Funny Miles Story

One of my professors in college just told me a funny story about meeting Miles on several occasions.

The first time he met Miles was in Detroit at a club called the Minor Key. He was about 15 at the time and was already playing saxophone. He went to a matinee show and afterwards he saw Miles standing alone and decided to approach him and ask for his autograph. He didn’t have a program or a record for him to sign with him so he reached in his pocket to see what he had. He pulled out his musician’s union card.

So he approaches Miles, introduces himself, and tells Miles that he plays saxophone. He then asked if Miles would sign his union card. Miles took the union card out of his hand, takes a look at it, ripped it in half, and gave it back to him.

Decades later, my professor was in Boston playing with a big band. The leader of the band happened to be good friends with Miles. Miles’ band was also in town and the big band had a night off during one of Miles’ performances. So the bandleader asked my professor is he would like to go and meet Miles. Trying to put the past behind him, he agreed.

So they arrive backstage at Miles’ show and Miles is sitting down on a huge black beanbag and the room is fairly full of people. The bandleader goes up to Miles, greets him, and then introduced Miles to my professor. By this time it’s pretty quiet in the room and all the attention is focused on the three of them.

Professor goes on to tell Miles the details about the first time they actually met back in Detroit at the Minor Key. To that, Miles responded, “I wouldn’t do no shit like that!!”



Meeting the Other Richard Williams, Dr. Richard Allen Williams!

Back on a September night in Boston at Wally’s Café, I was playing with the band and in walks in a familiar-looking older gentleman wearing some dark shades and a Miles Davis tee shirt. He also had what looked like a trumpet case in his hand, ready to play! As it turns out I had met him in October of 2010 in Wilmington, Delaware at a Clifford Brown Tribute concert that we were both billed on. So I got off of the bandstand and reintroduced myself and invited him to the bandstand. His name was Dr. Richard Williams. We played a few tunes then we went on break.

During the break, Richard began telling me about his life in music. He was a classmate of Clifford Brown in Delaware. Clifford was a few grades ahead of him and during Clifford’s graduation he played an excerpt from the Carnival of Venice. Hearing this inspired Richard to become a better trumpeter and do the same thing at his graduation.

Richard later went on to study at Harvard University’s Medical School. Richard told me that for one of his projects at Harvard he decided to interview Clifford Brown. He went meet Clifford for the interview on an evening in late June of 1956. He said that the interview was a couple of hours and Clifford had to cut it short because it was getting late and he had a long drive ahead of him. That was the last time Richard saw Brownie alive because he, along with Beverly and Richie Powell passed away in a car accident. read more



All Keys Considered

This story takes place during my years in high school in North Carolina. In my junior year of high school I spent three nights a week studying at the Greensboro Music Academy. On one particular class we had the honor of having trombonist Fred Wesley at the school to present a clinic.

Sometime during the clinic Fred asked any of the students if they would like to play a tune with him and the rhythm section. I raised my hand and he called me up. I go up to the bandstand and Fred asked me what I would like to play and I told him that I would like to play Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay. This was partly because I had just learned the tune from the record.

Fred agreed to play the tune and he pulls out a fake book. We start the tune up and all of a sudden I find myself sounding wayyyy sharp on the tune. I ended up pulling my tuning slide almost all the way out to match up with Fred’s intonation as well as the band’s. It was soo embarrassing for me at the time.

So we wrap the tune up and Fred mentions to the audience how out of tune I was. He then asked me to play the melody with him a capella so we could match up. So we play and find that we’re actually playing a ½ away from each other!! This was because the fakebook had the tune written in C minor and I had learned the tune in Db minor! That was my first introduction to the importance of learning tunes in all or as many keys as possible. Up until that point I, like many young students, have no concept of the idea of playing the same song in multiple keys. That became something that I had to consider in my practice….




The Story of Helen Morgan, if You Didn’t Know Already

I recieved this story in my email box many times from friends of mine and I thought I’d share this piece of debated history with those who didn’t know about the details surrounding Lee Morgan’s death.

The Lady Who Shot Lee Morgan

By Larry Reni Thomas

Lee Morgan, the fiery-hot, extremely talented jazz trumpet player, died much too soon. His skyrocketing career was cut short, at age 33, one cold February night in 1972, at a Manhattan club called Slug’s when he was shot to death by his 46-year-old common law wife Helen. At the time, Morgan was experiencing a comeback of sorts. He had been battling a serious heroin addiction for years and by most accounts, was drug free. read more


100 Songs

Here’s a compilation of 100 great songs that I compiled after reading the NPR list, which can be found here. These are songs that were excluded from the NPR list. I put this list together in a little more than an hour, just thinking off the top of my head. This list of course is in NO particular order. I could’ve gone on and on but I decided to make 100 the magic number. What would you have liked to see on the NPR list or mine?

1. My Funny Valentine-Miles
2. Cherokee-Clifford Brown
3. Garvey’s Ghost-Max Roach
4. Moment’s Notice-John Coltrane
5. Pensativa-Freddie Hubbard & Lee Morgan
6. All or Nothing at All-John Coltrane
7. Dear Lord-John Coltrane
8. Ugetsu-Freddie Hubbard
9. I Want to Talk About You-John Coltrane
10. Una Mas-Kenny Dorham
11. Zhvaigo-Kurt Rosenwinkel
12. India-John Coltrane
13. Crescent-John Coltrane
14. Haitian Fight Song-Charles Mingus
15. West End Blues-Louis Armstrong
16. The Blessing-John Coltrane & Don Cherry
17. Lonely Woman-Ornette Coleman
18. Peace-Ornette Coleman
19. The Jody Grind-Horace Silver
20. All the Things you Are-Brad Mehldau
21. Skylark-Freddie Hubbard w/Blakey

read full list


Short Story on Jazz in the White House…

Tonight I was talking to Phil Woods after our gig with Grace in Vienna about his time in Dizzy’s big band. He was telling me about the time when they came back from a State-Sponsored Ambassador tour for a performance at the White House. He told me that after the concert, the only senator to come backstage and congratulate them on their work was…..John F. Kennedy!! Phil said that JFK shook every bandmembers’ hand! Hearing this just deepened my love and respect for this great man. Who in the White House today besides the First Family do you think would greet the band nowadays?


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