How You Discovered Miles Davis

Miles Davis i i

hide captionA small but not negligible minority of you said that your first Miles Davis records were from the 1980s and beyond.

Patrick Hertzog/AFP/Getty Images
Miles Davis

A small but not negligible minority of you said that your first Miles Davis records were from the 1980s and beyond.

Patrick Hertzog/AFP/Getty Images

Nothing inspires blogging feedback like asking folks to talk about their personal relationships with music.

It was just an innocent question: what was your first Miles Davis album? But we got nearly 1,000 replies on NPR's Facebook page; 103 replies here on A Blog Supreme (an astronomical amount for us) and hundreds of tweets and re-tweets.

I started to tally the replies just on Facebook, got through half of them and stopped. There was a clear pattern: by far, the frontrunner was Kind Of Blue. Makes sense: it's the best-selling jazz record of all time.

What surprised me, though, was the clear runner-up: Bitches Brew. At first I thought it was simply because NPR's boomer-heavy demographic is drawn to the electric pianos, wah-wah guitars and 2-and-4 drum beats that can also be heard in rock and R&B. But some of the comments reflect things like consciousness-raising and boundary-testing.

The stories of first contact are as varied as the folks who wrote in.

There are references to English teachers, old flames, record store clerks, random coffee shop moments, jazz appreciation classes and lots of college dorm room experiences (in altered and non-altered states of consciousness).

Also, parents. Lots of "my dad played it around the house," on lazy Sundays, late nights, early mornings. At least two commenters named their sons Miles; we also know of a one Miles the chihuahua.

What's important to me in reading through the responses is that both hardcore jazz fans and neophytes could all find some place for themselves in Miles' music. We can marvel at the revolutionary musical statements made, while at the same time be completely floored at how accessible it is to millions of untrained ears.

Speaking of those responses, here are a few highlights:


While visiting Italy a few years ago, I met a young Italian engineer. He was also a Jazz musician. After 5 days of romantic adventures in the Umbrian valley, he sent me home with a CD of Miles Davis, one of his favorite influences. Even now when I listen, I still revel in those memories...
Teresa Miller, via Facebook

An ESOL student I had in Italy was horrified that I'd never really sat down and listened to MD, and gave me _Kind of Blue_ as a present at the end of the class. I listened to it endlessly for months, and it's continued to be one of my go-to cd's. Grazie, Giorgio!
Ani Simmons, via Facebook

kind of blue, introduced to me by my high school boyfriend. i then introduced it (five years later) to my now husband. classic.
Sally Perrine League, via Facebook

TUTU. It helped me get through a bad divorce.
Sharon Blount (169), via NPR.org comments

I bought a Prestige two-fer of Working and Steaming at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis when I was 13. Philly Joe!
Matt Wilson, via Twitter: @mattwilsonjazz

Kind of Blue, which I have loved since I was a teen and used to play obsessively. My brother, James Thompson, was studying jazz at the time (he is a professional musician) and turned me on to Miles. Fast forward: I'm an assistant director on Cameron Crowe's "Singles" and Steve, played by Campbell Scott, obsessively plays "Kind of Blue" after breaking up with his girlfriend. Love the cosmic tease that hinted at my future, brought by the man who epitomizes cool.
Michael McCloud, via Facebook

I was being forced to watch runaway bride when I was in high school...in one of the scenes Richard Gere puts on a Miles Davis album and I remember being floored. I went out and bought kind of blue and have been hooked ever since...I know pathetic.
Krista Richey, via Facebook

i met my 10th grade english teacher, mr. cochran, in a record store. i told him i was looking for something besides punk rock to listen to. he handed me "kind of blue." changed my life. thanks Mr. C
Ari Bazan, via Facebook

The first time I skipped school was on a dreary rainy day. I was 17 and waiting in traffic to turn into the parking lot. Kind of Blue was playing in the cd player. Something made me say to myself, "Not today." I turned the volume up and drove off. I drove around all day in the rain with that album. Simply one of the best days ever.
Wes Rucks, via Facebook

My grandfather was a huge jazz fan, which was a bit unusual for an Irish-American electrician living in southern Indiana in the middle of last century. He had a ton of LP's which he treasured and played constantly, and I met Billie Holliday, John Coltrane, Fats Waller, and yes, Miles Davis before I was ten. But I didn't know who they were until I was much older. Grandpa passed away when I was twelve. Listening to late night jazz on public radio, I heard the opening riff of "So What" and was sent back 15 years in the past in an instant. I stayed tuned and waited to hear who the artist's name was, and it was like getting to know my grandfather a bit more. I've been a dedicated Davis fan ever since. :)
Nathan Finn, via Facebook

When my dad found out I started playing around with LSD he didn't say a word. He just gave me his copy of Bitches Brew. That was my first Miles moment and it was a GREAT one.
Joshua Russell, via Facebook

i can still remember the exact moment i walked into my college friend's front door and we sat down to play chess, smoked a reefer and listened to "In a Silent Way". it was like i was eating for the first time in my entire life and i had no idea how hungry i had been.
Eric Shosted, via Facebook

[I was a] 12 y/o discovering Bitches Brew wasn't a rap album about 40s.
@thepopfilter

Kind Of Blue, got it a garage sale for 50 cents. It was like a Christian finding the Bible for the first time.
—Benjamin Stevens, via Facebook

It was Kind of Blue, and it was on repeat on my discman when I went to sleep for about a year. It's probably the only album I know where I can sing all of the solos.
Josh Whitney-Wise (WindGrievedGhost), via NPR.org comments

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.