NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 11

He looked at me kind of funny, with those penetrating eyes, then he said: “I don’t take no chances Bobby, I like breathing too much.” “Haha… ok then.” I felt somewhat reassured, but not completely convinced of his safety. (Later that fall he would shoot the tv screen dead after the New York Giants lost a big football game.) Miles laid the revolver down onto the coffee table in front of the sofa. When he did this I felt a sense of relief, now becoming aware of the tension his handling of the firearm created. “So where is your family from Bobby?” He asked, looking at me intensely. “Well, my dad’s family is from Belzoni, Mississippi and my mother’s family is from North Carolina. In fact, I spent about eight-years there after she passed away in 1967. You know—the last two years of high school and a couple years of college. We were about 45 minutes west of Greensboro near the Virginia border in a town called Eden; like the garden. It’s located along the Dan River that runs down from Danville, Virginia. A good water source, so Miller Brewing Company opened a large bottling plant there.” BRN-FALL-2013.indb 9 “That’s right Nicky Neal… man, he’s a hell of a drummer… I mean, all those guys can play, but he’s a motherfucker! What are they doing now?” “Your ex-wife?” “As far as I know,” I said, “they’re still playing, but maybe not as the same group.” “Yeah… and, you know, Trane and Monk came from down there too.” “Yeah, that’s right. Your ex-wife’s band, Funk House and my group, Yamama were two of the top bands in the region at the time.” “No shit Bobby?” “Yeah we were friendly rivals you know. I remember they were always flying out to work with the ‘great Betty Davis’ in the mid to late ‘70s.” The thought occurred to me that, even from that time, only one degree of separation had partitioned Miles and me. Today I marveled at the strangeness of this destiny as one I didn’t ask for, nor could have imagined. My limited knowledge of the vast scope of Miles’ career didn’t allow me to fully appreciate the privilege of being in the presence of jazz royalty. This actually gave me the advantage of not being star-struck by his iconic stature. “I remember the drummer from Betty’s group,” Miles recalled. “Uh, what was his name?” “Nicky Neal,” I said. “So Bobby,” he said, looking at me real serious. “How’d you learn to play and compose the way you do?” “It’s kind of a long story… but um, I’ll try to give you the short version.” “Its ok Bobby, take your time… I cancelled my appointment with the President.” “Haha,” I laughed, “well, in 1965 when I was about 12-years-old, we had to move out of the big house that my dad rented in Hyde Park. The house and land got sold and we moved into the Robert Taylor Homes. A nice name for the projects, but actually they weren’t so bad then. Anyhow, what seemed to be a negative move was fortunate for me. My new school, Beethoven Elementary School, had a glee club that also did some theater productions. It’s funny, but the school song was based on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. So the song became my first formal exposure to a classical music composer.” BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE “That sounds dangerous Miles… you gotta be careful with that… I mean, you get distracted and forget, you don’t get another chance.” “Hmm… near Greensboro? Yeah, now that’s a town I know about. Betty Mabry’s back-up band was from down there.” 9 “Sometimes I like to fuck with people,” he said, looking a little mischievous. “P ??????????'?e????????I?????)??????? ?????????$??????????)???????????????t((???????????4((