An Odd Hollywood Star
An Odd Hollywood Star
Friday, May 26, 2006, and Miles Davis would have been eighty today. This is his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on his birthday. It's on south side of the street, just west of Sycamore. The local jazz station, KJZZ out of Cal State Long Beach, was playing his music all day.
The Wikipedia has most everything you might want to know about Miles Dewey Davis III (May 26, 1926 - September 28, 1991), at least the highlights, here, including this detail -
And the rest is history.
Miles Davis was born into a relatively wealthy African-American family living in Alton, Illinois. His father, Miles Henry Davis, was a dentist, and in 1927 the family moved to a white neighborhood in East St. Louis. They also owned a substantial ranch, and Davis learned to ride horses as a boy.
Davis's mother, Cleota, wanted Davis to learn the violin - she was a capable blues pianist, but kept this hidden from her son, feeling that "negro" music was not sufficiently genteel. At the age of nine, one of Davis's father's friends gave him his first trumpet, but he did not start learning to play seriously until the age of thirteen, when his father gave him a new trumpet and arranged lessons with local trumpeter Elwood Buchanan and, later, a man named Mone Peterson. Against the fashion of the time, Buchanan stressed the importance of playing without vibrato, and Davis would carry his clear signature tone throughout his career.
Clark Terry was another important early influence and friend of Davis's. By the age of sixteen, Davis was a member of the musician's union and working professionally when not at high school. At seventeen, he spent a year playing in bandleader Eddie Randle's "Blue Devils". During this time, Sonny Stitt tried to persuade him to join the Tiny Bradshaw band then passing through town, but Cleota insisted that he finish his final year of high school.
In 1944, the Billy Eckstine band visited St. Louis. Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were members of the band, and Davis was taken on as third trumpet for a couple of weeks because of the illness of Buddy Anderson. When Eckstine's band left Davis behind to complete the tour, the trumpeter's parents were still keen for him to continue formal academic studies.
... In 1944 Davis moved to New York City, ostensibly to take up a scholarship at the Juilliard School of Music. In reality, however, he neglected his studies and immediately set about tracking down Charlie Parker.
The connection to Hollywood? He was married to actress Cicely Tyson in 1981 and they were divorced in 1988. And Davis was the very first subject of a Playboy magazine interview - the interviewer was Alex Haley. Playboy's Heffner lives out here of course. The Playboy Jazz Festival hits the Hollywood Bowl in a few weeks. A Hollywood sidewalk star will do nicely.
Previously in these pages see Something for a Hot Day in Los Angeles, from last July, a discussion Louis Malle's first film, "Elevator to the Gallows" - with its Miles Davis score. And two years earlier, this on that film score, now available on CD -
Cool. And note that for the birthday there's a new four-CD boxed set available, Miles Davis - The Legendary Prestige Quintet Recordings. From the mid-fifties you get Davis with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. All recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at Van Gelder Studio in Hackensack, digitally remastered in from the original analog masters, with bonus CD of eight previously unavailable radio and television audio performances - two tunes from The Tonight Show With Steve Allen among others. The cover art is by Davis - the painting "New York by Night" - and you five complete transcriptions of Davis' solos. Buy it? Just a thought.
The album is rather fine. Moody, "cool" and spare late fifties jazz. It holds up well. It's a lot freer and less mannered than the stuff on the album that is so famous. It's better, and sounds just fine now. Odd that when I hear it I know this is what is known as the "West Coast Sound," born here in Los Angeles with The Birth of the Cool album. Recorded in Paris for a French film, this might just as well have been recorded at the old Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach.
The Hollywood Boulevard palm trees looking down on the Miles Davis star.
And Marilyn Monroe is showing off for him.
America and China: Los Angeles' Chinatown
America and China: Los Angeles' Chinatown
President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao met in Washington on Thursday, April 20, 2006. It didn't go that well, as noted below.
As they were meeting this was the scene in Los Angeles' Chinatown, starting with the dragon at the gate.
By the way, this is the "new" Chinatown, as the original one was torn down in the thirties to make way for Union Station. This one opened on June 25, 1938, with some touches provided by Cecile B. DeMille himself - full details here. This one has become mixed - Vietnamese and others moving in. The bulk of the Chinese in Los Angeles are out east, in Monterey Park.
Regarding events in Washington, from the Associated Press, China Mistakenly Called By Taiwan's Name -
The meeting between President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao began with a gaffe Thursday when an announcer referred to China by the formal name of Taiwan, which China considers a rebellious province.
As Bush and Hu stood at attention outside the White House, an announcer said, "Ladies and gentlemen, the national anthem of the Republic of China, followed by the national anthem of the United States of America."
"Republic of China" is the formal name of the island 100 miles off the Chinese mainland. China is known formally as the People's Republic of China.
Taiwan is a most delicate issue for China. Beijing claims sovereignty over the self-governing island, which split from the mainland in 1949 as civil war ended on the mainland.
The losing nationalists fled the communists and established their rump state on the island and for many years claimed to be the rightful government of all China. Recent Taiwan governments have spoken of trying for formal independence, which China has said repeatedly might be met by military force.
And then the other matter, explained here by the BBC's Jonathan Beale -
No kidding. But everything was fine in Los Angeles.
... Okay, this was not the official state visit that the Chinese government had wanted, but when President Hu arrived in Washington DC he still received a 21-gun salute, a guard of honor and marching bands - all witnessed by every senior figure of the Bush administration.
But it then all unraveled. The Chinese may have been willing to overlook the foul-up as their National Anthem was introduced as that of "the Republic of China" - the other name for Taiwan - the part of China that has rebelled and broken away from the mainland and sought security from the United States.
But to have their president's speech interrupted by not just a protester, but one from the banned quasi-religious group Falun Gong, would have been difficult to swallow.
In Beijing, television screens showing the BBC and CNN went to black as the cameras focused on Wang Wenyi shouting out "President Hu, your days are numbered".
President Bush apologized to his Chinese guest for this unfortunate incident - but it showed the gulf that remains between these two countries.
The answer to the issue of our more than two billion dollar trade deficit with China -
One of the problems Chinese President Hu Jintao might have with Los Angeles' Chinatown -
But no place is wonderful, as you by these signs on the fence at the elementary school on College Avenue in the middle of our Chinatown. Choose your language.