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ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon, and this is NEWS AND NOTES.

It's Miles Davis' 80th birthday, today. The late jazz giant has a prolific career that spanned half a century.

From be-bop to electric fusion, Miles made classic, innovative music that has set a standard for musicians of all stripes. One of his most widely acclaimed albums is Kind of Blue, which features saxophonist John Coltrane.

Poet Quincy Troupe co-wrote Davis' autobiography, and spoke extensively with the trumpeter about Kind of Blue. Here, Troupe remembers one of Davis' signature songs.

(Soundbite of Blue in Green, performed by the late Miles Davis)

Mr. QUINCY TROUPE (Writer and Poet): Blue in Green was recorded on March 2nd, 1959, in New York City.

(Soundbite of Blue in Green, performed by the late Miles Davis)

Mr. TROUPE: Also in that session, So What, which is also a classic tune, was recorded in the same session. So there were a lot of great songs recorded in that session, which included Julian, Cannonball, Adderley, Miles Davis, Jimmy Cobb, Bill Evans on piano, and Paul Chambers on bass.

(Soundbite of Blue in Green, performed by the late Miles Davis)

Mr. TROUPE: Miles talked about being back in Arkansas, and he was walking home from church. And the people in the backwoods were playing these really bad, really great gospels. He couldn't see the people but he heard these gospels coming in through the trees and over the trees. And it was dark and he was about six years old, and he was walking with his cousin. So he said that gospel, and that music, and also he had been listening to the music from the Guinean Ballet, the finger piano, so all of that fused and came back to him with this feeling that he heard playing when he was walking through the back roads of Arkansas.

And he started remembering what that music sounded like and felt like. He said that feeling was what I was trying to get close to in Kind of Blue. That feeling had got in my creative blood, my imagination, and I had forgotten it was there. I wrote these blues to try to get back to that feeling I had when I was six years old, walking with my cousin down that dark, Arkansas road.

(Soundbite of Blue in Green, performed by the late Miles Davis)

Mr. TROUPE: So, he says he wrote about five bars of that and he recorded it, and added a kind of running sound into the mix on the whole album. Because that was the only way I could get in the sound of the African finger piano.

(Soundbite of Blue in Green, performed by the late Miles Davis)

Mr. TROUPE: But he says, but when you write something and then guys play off it and take it someplace else, through their creativity and imagination, you just, you can miss it. People were calling the song a masterpiece, and, but he says to me, and in the book, that he missed it. He missed it on those songs; that he missed that feeling that he heard with that old black lady's voice coming through the woods.

(Soundbite of Blue in Green, performed by the late Miles Davis)

Mr. TROUPE: Bill Evans, who starts this tune, this masterful tune, and ends it, and with Miles and Coltrane and the bass up under it, played this circular movement inside of the song.

(Soundbite of Blue in Green, performed by the late Miles Davis)

Mr. TROUPE: And on this record, Miles' tone, his playing, is wonderful. It is beautiful. It is classical, you know, in the sense - with the mute.

(Soundbite of Blue in Green, performed by the late Miles Davis)

Mr. TROUPE: And it is aching, and it is plaintive. Which evokes that loneliness, that loneliness on that back road, I think, in that dusty, dusky place in Arkansas when he was walking there with his cousin. And those trees and that darkness and all of those memories that he had.

(Soundbite of Blue in Green, performed by the late Miles Davis)

It's a masterpiece. It's a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful song. One of my favorites. Not just me, but a lot of people.

Blue in Green, still beautiful today.

(Soundbite of Blue in Green, performed by the late Miles Davis)

GORDON: Writer and poet Quincy Troupe on the classic Miles Davis song, Blue in Green. He co-authored Davis' autobiography, Miles.

Troupe's poetry collection, The Architecture of Language, will be out this fall.

(Soundbite of Blue in Green, performed by the late Miles Davis)

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