Culture / Media / Music

Miles Davis: A Short Story

New Orleans writer, filmmaker and educator Kalamu ya Salaam recently penned an outstanding short story about Miles Davis — with audio.

A moderator for neo•griot, an information blog for black writers, as well as Breath of Life, a black music website, Kalamu was very kind to allow me to re-post the complete short story. There’s a great deal of excellent poetry and short stories on WordUp, the site where Kalamu posts his creative work. It’s definitely worth a visit. The Clifford Brown Short Story is another jazz-themed favorite of mine.

To experience the full impact of the Miles Davis short story please listen to the audio version, which features Kenneth D. Ferdinand on the trumpet.

Miles Davis

Greta Garbo is credited with saying “I want to be alone.” Except I’m sure by “alone” she meant: away from you lames. I want to be where I can be me and this place is not it. Then she would blow some smoke, or pick her fingernails, or do something else nonchalantly to indicate her total boredom with the scene. Miles on the other hand never had to say it. He made a career of being alone and sending back notes from the other world, notes as piercing as his eyeballs dismissing a fan who was trying to tell him how pretty he played.

Here this man was: Miles Dewey Davis, a self made motherfucker, a total terror whose only evident tenderness is the limp in his smashed-up hip walk, like he can’t stand touching the ground, the cement, the wooden floor, plush carpet, whatever he is walking on. This man who, considering all the abuse he has dished out to others as well as all the self abuse he has creatively consumed, this man who should have died a long, long time ago but who outlived a bunch of other people who tried to clean up their act. This pact with the devil incarnate. This choir boy from hell. This disaster whose only value is music, a value which is invaluable. If he hadn’t given us his music there would have been no earthly reason to put up with Miles, but he gave on the stage and at the studio, he gave. If there is any redemption he deserves it.

As for me, I admit I don’t have the music, but so what? Perhaps in time you will understand that I really don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be loved or to love. I…

Perhaps you will understand that once you don’t care, nothing else matters. I don’t need a reason why to hit you. Why I’m letting you pack and split without a word from me, without any “I’m sorry,” or anything else that might indicate remorse or even just second thoughts about what I’ve done. Instead, I’m cool.

Just like Miles could climb on a stage after beating some broad in the mouth, I cross from the bedroom where I knocked you to the floor and go into the living room and put “Round Midnight” on. The unignorable sound of Miles chills the room. I stand cool. Listening with a drink of scotch in my hand, and a deadness in the center of me. Anesthetized emotions.

As you leave you look at me. Your eyes are crying “why, why, why do you treat me so badly?” I do not drop my gaze. I just look at you. Miles is playing his hip tortured shit. You will probably hate Miles all the rest of your life.

You linger at the door and ask me do I have anything I want to say. I take a sip nonchalantly, and with the studied unhurried motion of a journeyman hipster, I half smile and drop my words out of the corner of my mouth, “Yeah, I want to be alone. Thanks for leaving.”

And I turn my back on you, trying my best to be like Miles: a motherfucker.

—kalamu ya salaam

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