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Miles Davis’ Cruel Joke to Bill Evans

Miles Davis had many personalities. He could be funny, he could be nice, and as drummer Jack DeJohnette put it: he could be nasty. An anecdote from Miles’ autobiography recounts the time when he teased pianist Bill Evans, who was fairly new in the band, into a high-pressure dilemma:

“When Bill Evans—we sometimes called him Moe—first got with the band, he was so quiet, man. One day, just to see what he could do, I told him, ‘Bill, you know what you have to do, don’t you, to be in this band?’ He looked at me all 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 fuck the band.’

“Now, I was kidding, but Bill was real serious, like Trane. 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 everyone 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.”

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