42 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man, I love Miles, but so much of his output (esp. the late 70s-80s stuff) is completely unlistenable, so I take this with a grain of salt.
posted by brand-gnu at 6:51 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I had a time machine, I'd visit 1964 Miles and play On the Corner and Doo Bop for him.
posted by box at 7:02 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Miles was an unbelievable a-hole, so I was particularly pleased that he loved the Getz/Gilberto collaboration, one of the finest jazz recordings of all time. Even if he didn't know they had made an album together. Unbelievable a-hole.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:04 AM on July 18, 2012


That is to say, if you could impress Miles Davis with a jazz recording, that was truly saying something.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:05 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The essence of his ranting in this interview was in how the labels were making albums by sticking random musicians in a room without regard to how well they worked together and without consideration of how appropriate the material was for them. Over and over again Davis complains that the randomness of the session or its setting is too distracting to be able to have an opinion about the musicians or performances. The Ellington/Mingus/Roach session has him apoplectic at whomever planned the recording; he doesn't have a bad word to say about the performers.

In the few instances where the musicians are demonstrably not to his taste, he has no hesitation singling them out for abuse (Eric Dolphy, Clark Terry, Cecil Taylor). Otherwise, even when he think somebody isn't playing all that well, he pulls his punches because he's got issues with the material or circumstances as well.
posted by ardgedee at 7:51 AM on July 18, 2012


...as such, he does very little actual rating of other musicians. It's more like he's rating the producers.
posted by ardgedee at 7:52 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if anyone back in the late 50s/early 60s was ever tempted to wind up both Miles and Mingus, then throw them into the same room. That fight would been the mother of all cage matches.
posted by Ber at 8:02 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mingus would eat Miles's face.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:12 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wynton Marsalis @ Montreal was a complete dick move

Vancouver
posted by Cosine at 8:13 AM on July 18, 2012


I completely agree with the first comment at the link:

Miles being Miles! Love it. Sad he didn’t dig the Cecil stuff though.


You can't expect musicians (or writers or artists), especially once-in-a-lifetime geniuses like Miles, to "appreciate" music (or whatever art they practice) the way critics and audiences do. They react based on their own natures and talents, and anything that doesn't fit gets rejected violently (see: Nabokov and Dostoevsky). I understand why he reacts the way he does to those cuts, even if I don't agree with him (and with the Duke/Mingus/Roach cut, I do agree with him—all great musicians, who shouldn't have been stuck in front of the same set of mikes).

> Man, I love Miles, but so much of his output (esp. the late 70s-80s stuff) is completely unlistenable

So What? Great artists have great failures, even great stretches of failure time (cases in point: Pound, Godard). If Miles had created nothing more than the great mid-'50s records Relaxin'/Steamin'/Workin'Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet, or the mid-'60s quintet recordings, I'd forgive him decades of putting out shit. Hell, if he'd left nothing behind but The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965, it would take generations to absorb what he'd done and he'd be one of the major artists of the century. Don't pay attention to the bad stuff artists do (or say), pay attention to the greatness. That's what matters.
posted by languagehat at 8:13 AM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Man, I love Miles, but so much of his output (esp. the late 70s-80s stuff) is completely unlistenable
I've been making a project of revisiting the entire Miles discography, and I have to say, even the most maligned 70s-80s stuff (which I didn't like at the time) is worth listening to again, with fresh ears. I never fail to find something to dig in just about any Miles Davis record. (Or am I just one of "those white people... they go for anything"?)
posted by crazy_yeti at 8:36 AM on July 18, 2012


So I love Head Hunters and Mahavisnu and Bitches Brew - is there any good current fusion out there? Either new bands, or maybe just name some more obscure (but findable on youtube, so not too obscure) old fusion?
posted by symbioid at 9:24 AM on July 18, 2012


Jaga Jazzist? (Does that qualify as fusion?)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:13 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh - re: Jaga, it's funny - my friend has mentioned them a few times, but I always thought it was a DJ for some some reason.

Anyways, after listening it sounds... Like sorta Fusion w/post-rock (a la Tortoise)? Sounds good - thanks for the tip :) Keep em coming!

Also: I guess Miles can be as much of a bastard as he wants, because well... He's Miles.
posted by symbioid at 11:40 AM on July 18, 2012


Medeski, Martin and Wood (and their various side projects) might be fusion.
Some older bands I like are Brand X (well, one album at least, Livestock), and Return to Forever.

You might find more here at Progarchives. It's mostly a good resource, but be prepared to skip some of it (Steely Dan??).
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:19 PM on July 18, 2012


WRT this, I'd put the lion's share of the dickery on the shoulders of the host. I mean, FFS, Miles seemed pretty restrained for all of the build-up. If I idolized Lou Reed, and I was invited to play in front of him on a talk show, and the host called me "Little Lou", I'd simply walk offstage while I still had both of my balls intact.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:01 PM on July 18, 2012


I read all four of the blindfold tests referenced above. Fascinating stuff. As a bass player, I was impressed by Miles's ability to i d the bass players so accurately; e.g. recognizing Percy Heath and Richard Davis in a large group settings. Miles always plays as part of a group rather than as a soloist with accompaniment, and is very sensitive to the people with him.

Another thing I got a kick out of in one of the tests was his positive reaction to E flat horn player Dick Carey - a sidekick of Bobby Hacket and one of the greats.
posted by charlesminus at 3:17 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


> WRT this, I'd put the lion's share of the dickery on the shoulders of the host.

Yeah, absolutely, that was a shitty thing to do to the kid and clearly illustrates the absolute priority of arranging exciting confrontations over the feelings of the human beings involved. If it's adults, like the famous Norman Mailer/Gore Vidal match, fine, set 'em at each others throats, but to put a kid in that position was unconscionable.
posted by languagehat at 4:32 PM on July 18, 2012


symbioid: Try Rob Mazurek, esp. his work with the "Chicago Underground (Duo|Trio|Quartet)". Or his recent album with the Sao Paulo Underground if you like stuff with a South American flavor.
posted by crazy_yeti at 8:58 AM on July 19, 2012


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