Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings
An anecdote from Davis' own Autobiography gives yet another, even crueler instance of the so-called kidding to which he subjected Evans. While some women may be shocked at this anecdote, any man who has ever endured a rookie initiation into a Boy Scout troop, college fraternity, navy ship, or professional baseball team will recognize the harsh humor (and homoeroticism) of what's known as the hazing ritualthe dark side of male bonding.
" ... Evans was the only white guy in a powerful, prominently black band," wrote Davis. "[I] needed to see if he would be musically intimidated, so [I] said to Evans one day, 'Bill, you know what you have to do, don't you, to be in this band?' "He looked at me puzzled and shit and shook his head and said, 'No Miles, what do I have to do?' I said, 'Bill, now you know we all brothers and shit and everybody's in this thing together, and so what I came up with for you is that you got to make it with everybody, you know what I mean? You got to f**k the band.'
"Now I was kidding," Davis went on, "but Bill was real serious.... "He thought about it for about fifteen minutes and then came back and told me, 'Miles, I thought about what you said and I just can't do it, I just can't do that. I'd like to please everybody and make everyone happy here, but I just can't do that.' I looked at him and smiled and said, 'My man!' And then he knew I was teasing."
Known by his sideman as The Chief, Davis (said to be America's first black millionaire and known as a sharp trader) was not beyond enriching himself at their expense. From the outset of his career, as it became evident that people were coming to see him play, Davis drew clear and stark distinctions between the star and the sidemen, whom he let never let forget were hired hands.
These distinctions were by no means only in terms of pay. For example, while bringing his various paramours along on tour, Davis did not permit his sidemen to do so. This occasioned some bad blood and pitched arguments, notably the case of drummer Jack DeJohnette. His then very pregnant wife, who had come to see the band play at a West Coast club, was publicly harassed by Davis, who refused to play until she left. This outrageous episode provoked DeJohnette into furiously quitting in the middle of the engagement, and he never forgave Davis for it.
DeJohnette and Evans later became band mates, and one can only speculate about discussions they may have had regarding The Chief. Evans, by no means a vindictive person, also bore his own grudge against Davis. In his case, it pertained to the moody "Blue In Green," a very popular composition that has been recorded nearly one hundred times by other artists, according to Ashley Kahn, author of Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece.
A much debated issue then and now, there is agreement that Evans, on a visit to Davis' apartment, was handed a piece of paper by the trumpeter with the symbols for two chords (G minor and A augmented) scribbled on it. "What would you do with that?" Davis is said to have asked. Evans spent the next night at Earl Zindars' East Harlem apartment, where he wrote the song. "He stayed up until three o'clock in the morning playing those six bars over and over," says Zindars, who apparently possesses rough sketches by Evans proving it. However, when the albumthe best selling jazz album ever with over five million copies purchased worldwide so far, according to Kahn came out, the song was attributed exclusively to Davis, who consequently collected sizable royalty payments for it. Evans tended to dismiss the issue as a "small matter," but it obviously remained with him.
Near the end of his life, Evans told a friend, Herb Wong, that when Evans suggested he might deserve a share of the royalties, Davis airily offered him a check for $25. "Maybe Miles did it as a joke," mused Wong, "as if to say, 'Come on, are you kidding? Here take this.'" He was quite the kidder, that Miles. By that point in his career, Davis was already exceedingly wealthy by anyone's standards, while Evans struggled financially his entire career. One of Evans' associates joked recently that: "Bill wrote the tune, but Miles got to the copyright office first." However, Evans always had steady work and good management, and his financial problems were largely his own making. And it also bears mention that Davis, who was strong enough to simply walk away from his heroin habithe quit cold turkeyactively discouraged Evans' drug use.