Live At Montreaux With Quincy Jones/|
Late At Heaven’s Gate
The critics say no one saw the red light,
but you did, didn’t you Miles? You knew.
You didn’t really want to play this gig.
You hadn’t looked over your shoulder
in over forty years and had no intention
of doing so here. Gil himself wouldn’t have
wanted you to pay him homage this way.
Your chops were down; you had been
playing fewer notes for years. A kind
of Dashiell Hammett of the horn, you’d
moved to the clean white space between
the notes. Played mostly with a Harmon mute,
your solos spare and few, mostly mixed
down in the pocket of an African groove.
You were deeper into the blues than hard bop
had let you go, were cozier than Cosey
playing behind the fusillade of amps
while Mtume and Foster laid down a fat
funky stew for you to play your Cry Baby
through. The bands since ’81 were funky too,
though you were back in a simpler cool groove.
Many of the critics had abandoned you.
Thought Decoy, Arrest, Tutu, and Amandla
were boring retro-fitted vehicles for you
to toot-tootle your diminished self through.
Funky bumper cars with no more oomph
than gangsta rap or a Miami Vice score:
all pretty pastel, two-day stubble, white boy funk.
So to re-do arrangements from The Birth
of The Cool to Sketches of Spain seemed wrong –
not just a retrospective nod but a swan song.
You didn’t have the lungs. Even with Wallace Roney
handling pyrotechnics and flash solos, you’d
put yourself in the shade. But Quincy prevailed
and you mustered the jam, took center stage.
Weak, frail, cotton-mouthed, you’d prove
ol’ Elwood was right about vibrato and
quiver your quavering notes through the knots
in your belly. But we loved you, Miles,
and you were paying us the supreme compliment
of a last bow. How could we not applaud?
How could we even look for angels in the wings?
You broke the speed of the sound of loneliness
record that day. Couldn’t have brought the moon
closer if you’d played "Moon Germs" with Jeru.
Gil’s dewlaps would have runnelled with tears
to see the white of your scared-rabbit eyes
as you sought Quincy’s approval nod after nod.
You had more than Wallace in your corner then.
You had Sugar Ray, Elwood, Dizzy and Bird.
You ascended on a note purer than the last
from Gabriel’s horn. Scorched earth. Burned pure
as an oxyacetylene flame through sheets
of Coltrane steel. Heated more souls and
gilded more grey hairs than Mother Theresa,
each note an expanding halo of blue smoke.
Two months and too few performances later,
you’d play "Hannibal" at the Hollywood Bowl
and the elephants would come for you over
the mountain peaks east of Malibu. No one,
not even a charlatan in harlequin
would shake the shakere or pick up your horn
to trumpet the vanguard through heaven’s gate.
Some say you were dead when you returned
from six years of silence back in eighty-one.
You weren’t in the vanguard. Chose to recap
rather than re-invent the music then.
Nothing was as audacious or daring as Agharta
or Pangaea, Tokyo 1975. You scorched earth
and hung up a smoking blue horn. Some say.
Others say they see a cool cat cleaner than
a broke dick dog wearing a silk kimono
with dragon emblazoned across his bare chest.
He’s holding a shiny new Martin B-flat trumpet
with blue lacquer finish and gold-plated trim
designed by Larry Ramirez at G. Leblanc Corp.
in his right hand. His left is adjusting black shades.
He’s up there on cloud nine. Got his horn
rigged to a Sampson CT6 microphone,
wireless AKG transmitter and CX1 capsule.
On hand beside him are an Oberheim OBX,
a Yamaha DX7, and a Roland D50 from home.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, Angels and Hipsters,
please welcome God (He only thinks he is Miles.)"