Christmas Week Edition
When he wasn't marinating journalists in his contempt for the whole interview process, Miles Davis had an undeniable gift for being cryptic. It wasn't just the sound emitted from that self-sabotaged voice box of his (though that certainly didn't make the enterprise easier), it was his overarching determination to protect the essence of his art from revelation, even when purporting to explain it. In a sense, Davis couldn't be completely open about his work even if he wanted to be; perhaps because it relied on so many inarticulable components (the thousand alchemies in his interaction with other musicians, whether in a recording studio or on the bandstand, for example). At a certain point technique surrenders itself to a realm governed by forces beyond anyone's control; and only very few artists worth paying attention to will ever pretend to know where that point is, or where the work goes thereafter.
So even when speaking with relative candor, as he does in this recording from May of 1986, a Miles Davis interview was bound to have its impenetrable dimension. Fortunately (for us) Miles' interviewer on this occasion was not some stringer writing for a Jazz sheet or your average disc jockey . . . the kind of journalistic tragedy whom, it can be argued, fairly begged for his disdain . . . but historian and (perhaps crucially) musician Ben Sidran, for his NPR program Sidran On Record. Sidran knew enough about his subject . . . an often prickly individual even under the best of circumstances . . . to keep him talking by not trying to steer the conversation too directly. At its best (which is much of the recording), this may be the most interesting talk with Miles Davis ever committed to tape; at its worst it's not unlike the fawning S&M interviews critics in the late 60s used to conduct with washed-up movie directors (albeit without the sadism, latent or otherwise).
As an accompanying treat . . . something of an après dinner mint . . . is a 12 minute excerpt from another Sidran On Record interview (also from '86), this time with composer, arranger, wizard, saint and frequent Miles Davis co-conspirator, Gil Evans.
From now until December 31st, we here at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger . . . will be bringing our visitors small offerings of this character; some musical, some not, but all music-related.
Thus do we (hopefully along with you) celebrate this holiday season.