Miles Davis

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For me, music and life are all about style.

Miles Davis (May 26, 1926September 28, 1991) was an American jazz musician.

Quotes[edit]

Quotes are arranged in chronological order

1950s[edit]

  • I’ll play it and tell you what it is later.
    • In Szwed, John (2012). So What: The Life of Miles Davis. Random House. ISBN 9781448106462. , and in many other books
      Ssometimes rendered as: I'll play it 'first and tell you what it is later.
    • During a recording session for Prestige, on the album "Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet" (1956).
  • The music has gotten thick. Guys give me tunes and they're full of chords. I can't play them...I think a movement in jazz is beginning away from the conventional string of chords, and a return to emphasis on melodic rather than harmonic variation. There will be fewer chords but infinite possibilities as to what to do with them.
    • About the new modal style. Interviewed by The Jazz Review, 1958; Quotes in Paul Maher, ‎Michael K. Dorr (2009) Miles on Miles: Interviews and Encounters with Miles Davis, p. 18
  • "You can't play anything on a horn that Louis hasn't played." and "I love Pops" (Louis' nickname) ... Louis has been through all kinds of styles. That's good tuba, by the way. You know you can't play anything on a horn that Louis hasn't played — I mean even modern. I love his approach to the trumpet; he never sounds bad. He plays on the beat — with feeling. That's another phrase for swing. I also love the way he sings.

1960s[edit]

  • I love Pops, I love the way he sings, the way he plays - everything he does, except when he says something against modern-jazz music.
    • In Playboy to Alex Haley (1962); also in Chambers, Jack (1983). Milestones: The music and times of Miles Davis since 1960. Beech Tree Books. p. 209. ISBN 9780688046460. , Haley, Alex (1993). Fisher, Murray. ed. The Playboy Interviews. Ballantine. p. 15. ISBN 9780345383006. , Carner, Gary (1996). Carner, Gary. ed. The Miles Davis companion: four decades of commentary. Schirmer Books. p. 19. ISBN 9780028646121. , and in Early, Gerald Lyn, ed (2001). Miles Davis and American Culture. Missouri Historical Society Press Series. Missouri History Museum. p. 205. ISBN 9781883982386. 
  • He plays like somebody is standing on his foot.
    • Alternative: He plays like somebody was standing on his foot.
    • In Down Beat "Blindfold Test" with Leonard Feather (13 June 1964); also in Chambers, Jack (1983). Milestones: The music and times of Miles Davis since 1960. Beech Tree Books. p. 71. ISBN 9780688046460. 
    • On Eric Dolphy

1970s[edit]

  • My ego only needs a good rhythm section.
    • Alternative: My ego only needs a good rhythm section.
    • In Chambers, Jack (1983). Milestones: The music and times of Miles Davis since 1960. Beech Tree Books. p. 261. ISBN 9780688046460. 
      "My ego only needs a good rhythm section" is also the title of an interview/article by Stephen Davis for The Real Paper (21 March 1973)
    • On being asked what he looked for in musicians.

1980s[edit]

  • Is that what you wanted, Alfred?
    • Quoted in: Jazz Journal International, (1983), p. 12
    • Miles Davis asking Blue Note records producer Alfred Lion's approval of a recorded performance in Rudy Van Gelder's studio. Miles' gravelly-voice question was accidentally recorded, but included at the end of "One For Daddy-O" on the Cannonball Adderley recording "Somethin' Else": a famous recorded peek into the recording studio process.
  • If somebody told me I only had an hour to live, I'd spend it choking a white man. I'd do it nice and slow.
    • In: Jet (25 March 1985)
    • During an interview, after growing aggravated about questions on the subject of race.
  • For me, music and life are all about style.
    • Miles, the Autobiography (1989) (co-written with Quincy Troupe, p. 398.
  • I've changed music four or five times. What have you done of any importance other than be white?
    • Miles, the Autobiography (1989) (co-written with Quincy Troupe, p. 371.)
    • At a White House reception in honor of Ray Charles 1987, this was his reply to a society lady seated next to him who had asked what he had done to be invited.
  • Why'd you put that white bitch on there?
    • In Davis, Miles; Troupe, Quincy (1989). Miles: The Autobiography. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-63504-2. , Kirchner, Bill (1997). Kirchner, Bill. ed. A Miles Davis reader. Smithsonian Readers in American Music. Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 255. , and Giddins, Gary (1998). Visions of Jazz: The First Century. Oxford University Press. p. 347. ISBN 9780199715206. 
    • To George Avakian after seeing the cover chosen by Columbia for Miles Ahead.

1990s[edit]

  • When you are creating your own shit, man, even the sky ain't the limit.
    • Alternative: When you're creating your own shit, man, even the sky ain't the limit.
    • Davis, Miles; Troupe, Quincy (1990). Miles. Simon and Schuster. p. 206. ISBN 9780671725822. ; also in Carner, Gary (1996). Carner, Gary. ed. The Miles Davis companion: four decades of commentary. Schirmer Books. p. 218. ISBN 9780028646121. 
    • Davis was questioning the increasing length of John Coltrane solos, and Trane answered "I don't know how to stop."
  • Don't play what's there, play what's not there.
    • In SPIN (December 1990). p. 30, and in many other sources, but I can't find the original one.
  • A legend is an old man with a cane known for what he used to do. I'm still doing it.
    • On being called a legend.
      • Quoted in International Herald Tribune (17 July 1991); also in: Shapiro, Fred R., ed (2006). The Yale Book of Quotations. Yale University Press. p. 189. ISBN 9780300107982. 

2000s[edit]

  • Try taking the fucking horn out of your mouth.
    • In Garment, Leonard (2001). Crazy Rhythm: From Brooklyn and Jazz to Nixon's White House, Watergate, and Beyond. Da Capo Press. p. 406. ISBN 9780786752270. , Szwed, John (2012). So What: The Life of Miles Davis. Random House. ISBN 9781448106462. , , and in many other books
  • It's that goddamned motherfucking 'Machine Gun.'
    • Charles R. Cross, Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix (2005), ISBN 1-4013-0028-6
    • Davis' response when questioned on what he heard in the music of Jimi Hendrix.
  • He could very well be the Duke Ellington of Rock 'n' Roll.
    • In Werner, Craig Hansen (2006). A Change is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America. University of Michigan Press. p. 53. ISBN 9780472031474.  as: he can be the Duke Ellington of our times.
      And in Paul Maher, Michael K. Dorr, ed (2009). Miles on Miles: Interviews and Encounters with Miles Davis. Musicians in Their Own Words Series. Chicago Review Press. p. 262. ISBN 9781556527067.  as: Do you know who Prince kinda reminds me of, particularly as a piano player? Duke! Yeah, he's the Duke Ellington of the eighties to my way of thinking.
    • On Prince

Quotes by others[edit]

  • (Bill Evans talking about Miles Davis's change of style to jazz fusion) I would like to hear more of the consummate melodic master, but I feel that big business and his record company have had a corrupting influence on his material. The rock and pop thing certainly draws a wider audience. It happens more and more these days, that unqualified people with executive positions try to tell musicians what is good and what is bad music. It’s tempting for the musican to prejudice his own views when recording opportunities are so infrequent but I for one am determined to resist the temptation.

External links[edit]

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