I have been a fan of Miles Davis for years. His "understated" style of trumpet playing stood in marked contrast to the screamers like Maynard Ferguson or Doc Severensin. That of course made it okay for a middle-range player like myself to feel like trumpet playing isn't just the high notes.
But reading his autobiography for the first time in the past few weeks, I have come to appreciate even more of his amazing ability and the revolution in jazz he created and took to fruition, even as he was moving on to the next thing- a sign of a truly revolutionary and creative person.
So I went digging for quotes from Miles. Some are from the book. Others from interviews and other places. They give a broad-stroke picture of his thinking and music. They also give some good advice for all of life, not just the music.
Miles saw all that he did as part of the creating:
- I'm always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning... Every day I find something creative to do with my life.
He would never be done with it, never resting on what had
- I know what I’ve done for music, but don’t call me “a legend”.(…) A legend is an old man with a cane known for what he used to do. I’m still doing it.”
He started playing in the clubs when bebop was new and exciting and young. But he knew that bebop, like everything else, has to keep growing:
- Bebop was about change, about evolution. It wasn't about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.
"There are no wrong notes in jazz" is a truism he brought forward. It's what you do with it:
- If you hit a wrong note, it's the next note that you play that determines if it's good or bad.
Which leads naturally to:
- Do not fear mistakes - there are none.
All of us are "works in progress." We are never finished growing until we stop- and then we're gone. Find yourself. I would add, keep finding yourself as you evolve.
- Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.
(1926 - 1991)