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Gregory Davis: Son of Miles

R.J. DeLuke By

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AAJ: A woman who did a magazine piece, Cheryl McCall, traveled with the band for a bit. She said he was even fatherly toward the band. He was playing with younger guys in the '80s. Joey DeFrancesco, who was a teenager with Miles, told me that too. Is that a side of him you saw with his band mates?

GD: Yeah. As I said, when he was off and not playing on stage people used to come and ask them, "What should we play? He kept that to himself, only giving it to the musicians who were in his 'school, in his band. With that kind of information, it had to be fatherly. He was giving them information that should have been his alone. He was giving them information they couldn't learn in school. They were getting it from the horse's mouth.

AAJ: In your book you talk about how good a trumpeter Miles was as a youngster and how Elwood Buchanan [Miles' early instructor] knew that. Some articles written a while ago say he wasn't all that good when he was young. I always doubted that. It doesn't make any sense. How did he make it to New York if he wasn't any good?

GD: Clark Terry saw it. He was a great trumpet player when my father was coming up, one of my father's great idols. Clark recognized it and saw his potential, even at an early age. He probably didn't have the exposure. After he got the exposure, he traveled frequently to Pittsburgh and Detroit, even at an early age when he was in high school. He was playing music. His father and mother didn't really realize what he was doing. He was sneaking off doing these dates and stuff like that. He made himself familiar with the music.

He always put high goals upon himself and he expected the same out of some people. That's what really angered him a lot of times. People wouldn't come up to his expectations.

AAJ: Would you say that's one of the reasons why he had distrust, or would only let certain people close to him?

GD: He had a distrust of some people, but if he got to know you, you were alright with him. He would loan people money and expect the same kindness in return, or just expect it back. But sometimes people take kindness for weakness, or kindness for granted. He couldn't understand that and it really hurt him. "Here's $500, or here's $1,500. Just give it back to me when you say you're going to give it back. Then they would pitty-pat on it, "Here's $10 Miles or "Here's $15. It hurt him when people betrayed his trust. Especially women.

AAJ: You also mentioned, briefly, Peter Bradley. When did you know that he was your brother?

GD: Peter is like my adopted brother. Peter spent a lot of time with Art Blakey, spent a lot of time with Miles Davis. He thinks he may be Miles' son. [Miles] used to go to Detroit a lot when he was in high school. Peter's mother was great friends with my father. He doesn't know for sure that he's Miles Davis' son, but he thinks he is. Peter's a genius. He's a great artist. He was one of the only black artists as well as dealers. He became rich at an early age and had a Ferrari himself. He and Miles used to hang out together. He's been supporting me. He wants to see me carry this legacy on. Nobody can carry this legacy on but a Davis. Forget about any other person.

AAJ: When you speak about his relationships with women, is it bothersome to you, or is it something you get over?

GD: They can be your best friend or your worst enemy, you know, if you've ever been involved. He was so judgmental and had so many mood swings. And he was rich. A lot of times people can't relate anyone being rich. He didn't bend for anyone. He was independent. He didn't have to depend on them for money or for anything. He expected them to think and to know him intimately. I don't expect any woman to really know me. I expect them to try to understand me. He expected them to try to understand. If he said something was blue and it was green, he expected them to say, "Yes. That is blue. He would get angry if they didn't say it, or believe the way he believed.

So at times, he was very hard on them. But he gave them gifts. He would give them jewelry and money. They'd get the money to go shopping. He treated them like queens. Then, on the other hand, they would have to be at his beckon call. If he would whistle, and that's what he usually did, they'd have to come downstairs within a minute. It was his bidding, and that's what he expected.

AAJ: Was that bothersome to you, looking back? Or is that just the way it was?

GD: It's just the way he was. I never thought that it was correct. Maybe some of them liked it. I'm not a woman so I can't say.

AAJ: In the years you were around him, what kind of music did you hear? Who were the musicians you saw?

GD: He used to play music all the time. When we were on 312 West 77th Street [NYC] he used to play music all the time, especially stuff that he was working on. He had reel-to-reel tapes. He used to play rehearsal music, stuff he and Gil [Evans] were working on.. He used to play music from that paradigm to learn what he was doing. When he was doing the Sketches of Spain work with Gil, he would play Spanish gypsy music; have it on all night. He would play Porgy and Bess, some parts over and over and over again. He listened to all facets of music if he saw something in it. If he saw a substance that he wanted out of it, he would listen to James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Bartok, you name it. Stravinsky. He would put it on, just to get something in his musical head that he wanted to do.


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