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Page 14 The Bronco's Voice October, 1991
D.sltiOirtM by Tr
Miles Dewey Davis is "Gone, gone,
gone!", "So, what?". This conversation
could have been held musically from the
late 1940s to the present Now it is
held as his obituary. For most the last
45 years. Miles has been the "Man with
the Horn " who defined jazz for fans and
other musicians. Often moving and
changing directions more quickly than
others could follow leaving one group of
fans and disciples to develop another.
From 1945 when he came of
the black middle class of East St. Louis
to play and room with Charlie Parker up
to his most recent recordings and
performances, he constantly reached for
new expressions, distilled through a
style and tone that was uniquely
personal but reached across boundaries
of class or region or race. His struggle
to define his art as an African-American
in a society which often undervalues and
pigeon-holes African-Americans as
entertainers not artist was not an easy
one. Many of the heartaches of his
personal life can be traced to the
tensions of his artistic search and its
surroundings. The pitfalls of drugs
which surrounded Charlie Parker and the
bop nightclub scene of the late 1940s
got to Miles as well, but his discipline
and will power found him answers that
eluded Parker, Bud Powell, Wardell
Gray, and others of that period.
Part of that answer came from
blending bop’s spirit with the "coolness"
which would define the Miles of the
fifties from his "Birth of the Cool"
nonette to the Gil Evans big band
recordings of "Porgy and Bess" and
"Sketches in Spain". His tone; fast,
light, no vibrato, pure, and alone,
captured the loneliness of an African-
American in a society where he was still
too often the inviisible itiahl and spoke
strongly to many young white
organization men that were finding
college and corporate America a
treadmill to no where and their own
form of invisibility.
With the strong aid of Hamlet,
N.C.’s greatest gift to the world, John
Coltrane, the Davis quintets of the late
fifties and early sixties pushed and
refined that sound reaching into the
realm of modal improvisation and "free"
playing which expressed the player’s
individualism but often at the expense of
losing the audience. This was one of
several places where Miles jumped away
from the comfort zone of his audience.
Miles in the 1960s sought comfort and
peace in his art but it was to be a
comfort and peace which challenged
"the way things supposed to be" just as
the Civil Rights Movement of the period
challenged the established order.
After Coltrane left the band.
Miles increasingly surrounded himself
with young players like Wayne Shorter,
Herbie Hancock, and Tony Williams.
They not only pulled Miles increasingly
towards "free" playing but began to
tickle his ear with the electric sounds of
sixties rock. This led to the last phase
of miles career, his electric jazz or
Miles was probably not the first
jazz musician to consciously combine
rock and jazz influences, but first fusion
albums. In a "Silent Way" (1969) and
particularly, "Bitches Brew" (1970) were
clearly the most visible and influential.
Many of the sidemen of this period went
on to very successful careers in this
area, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea,
Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, and
Wayne Shorter. Miles, himself,
continued his search for a group of jazz
musiciajis who could become the best
rock and roll band in the country until
his death with mixed results.
In all of his phases. Miles
remained true to his view of his art and
he continued to reach and touch large
audiences. His questing spirit and
"soulful" art will be surely missed not
only by those for whom he has already
defined jazz but by younger audiences
who will never hear his new quests.
The music remains and it will continue
to reach and move people forever. It
will continue to say that a life that can
produce such pure art is worth living
despite all of the problems and
shortcomings that continue to exist.
Review: Public Enemy
- Dr. Tom Hennessey,
Professor of History
From left: (front) TERMINATOR X. CHUCK 0. ind_FMVOR. fMVl_„Lback_rpw)_THE_SlW
Once again. Public Enemy is back with
a slammin’ new album called
Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes
Black (Def Jam Recordings, a division
of Columbia). The album is composed
of songs that deal with problems in the
black community ranging from Uncle
Tom drug dealers to the distribution of
alcohol, along with infectious beats that
contain compilations of R&B, jazz, rock
’n’ roll, and hip hop.
There are several songs in the
album that give philosophical messages.
The song "Nighttrain" attacks black drug
dealers who are selling drugs to their
own kind while selling out to "Massa".
On "Can’t Truss It", PE conveys to
blacks that they can’t trust the system
because it’s still keeping them in
slavery. "By the Time I Get To
-\rizona" deals with Arizona’s refusal to
celebrate the national holiday honoring
the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Public Enemy also uses a
couple of speeches before songs on this
album to show the harsh realities of
black situations. Right before "How To
Kill a Radio Consultant", Chuck D,
leader of PE, delivers a one-minute
speech talking about how black
communities continue to be destructive.
Before "A Letter To the New York
Post", Bum E. Cross, head of the Ku
Klux Klan, thanks the "inferior nigger
race" for saving him the time and
legalities in order to rid them off the
face of the earth. He goes on to express
gratitude to all the songs, hoodlums,
dope dealers, and hustlers. This speech
is very disturbing, but the message that
PE is trying to send to the black youth
is that their real enemies aren’t each
On this album, PE continues to
make blacks aware of the problems that
exist among them. In "One Million
Bottlebags", Public Enemy raps about
how black people are suckered into
buying alcohol sold by the "liquor man."
The idea for this song comes from the
reality of liquor stores on every corner
of many blacks neighborhoods and the
specific liquors sold in them. In "Shut
Em Down", PE discusses money and
economic problems in the black
Overall, PE’s new album is
excellent and very effective in reaching
out to blacks. This album show why
Public Enemy is the epitome of rap.
They are a force that is needed in the
black community to express pride and
unity. Hopefully, PE will continue to be
too black and too strong.