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Vibes on Miles
Published:
10/30/2013 2:25:47 PM


By Hakim Abdul-Ali



The word genius is a word that reigns supreme in any time frame of existence. Many diverse “colored” folk from every recorded segment of ethnic “hue-manity” have made its fair and rightful claim to the essence of this powerful word.

From literature to science to music to art, etc., the world’s civilized cultures throughout the annals of existence can lay claim to its geniuses in their midst with pride, honor and joy. So does the African continent and its descendants scattered throughout all parts of the earth.

With that theme and vibe in my head, I was thinking about a truly grand and undisputed genius in the American and African-American orbit who was all of that word and some more. His name was Miles Davis and music was his choice of distinguished creative renown.

Miles Davis was a mastermind musician and composer, and he was the epitome of unquestioned brilliant jazz instrumentation and the personification of “cool,” if you know what I mean.

If you don’t, then please allow me a few moments to refresh your mind with some thoughts about this renowned trumpeter who was born on May 25, 1926, in Alton, Illinois, and grew up in East Saint Louis, Illinois.

Whenever I think of jazz musicians, the names Satchmo (Louis Armstrong), Duke Ellington, Yusuf Lateef, Charley Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach and Ahmad Jamal automatically come to my mind because of their bodacious musical prowess and creative genius.

Of course, you know that there are many, many others, who can and do deserve equal recognition as pioneering stylists of the “jazz” introduction into America’s and the world’s listening musical ears.

Miles Davis, or simply “Miles,” as the world knows him best, was one of a kind. If you love the soothingly innovative sounds of jazz and the mellowness of an iconic innovator, then you would have definitely love the haunting and melodious sound of Miles’ trumpet and compositions.

Often imitated, but never duplicated, Miles Davis’ tone was and is a sound that forever stays in a listener’s head, because Miles’ music was defying standard norms of subtlety, while all along being unique. His list of original recordings which he appeared on totals almost 190 in number according to musicologists.

Some of my favorites are his albums “Bitches Brew,” “Miles Ahead” and “The Man With The Horn.” All these display a different Miles’ style, or approach, to presenting a novel piece of music that he felt or heard in his head.

For you see, or probably already know if you’re a lover of serious jazz, Miles Davis, the suave troubadour of “coolness” never settled into one style of musical presentation. The brother was brash with his musical statements, but he truly was a genius in the intricacies of his compositional presentations.

Miles’ music seems to take on a personally orchestrated unique voice-like tone. I assume professional musicians and trained aficionados of jazz would have to agree with me that Miles Davis’ was jazzy classical in a way that was easy on the ears.

The sweet sound of Miles Davis’s horn is the work of a truly gifted musician—melancholy as in the “Sketches of Spain” album and, at times, distant as in “In a Silent Way.” That’s about the only ways I can describe something as rare and treasured as the sound of Miles, a musician who is as revered as any in the storied world of jazz, or American Classical Music, as the grand master of the piano Ahmad Jamal refers to call this select type of music born on these shores.

It’s to be noted that Miles always praised and gave credit to the legendary Mr. Jamal for influencing him in his own musical elevation. Mr. Jamal, who’s still putting out some of the sweetest jazz sounds that’s ever heard today, was a keen part of Miles’ musical development and his continued, unique approach to bringing jazz and classical components together.

“Vibing on Miles” is pure pleasure because his music is dynamic. If you love jazz artistry in the highest, your appreciation and love of Miles Davis’ regal genius and as a great innovator in jazz, with his unique sound and compositional musical forays, would make you give credit where credit must be given—“Miles was baaad.”

Following Miles’ career as I have and do as a cultural critic and collector of jazz and the African, Latin, Caribbean and Afro-American musical traditions helps me attempt to decipher why he always seemed to be creating a new musical accompanying entourage as he was moving on to the “next” fantastic creative happening that was going on in his melodic head, heart and mind.

As I reflect on and respectfully think of my “Vibes on Miles,” I echo on his luminous musicianship and how he stood tall against bigotry and racism that permeated behind the jazz and other recording industries. Miles Davis was nobody’s angel, but be self-assured, he was no one’s fool either. He was no one’s replica.

His unmistakable aura transcended the trumpet. Miles Davis came of age, so to speak, in the ’40s’ be-bop era and beyond. From cool jazz to hard bop to modal jazz to whatever was hip, Miles seemed to always be one “cool” step ahead of the average established jazz musicians of the time. His vaunted discography says it all.

Brother Miles Davis was and still is a genius among geniuses to me and, again, my present “Vibes on Miles” can’t begin to define the awesome intellect of this stellar musician. Like I said previously, the brother was “baaad.”

Just listen to the “Kind of Blue” album, or CD, and tell me that you’ll have to admit that this genius’ skills as performer and composer are ones that leaves you in a calming frame of mind.

From his first recording in 1945 backing up a singer named “Rubberlegs” Williams to his last recordings, Miles Davis was truly “the man” with the platinum sound and attitude to go along with it.

When listening to Miles’ “Birth of the Cool” album, how can you not feel certain unexplained musical vibrations of smooth soul? That album was one my late father’s favorites and I remember him listening to it in his private moments. I couldn’t help myself.

I grew to love the vibrations of that piece by Miles’ and have remained a fan of his tuneful trumpet and fantastic compositions. Listen, if you will, to Miles on “Seven Steps to Heaven” and “Round Midnight.”

It’s superb listening to the genius of Miles. He died on September 28, 1991, in Santa Monica, California. His genius stills lives in my mind.

For today and always, those are my “Vibes on Miles,” and that’s, “As I See It.”


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