Friday, September 23, 2011

A Story: Miles vs. Trane

Writing about Miles Davis from the 1960s and John Coltrane has put me in mind of a great story I heard at one of the Miles Davis conferences that scholar Gerald Early convened in the mid-'90s. Apologies to the presenter who shared it; it was a first-person account, and I can't recall his name.

This presenter—a black American who had been a teenager in the mid-'60s—recalled the essential difference between attending a Davis show at a club and seeing Trane live.

For Davis, he recalled, he scanned the latest copies of Esquire and Down Beat, hoping for a recent photo of the trumpeter so he could intuit what Davis was wearing lately. If you went to a Miles show in the neighbourhood, you wanted to dress well, approximating the Italian-cut suits that the musician favoured at the time, but not wanting to miss out on subtle changes: pinstripes or herringbone, slim lapels or double-breasted.

For Trane, he said, you wore coveralls, because you knew that chances were high that if you sat anywhere in the proximity of the quartet in a small club you would finish the evening covered in Trane's saliva and slivers of Elvin Jones' shattered drumsticks.

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