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Miles Ahead: Miles Davis Interviews

Many of the interviews Miles Davis did have been collected and trasnscribed in Paul Maher, Jr. and Michael K. Dorr (ed.), Miles on Miles: Interviews and Conversations with Miles Davis. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2009.

Interview with Harry Frost, KXLW radio, St. Louis (late summer 1953)

(I am grateful to Chris DeVito and Masaya Yamaguchi for help with this interview)

This is Harry Frost with the show called Fresh Air. Music a little different, music on records, records apart from the ordinary... this thing happens each evening at this time Monday through Friday 7:30 through 8:00. And tonight we have a little surprise for you so stick around, don't go away because for the next thirty minutes we'll be filling the ozone with Fresh Air...


So once again, we're in business, Fresh Air, Harry Frost, records. To start off we have a record by the, uh, Rolf Erickson group. They call themselves the Swinging Swedes and this is one dedicated to Miles Davis. It's called "Miles Away"...

[Rolf Ericson, "Miles Away"]

Harry Frost: Rolf Ericson and the Swinging Swedes, one called "Miles Away" and dedicated the Miles Davis, but it so happens that Miles is anything but miles away. He's sitting right here across the table from me. Miles, why don't you say hello?

Miles Davis: Hello.

Harry Frost: Yeah, hello. Miles, what do you say that, uh, we make a little historical thing out of this show tonight and delve a little into your background? Uh, where were you born?

Miles Davis: East St. Louis, Illinois.

Harry Frost: Right across the river, huh?

Miles Davis: Exactly.

Harry Frost: So you're practically a St. Louis boy. Now, as I understand it, Miles, your father is a dentist.

Miles Davis: Yeah, he's a doctor over in East St. Louis.

Harry Frost: Uh-huh and he's been practicing over there for about 20 years?

Miles Davis: About 20.

Harry Frost: And, uh, as I understand it, he's quite well-respected in the community of East St. Louis and has a wonderful practice. And it was only natural that, uh, in Miles', uh, formative years that, uh, the elder Davis, uh, expected Miles to become a dentist, but, uh, when the turning point came, when the crossroads presented themselves, uh... Well, I think we'll let Miles tell. What did your father say to you, Miles, about your future?

Miles Davis: Well, everybody's expecting me to be a dentist, but he said, uh... I as... I told him that I wanted to go to Juilliard.

Harry Frost: Study music, mm-hmm.

Miles Davis: So he said, “Well whatever you be, be a good one.”

Harry Frost: Yeah. Well, I think we can safely say that Miles Davis, uh, has become a pretty good trumpet player. Not only a trumpet player, but a composer, but we'll get into that a little later. So Miles, you were in New York studying at Juilliard, and as the story goes, you went up to the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem one night and heard a couple of fellows named Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Now, how did those two boys, uh, affect you? Your, uh, uh, beliefs and your ideas about music?

Miles Davis: Well when I first heard them, they were here, in St. Louis.

Harry Frost: Oh, is that right?

Miles Davis: They were playing at the... at the, uh, with Billy Eckstine.

Harry Frost: Oh, Bird and Dizzy together and that was in 1944, wasn't it?

Miles Davis: Yeah, '45, '44.

Harry Frost: Uh-huh.

Miles Davis: And I decided right there that I wa... was going to New York so I can be around them.

Harry Frost: You dug what was happening, hmm? Well you went to New York and you enrolled at Julliard and how long were you at Julliard, Miles? How long did you study there?

Miles Davis: Oh, about three years.

Harry Frost: Uh-huh. And then, uh, let's finally arrive at the night, uh, you went to the Savoy Ballroom and you heard Dizzy and Miles... Uh, Dizzy and, uh, Bird again, right?

Miles Davis: Yeah. They were... No. They... It wasn't exactly at the ball, ballroom. It was the Three Deuces.

Harry Frost: Three Deuces, oh yeah. Uh-huh, the street.

Miles Davis: They had a jam session down there, so...

Harry Frost: Uh-huh.

Miles Davis: ...I used to go in every night after I found out that they were there.

Harry Frost: Well, as you well know, you were quite, uh, attracted to the new music and, uh, decided that you were going to be one of the cult, one of the members of this new school of jazz. And as it turned out, not long after that, uh, meeting with, uh, Dizzy and Bird in New York, you, uh, made a record session with Charlie Parker for the Savoy label. What was the very s..., first side you cut at the Savoy, Miles?

Miles Davis: I think it was "Billie's Bounce."

Harry Frost: "Billie's Bounce."

Miles Davis: Or "Now's the Time."

Harry Frost: Uh-huh, that was -- it's right on the same session, "Now's the Time." And "Now's the Time" was later, uh, worked over, uh, some words added and it became "The Huckle-Buck." Is that right?

Miles Davis: That's right.

Harry Frost: Charlie Parker wrote the original riff, but he got nothing, and two other people cleaned up. That, of course, is a story that has happened more than once in music. It's a very uncertain business. Well, apparently the Savoy Record Company was, uh, quite impressed by the work you did, Miles, because a little later on, they, uh, gave you a session under your own name. And, uh, what were some of the sides that you made on that later session?

Miles Davis: Uh, let's see... "Milestones"...

Harry Frost: "Milestones" and, uh...

Miles Davis: ..."Donna"...

Harry Frost: "Donna."

Miles Davis: ..."Little Willie Leaps"...

Harry Frost: Mm-hmm...

Miles Davis: ... and, um, "Sippin' at Bells"...

Harry Frost: And "Half Nelson," wasn't it?

Miles Davis: "Half Nelson," yeah.

Harry Frost: Yeah. Well, let's go back and catch this record of "Milestones" by Miles Davis, Miles Davis, trumpet, and Charlie Parker played tenor in this case, didn't he?

Miles Davis: He played for me.

Harry Frost: So here it is, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, "Milestones"...

[Charlie Parker All-Stars, "Milestones"]

Harry Frost: One called "Milestones." That was a record that Miles made with Charlie Parker back in uh ... well, we're not quite sure of the date but as long as Miles is here, we'll let him answer him. Miles, when was that made?

Miles Davis: About seven years ago.

Harry Frost: Seven years ago.

Miles Davis: '46

Harry Frost: 1946... Well, Miles at this point, uh, I would like to um talk a little bit about the [Jute] 9801 South Broadway. You know that's a club down in South St. Louis and at that club they have a trio. A trio headed by John Connor. You probably [undecipherable] with John...

Miles Davis: John's a good friend of mine.

Harry Frost: You heard the group?

Miles Davis: Crazy group.

Harry Frost: Isn't it? Real wonderful... They do a lot with three men. Don't they? John Connor piano, Bill Moore bass, and Jimmy Taylor tenor sax and vocals. The amazing thing about Jimmy Taylor is that uh, he sings well and he plays tenor sax well.

Miles Davis: We used to work together.

Harry Frost: With Jimmy, did you?

Miles Davis: Yeah.

Harry Frost: Wonderful fellow.

Miles Davis: Eddie Randle's band...

Harry Frost: Oh yeah... the old Blue Devils. Huh?

Miles Davis: Yeah.

Harry Frost: Wow. So that place, The Jute Club 9801 South Broadway... and let me tell you something, the trio is great but so is the atmosphere. It's real informal, real relaxed. You'll like it. [undecipherable] is done up very much in style and as you walk in you'll see a bunch of paintings done by Jimmy Taylor. You see, along with singing and tenor saxing he has other talents. Painting is one of them. In fact, Jimmy has uh, promised to do a portrait of me. A portrait of me in swimming trunks and [undecipherable] me on the cover of Physical Torture... (laughter) Really. The Jute Club is a wonderful place. And if you haven't been down there yet, you gotta make it. There's a personal recommendation from Miles Davis about the trio. It is really a fine group. Isn't it Miles?

Miles Davis: Great group.

Harry Frost: It really is. John Connor piano, Bill Moore bass, Jimmy Taylor... and you hear Jimmy sing, you'll hear something. So don't forget it. The Jute Club at 9801 South Broadway, but don't make it tonight because they're not open. Tomorrow night would be a fine night. Any night Wednesday through Sunday... the Jute Club at 9801 South Broadway. And at this time we'd like to tell you that you're tuned to the show called Fresh Air with a guy called Harry Frost. We have records and we have Miles Davis.


So, let's get back to the Miles Davis story. Miles, we just finished playing this record "Milestones" which you made with Charlie Parker. So, let's move ahead with this story. It wasn't long after, that was made in 1947?

Miles Davis: '46 [undecipherable]

Harry Frost: '46? Well of course you stayed in New York most of the time, made a few more records but in 1949 the big thing happened in the Miles Davis story because he got together with a couple of fellows named Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan and he wrote some real wonderful arrangements. Why don't you tell us about that, Miles? How did that thing happen?

Miles Davis: Well, we wanted to um get a different sound. [undecipherable] close to a quartet as we possibly could...

Harry Frost: Well, you had the right men because you had Gil Evans, one of Claude's arrangers. And as I understand, is you spent a lot of afternoons in uh, Gil's apartment working out these different arrangements.

Miles Davis: All night and every day.

Harry Frost: Oh, yeah. And of course the result and products that came out on Capitol Records, such things as uh, "Godchild," "Jeru," and uh ... What were some of the others, Miles?

Miles Davis: "Moon Dreams," [undecipherable] and "Jeru"...

Harry Frost: And what was the name...

Miles Davis: "Budo"

Harry Frost: "Budo," yeah...

Miles Davis: "Move"...

Harry Frost: "Move," yeah. That was...

Miles Davis: "Venus de Milo"...

Harry Frost: Uh-huh.

Miles Davis: Let's see what else. Uh, I can't think of any.

Harry Frost: A couple of other things which have never been released.

Miles Davis: "Darn That Dream"...

Harry Frost: Yeah. That was on the other side of, uh, the Gerry Mulligan thing. That was the last thing they released and I can't think of the name of it.

Miles Davis: Did they release, um, "Rouge"? Did they release it?

Harry Frost: No, uh-uh. But, uh, they did release "Godchild" so let's play that one right now. Miles Davis with nine men including, uh, tuba and french horn, a theme called "Godchild"...

[Miles Davis Nonet, "Godchild"]

That was the Miles Davis group. The one that made those wonderful [undecipherable] at Capitol... a thing called "Godchild." Miles, you took that group into the, uh, Royal Roost in New York City. Didn't you?

Miles Davis: Yeah, that was is 1949.

Harry Frost: And who did you have with you on that job?

Miles Davis: Gerry Mulligan, Max Roach, John Lewis, Al McKibbon on bass...

Harry Frost: Uh-huh. Lee Konitz on it, right?

Miles Davis: Lee Konitz, Bill Barber playing tuba, Junior was playing, uh, french horn...

Harry Frost: Uh-huh...

Miles Davis: Let's see... J.J. was playing trombone.

Harry Frost: Did you have J.J. on trombone? I didn't know that. Max on drums? Was John Lewis on piano?

Miles Davis: Yeah, he's playing piano.

Harry Frost: Wonderful musicians... he did some of the writing for the group.

Miles Davis: He did "Move."

Harry Frost: Now this next record, uh, "Hallucinations," it came out on Capitol under the title "Budo." Do you want to explain that title, Miles?

Miles Davis: Well, it's named after Bud.

Harry Frost: Bud Powell?

Miles Davis: Bud Powell.

Harry Frost: And he wrote it, didn't he?

Miles Davis: And he wrote a little bit of it. (laughs)

Harry Frost: What was you add some of the things that we heard in there?

Miles Davis: Well, he wrote the first twelve bars.

Harry Frost: Uh-huh... [undecipherable] After that it was Miles. Well, it could be called "Budo," it could be called "Miles-o" for that matter. But the title in this label reads, "Hallucinations," 1949 Miles Davis, the Royal Roost, a thing called "Hallucinations"...

[Miles Davis Nonet, "Hallucinations"]

At this point Miles, I'd like to talk about another one of my sponsors. You see I have two sponsors, the Jute Club and the Bottle and Piano Company 916 [Island]. Miles, since being back in town, I don't know if you've been down to the Bottle and Piano Company. If not I'll tell you something, it's a very wonderful stock of records down there, a lot of jazz. If you were to walk in there, Miles, and uh, after the end of the counter, you'd go through this rack and you'd see records by George Shearing. You'd see records by Stan Kenton. You might even see records by Miles Davis, with your own picture smeared all over the cover.

Miles Davis: Oh, good.

Harry Frost: Good. So they have quite a few Miles Davis LPs down at the Bottle and Piano Company and lots of, lot of other wonderful things. So if you haven't been down there yet I would suggest that you make it down there very soon. They're open Monday and Thursday till nine. The record department is on the first floor, which means all you have to do is walk in and you're there. You're in business. You will find yourself surrounded by lots of wonderful records. That's Steve [Arwin] Piano Company, Bottle and Piano department 916 [Island]. Then you might remember this for the latest and best in records it's always [Bottom's].

Back to Miles ... not too long ago Miles, you cut a session for Blue Note. When was that?

Miles Davis: It was about two years ago.

Harry Frost: Two years ago, Miles?

Miles Davis: Mm-hmm...

Harry Frost: Well it just came out recently. I was under the impression that would cut a little lead in that. However, you have cut another session since then haven't you?

Miles Davis: Yeah we made a session around six months ago.

Harry Frost: Mm-hmm...

Miles Davis: Those haven't been released yet.

Harry Frost: Well by virtue of necessity, we'll have to be back to [undecipherable] which you made two years ago. This was a group which included J.J. Johnson.

Miles Davis: J.J. and [undecipherable]

Harry Frost: Mm-hmm...

Miles Davis: Playing piano... and I think Kenny Clark.

Harry Frost: Yeah, Kenny Clark is the drummer. I don't know the piano.

Miles Davis: Billy [Conley; Gil Coggins?]

Harry Frost: Oh, he's on piano. Well, let's hear it. I think it's written by one of Miles' items, Dizzy. It's called "Woody 'n' You"...

[Miles Davis All-Stars, "Woody 'n' You"]

Miles Davis with a Dizzy Gillespie composition and that just about wraps up this Miles Davis edition of Fresh Air. It's been exactly that... thirty minutes of Fresh Air and music on record, words by Harry Frost, and we've had as a special guest Miles Davis. Miles is in town for a little occasion. He's been resting on his father's farm. Don't forget Miles, you've invited me out. I'm going to be there.

Miles Davis: Yeah.

Harry Frost: Yeah. Like these... he talked about a breakfast that you wouldn't believe... steaks and eggs, bacon and everything you could possibly want so count me in. You've got yourself a date. So Miles, thanks a lot for making it tonight and tell the rest of you that we'll be back tomorrow evening at 7:30. Tell them thanks a lot for listening and so long.

This is station KXLW.

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