Miles Davis Hated Everything

Miles Davis Hated Everything

Jazz trumpet genius Miles Davis had a lot of things going for him. He had a unique musical intelligence, an unparalleled instinct for musical innovation, and a reserved sense of compositional control that set his music apart from the many trumpeters of his day. And yet when you asked people to list his positive attributes, his winning personality was usually not among them.

In fact, the guy could be a real arse. His fascinating autobiography Miles is loaded with shit-talking, dismissals, and general acerbic jerkiness. It is fantastic.

Downbeat Magazine has had a longstanding tradition of having famous musicians come in and do a blind listening test. The artist will try to pick out who is playing, and talks about what he or she thinks of the tune. The music site “Noise Made Me Do It” has posted this 1964 listening test with Davis. It is hilarious, and it perfectly captures his general distaste for, well, everything.

On the Jazz Crusaders covering his famous tune “All Blues”:

What’s that supposed to be? That ain’t nothin’. They don’t know what to do with it — you either play it bluesy or you play on the scale. You don’t just play flat notes. I didn’t write it to play flat notes on — you know, like minor thirds. Either you play a whole chord against it, or else . . . but don’t try to play it like you’d play, ah, Walkin’ the Dog. You know what I mean?

On Clark Terry:

Clark Terry, right? You know, I’ve always liked Clark. But this is a sad record.

On Duke Ellington, Max Roach and Charles Mingus:

What am I supposed to say to that? That’s ridiculous. You see the way they can fuck up music? It’s a mismatch. They don’t complement each other.

On Sonny Rollins:

Now, why did they have to end it like that?

On Eric Dolphy:

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. He’s a sad motherfucker.

On Cecil Taylor:

Take it off! That’s some sad shit, man. In the first place, I hear some Charlie Parker cliches. . . . They don’t even fit. Is that what the critics are digging? Them critics better stop having coffee. If there ain’t nothing to listen to, they might as well admit it.

He did, however, dig Stan Getz and Jao Gilberto on “Desafinado”:

And I like Stan, because he has so much patience, the way he plays those melodies — other people can’t get nothing out of a song, but he can. Which takes a lot of imagination, that he has, that so many other people don’t have.

As for Gilberto, he could read a newspaper and sound good! I’ll give that one five stars.

It just goes to show, Miles Davis was a tough MFer to please. I remember someone putting forward the notion that Tony Williams, the young savant drummer who played in Miles’ quintet with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, was the only person who he never shit-talks in his entire autobiography. That sounds about right — at some point or another, Davis lays low just about every other luminary in the history of jazz.

It’s not every day that a guy will be this honest, critical and humorously candid about his peers. In fact, it basically never happens. But hey: The man knew what he liked… and he didn’t like much.

Miles Davis — Blind Listening Test [Noise Made Me Do It via Dan Bruno]


  • The hell does this have to do with videogames?

    Why on earth do we get articles ABOUT videogames that go for like, a couple sentences, and then ones that are TOTALLY IRRELEVANT that are a full page long?

      • In fact, you may even say that Miles Davis lives on through this website, and you’re just another person on his ‘list’.

        • It’s even better… because once it hits Australia, we get 1.6 Miles Davis to every one of ours!!!!!!

      • I have about 10 hours of free time each day, about one minute of which I spent reading and replying to this article. My actual gripe isn’t something stupid and petty like “what a waste of my precious, precious time”, it’s more like “Why is this site advertised as a videogame site when there’s an article entirely about Miles Davis on here?”. Believe it or not, I’m not even hating on this site. Despite what you might believe, I don’t just love to get on here and hate for attention seeking or whatever.

        My criticisms are because I like this site and I want to see it get better, not because I hate it. I’m not stupid enough to come on here and post because I hate the site. If that was the case I just wouldn’t come on here at all.

        The base question is, why is this on here? If Kirk felt like posting about this on a whim why doesn’t he just post about it on his own blog or something? It’s like if Ars Technica posted an article about something completely irrelevant to science, like, an article about modern fashion or something like that. I don’t HATE the subject matter, I don’t HATE this site, I don’t HATE the authors*, I just despise the fact that they clearly have potential to write good and interesting, thought-provoking articles but they waste it on irrelevant stuff that I don’t come here for.

        *except luke lol

        • Sooooo…. rather than spending 1-2 seconds of your spare time looking at a fairly self explanatory title and thinking “nah.. not for me” you spend what is obviously a much longer amount of time writing a lengthy justification as to why you have the right to complain about non-game related articles being on Kotaku?

          I don’t understand that logic.

          • To paraphrase that first paragraph for those who somehow didn’t understand what I was getting at, what I was saying is that compared to all the other various ways I like to waste my time during my day, commenting on Kotaku articles really doesn’t make up a big chunk of it and thus it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

      • You and The Chups win at comments. I’m baffled by the article too, but boy howdy you two made me laugh.

        • I think we’re all baffled by it – but there are far more important things in the world to be bitter about.

          As Miles Davis would always say, “Don’t worry, be happy”.

          ..Wait.. that was Bobby McFerrin… Close enough.
          I guess…

      • I know what you’re saying, but you really you’re wasting even MORE of your free time by reading the article, and then commenting about it, and then responding to the comments?

        I for one liked this article. I was wondering what it was doing on a gaming site, but I still really enjoyed it.

    • I am all for Kotaku posting articles that would appeal to gaming culture (comic book movies, anime, japanese type stuff etc.,) but this is really pushing it. .

      PS. I clicked on the Miles Davis tag and it turns out this wasn’t the first of these articles. This is really bizarre.

    • Because that’s Kotaku in a nutshell. They think they know what they’re doing, but they haven’t got a fucking clue either. Just like you.

  • Regardless of the subject matter of this article – DAMN that is some interesting info to know.

    Miles Davis truly was something else. I mean that in a good way, of course.

    • Stay tuned, buddy!
      Next week they’ll be reviewing the all new Toyota Prius with it’s excellent euro styling, SRS airbags and dual iPod connectivity!

      CAN – NOT – WAIT!

  • Love to hear what Miles would have though of Video game soundtracks – ‘That Nobuo Uematsu does alright but what’s with the crappy instruments can’t he at least afford a proper orchestra??’

  • Id give it a 10 outa 10.. Whats that you say? This isnt the dark knight rises reveiw.. HAH suck it

  • He was probably high as f@ck during that, as we was noted to be often. But he was a perfectionist and extremely gifted, so his opinion certainly counted…

  • “I’m gonna step on his foot” Man, what a brilliant threat! Is so non-threatening while still being spiteful and aggressive that you get your point across and the other person would have to be a fool to actually take offense or take it seriously at all.

  • This article is completely useless, even if it were placed on an appropriate site that actually related to music and was staffed by writers with musical knowledge and respectability. Miles Davis being an asshole means nothing in the grand scheme of musically talented assholes. I’m also not griping about a waste of time, its more that the entire article is ridiculous if you actually know anything about Miles Davis, like say, if you’d watched the documentary mentioned at the top of the article. A wide miss.

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