The First Miles
Skin, Eyes, Ears, Nose and Throat
It was early October 1979. The black stretch-limousine arrived at Miles Davis' distinctive four-story brownstone building located at 312 West 77th Street near West End Ave. The west bank of the Hudson River flowed just two blocks away. The drive didn't seem all that far from the Sheridan Center Hotel. It would have been a nice walk. I thanked the driver for opening the door for me as he nodded toward the short-railed gate through which I entered and rang the bell. No sign of activity inside. I decided to wait at least one minute before ringing again. After what seemed to be a long two minutes, I wondered whether the limo driver had pointed me to the correct building. I reassured myself that it 'felt' like the right place. Besides, I didn't want Miles to deem me impatient, so I waited another minute. Convinced now that he didn't hear the bell, I politely gave it another quick push. Just at that same moment, his immediate response somewhat startled me.
"Who is it?"
"Miles, its Bobby ... Bobby Irving."
The door flung open. Miles looked at me with almost joyful surprise.
"Bobby?" He said, imparting a brisk godfather kiss on each of my cheeks in congruence with that familiar gravelly voice that associated him with Marlon Brando's depiction of Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather .
Miles possessed that same voice of confidence and authority, along with a large serving of coy coolness smoothed out--even more--with a sprinkle of soulful jazziness.
"Damn Bobby, you're short like me! Shit, you know, on the phone you sounded six-feet tall, man ... come on in. Man, look at you!"
His cat-like manner felt as silky as the black pants and tank top he wore underneath a red smoking jacket trimmed in black velvet.
"That's funny Miles," I said, "cause I've seen photos of you, and you seemed larger than life too!"
The couple of black and white photos I'd seen of Miles didn't convey the true essence of his striking features. His generously melanized skin would certainly blend in with a moonless night in the forest, making him invisible. The shamelessly inquiring gaze of his gazelle eyes would, however, betray his presence. You couldn't bullshit those eyes. If you tried you'd only be fooling yourself. A prosecutor with his eyes would lay one bare, eliciting the whole truth. I likewise noted the peculiarity of his nose in juxtaposition to his ebony hue. It was almost the nose of Michael Jackson's dreams. His deep skin tone, mysterious penetrating eyes, finely sculptured nose and cool raspy voice, were the physical characteristics that made him such a distinctive looking human being. But I soon learned that his ears--that is to say, his superior ability to listen and hear beyond the obvious provided the integral key to his musical genius.
The First Hang on the Second Floor
The first floor of Miles' home featured stucco ceilings and...