"Miles!" exclaimed George "Doc" Manning, at the Jazz House record store on York Road. "Man, Miles was the embodiment of modern jazz. He made the music even more vocal than it had ever been.
L "Miles was the man, man!" said Manning. "Miles was the man!"
A Miles Davis piece, "All Blues," was on the radio -- cool, sultry, rocking -- the unmistakable Miles Davis "voice" on the trumpet lancing through the small shop like an outcry, like a plea, making toes tap and hearts bleed all at the same time.
"When you're talking about Miles, it's like talking about King or Malcolm, or somebody like that," continued Manning as the jazzman's music wailed and wailed in the background. "It makes you feel so exuberant, talking about him, 'cause Miles was himself, he was his own man, he was a man who always said, 'I'm gonna go ahead and do what I'm gonna do.' Miles' personality always came through in his music.
"Miles," said Manning, "took everything that was going on around him and used it in his music. That's the mark of a true genius. That's the stroke of an artist."
Miles Davis, 65, jazz's master innovator, jazz's wild man and perpetual rebel, died Saturday in Santa Monica, Calif., and from that coast to this, like the rippling shock of an earth tremor, people young and old felt the loss.
Jazz is the most living of all art forms, bound inextricably with its times and its people. And jazz history is an oral one. So when Miles Davis died, people didn't just feel his loss, they talked about it. They debated the merits of the many Miles incarnations -- the "be-bop Miles" and the "West Coast cool Miles" and the "jazz/rock/funk/fusion Miles."
John Tegler, a longtime jazz broadcaster and jazz drummer, said, "When I heard of his death, my first impression was one of disappointment, and I'll tell you why. He was so talented, he had so much to offer. If the world had simply left him alone to create in peace and not made such an angry man out of him, who knows what he could have created? I mean, look what he created anyway.
"Heaven knows, he had a right to be angry," Tegler continued. "But a lot of people rolled with the punches. Miles was a fighter and I think it hurt his later music."
Tegler met Miles once, at a cocktail party in New York City. Probably around 1958.
"I was very impressed with him as a person," Tegler said. "He was a great innovator, musically creative. Swinging, hip, intelligent and alive."
"I was telling some guys just the other day, that so many of the guys who played with Miles have passed away," mourned Leon Manker, one of the venerable directors of the city's Left Bank Jazz Society.
"I'm talking about Cannonball, and Red Garland, and 'Trane, of course, and 'Bird.' Man, the greatest group I ever heard was the one with Charlie Parker on alto sax, Miles, and Newt Jordan on piano. And then when Miles and Coltrane got together. Ooh! That was a group!
"These younger musicians," continued Manker, "they'll try to talk their way through a set. They like to talk a lot. But Miles, man, was something. He'd turn his back to the audience, bend over his horn, and just play. Just Miles and his horn. He'd play one song after another."
"For me, Miles was the torchbearer," said local jazz trumpeter John Lamkin, a lecturer and bandleader at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. "When 'Bitches Brew' came out, it turned my head totally around. It definitely influenced my own music. The thing about Miles was that he was obsessed with not going back, not playing with the skeletons of the past.
"He was always forging ahead to the future," said Lamkin. "When you heard Miles, you heard what was happening at the moment, not what was happening in 1950 or 1960. He didn't play it safe and I try to learn from that."
At the Haven Lounge in Northwood, Keith Covington paused.
"In here, we've been debating for almost a year now about the old Miles vs. the new Miles," he said. "I'm sort of a traditional person, and my side has always been for the old Miles. But these past few weeks the debate had been getting hotter and hotter and I think I was starting to come around.
"Now, I consider it settled," said Covington. "It was all good. Some of us just needed some extra time to catch up to what Miles was putting down.
G; "But that's the last word on Miles -- it was all good."