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Thread: Dave Liebman--getting the gig with Electric Miles in the 1970s

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    Dave Liebman--getting the gig with Electric Miles in the 1970s

    Getting the gig with Miles Davis in the early 1970s by Dave Liebman

    "In the evening, I went to the theater. This was formerly the famous Fillmore East, ....Next thing I know, I plugged in and my sound was coming out of like 700 watts of Marshall amps. I had never had this experience in my life, with a wire coming out of my horn. Miles arrived and didn’t say a word—didn’t talk to anybody.
    We were in a semicircle and Miles was in the middle. It was so dark in that theater, and everybody was dressed in black. Miles had gigantic sunglasses on and a cape—he looked like some alien from another planet. The music was deafeningly loud and chaotic. Now, there was also Cedric Lawson on electric organ, Khalil Balakrishna on electric sitar.. I had no idea what I was doing… There were no real dynamics or storytelling possible to a large extent, and little if any direct communication between the soloists and the rhythm section. At first I had no idea what the hell we were playing. I didn’t know what to make of it. Now it appears to me, years later, that it was a concept.....After I got used to Miles, nine months or so into the gig I sort of got the point, but still felt like, “This is great, but really not that great.” Because musically, it was not really challenging.

    One of my famous Miles stories is when I asked him why he even had a saxophonist at all during this period. This was electric music, real loud, not subtle at all. Basically it was guitar and keyboard, electric bass, drums, percussion-oriented stuff. Obviously, there had to be a trumpet there, but it seemed to me the saxophone was superfluous. So I asked him once why he had a saxophone. He said, “Because people like to see you move your fingers!” As nonsensical as that sounds, when I thought about it years later, as with most of what he said to me during that period, he had a point. When you think of Bird, Trane, Wayne, etc., the saxophonist was the foil to Miles’ trumpet style. He played slow and you played fast. Opposites—tension and release. Right!"

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    Not specifically about Miles, but folks might enjoy a 2011 interview I did with Dave when he was awarded the NEA Jazz Master endowment. For any who know Dave, they'll agree I couldn't have called it anything BUT Dave Liebman: New York Story.

    Enjoy!
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Dave took a lot of shit from people in the band (not Miles), primarily Al Foster. Apparently, Liebman's complexion didn't meet with their approval.

    Quote Originally Posted by N_Singh View Post
    “This is great, but really not that great.” Because musically, it was not really challenging.
    An opinion apparently shared by others who played with Miles in those years.
    Michael: "Harold, don't you have any other music, you know, from [last] century?"
    Harold: "There is no other music....."

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    Quote Originally Posted by N_Singh View Post
    He said, “Because people like to see you move your fingers!” As nonsensical as that sounds, when I thought about it years later, as with most of what he said to me during that period, he had a point. When you think of Bird, Trane, Wayne, etc., the saxophonist was the foil to Miles’ trumpet style. He played slow and you played fast. Opposites—tension and release. Right!"
    Quote Originally Posted by mogrooves View Post
    Dave took a lot of shit from people in the band (not Miles), primarily Al Foster. Apparently, Liebman's complexion didn't meet with their approval.
    A story apropos of that:

    Adam Holzman played in the Miles band at one point. After a while with them, he started trying to solo more like the other players, in a more punchy, funky, to-the-point style. And Miles said to him, "You're a white guy. And white guys play long lines. So you just keep playing them long lines. Don't try to sound black unless you know you can absolutely cut it." Miles didn't like white guys all that much himself, from everything I've heard, but it sounds like the same issue - he wanted a particular musical mixture, a type of stylistic contrast, and that was the most direct way to get it.

    I realize you've probably heard this story, but others here may not have.

  5. #5
    Liebman's Drum Ode is awesome.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Baribrotzer View Post
    A story apropos of that:

    Adam Holzman played in the Miles band at one point. After a while with them, he started trying to solo more like the other players, in a more punchy, funky, to-the-point style. And Miles said to him, "You're a white guy. And white guys play long lines. So you just keep playing them long lines. Don't try to sound black unless you know you can absolutely cut it." Miles didn't like white guys all that much himself, from everything I've heard, but it sounds like the same issue - he wanted a particular musical mixture, a type of stylistic contrast, and that was the most direct way to get it.

    I realize you've probably heard this story, but others here may not have.
    If you're basing racism on innuendo, why bother mentioning it at all. Every "white guy" who has played with Miles speaks pretty glowingly of him and the experience.

    This kind of stuff belongs in a "white guys can't jump" thread.

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