So I stumbled upon this interview that Miles Davis did for Playboy Magazine, about 50 years ago. In it, the interviewer, Alex Haley, asks Davis about how he feels about what critics say about him, and about his experiences with racism, even as a celebrity. But the most interesting part of the interview (for me) was when Haley asks him to name some of his favorite horn players. Miles names a few, like Lee Morgan, and Dizzy.
This is what followed.
PLAYBOY: Is there any special reason you didn’t mention Louis Armstrong?
DAVIS : Oh, Pops? No, why I didn’t mention him is because I was talking just about modern-jazz players. 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. He ought to realize that he was a pioneer, too. No, he wasn’t an influence of mine, and I’ve had very little direct contact with Pops. A long time ago, I was at Bop City, and he came in and told me he liked my playing. I don’t know if he would even remember it, but I remember how good I felt to have him say it. People really dig Pops like I do myself. He does a good job overseas with his personality…
Truth is, history has shown that the old guard seldom understands what the new guard is doing, but the old guard must remember that they were once new. Trust me, I listen to the radio and end up confused most of the time (because I want that old thing back), but I try not to talk down about it all, because the truth is, whether you like it or not, new spins on old things, create new movements, and new legends. You don’t have to like it. But you can critique it with grace, knowing that there’s just a generational gap, and that your opinion doesn’t have the power to strip the new of it’s validity.
Shoot, I remember my mother telling me that her parents thought this young, cocky, twenty-something, Martin Luther King Jr., was absolutely ridiculous! And they were right. And boy am I thankful.
(Note: See the post under this. I mean, there’s always just wackness passing as newness, as well. I ain’t talking about that. I’m talking about the young talented cats. Let them shine.)