Miles Davis is more than a jazz musician: he is a cultural icon, known even to people who can’t tell bebop from fusion. His mellifluous style and rich spontaneous compositions became the hallmark of his style and attitude. Although he is known as the creator of Hard-bop and the perfecter of “cool”, it was not known until recently that he also had a weakness for practical jokes. Below are some scenes that did not appear in any of his many biographies, yet nonetheless reveal the jocund side of a very private man.
Scene 1: The Studio
Bill Evans: [setting up piano] Sorry I was late guys.
Miles: No problem, Bill. Say, why don’tcha play that tune you were playing for us the other night?
Evans: Huh? Oh, it really wasn’t that good.
Miles: Nah, it was good. [chuckling]
Evans: Really? You think it was good?
Miles: Oh yeah. [looks to other band members, who also chuckle] Yeah it was good.
Evans: [Begins to play first few bars of the “Tootsie Roll Song”. Miles slams the piano cover down on his fingers] Ohyeee!
Miles: [Everyone in the studio erupts into laughter] Ha! Cracker!
Scene 2: At the Bar
Cannonball Adderley: Has anyone seen Coltrane?
Miles: Yeah. I seen ’em. [giggles into sleeve]
Adderley: What’d you do?
Miles: Nothing. He’s out back. He’s got a little business to attend to, that’s all.
Adderley: Miles, if you’re playing one of your stupid jokes on me…
Miles: Oh calm down, Cannonball. [giggling] You’re going to love this.
Adderly: What? [Coltrane is heard screaming in the background] Shit! What’s going on back there?
Miles: [Downs martini] I switched his heroin with sugarwater! [starts laughing out loud and slapping his leg]
Scene 3: The Jazz Festival
Miles: Dizzy, have you tried out this new tar reed? The sound is so smooth.
Dizzy Gillespie: “Tar reed”? I ain’t never heard of it.
Miles: Oh, it’s the newest thing. Here, try this out. [gives trumpet to Dizzy]
Dizzy: [_Puts trumpet to his mouth and plays a section from _”Night in Tunisia”]
Miles: You like? Dizzy: [Tries to remove trumpet, which is now stuck to his lips. Begins to struggle]
Miles: [laughing] Hey, why don’t you play “Night with a trumpet stuck to my lips“! Ha!
Scene 4: Private Party
Miles: [Covering phone receiver] Hey, Herbie. [Waving] Herbie!
Herbie Hancock: Yeah? Miles: Hey, come here. I don’t know how to tell you this but — there’s been an accident. Your mom died.
Herbie: What? Miles: There was an accident on the inter-state and… I’m sorry man.
Herbie: [frantic] Where is she? Who was on the phone?
Miles: No, they just hung up. She’s at the Kaiser hospital. It’s on 25th and Main.
Herbie: [takes jacket] I’m coming momma! [runs out door]
Miles: Is he gone?
Ella Fitzgerald: Yes.
Miles: [bursts into guffaws of laughter] I can’t believe he fell for that!
Fitzgerald: What? Oh Miles, don’t tell me that was a joke.
Miles: [still laughing] Oh yeah! I can’t believe how gullible he is. Kaiser’s on 28th and Main. I hope he finds it before they bury his mom.
Charlie Parker: Oh Miles.