essays, poems        & stories

The Boots of Miles

by Rachel Joyce

When Peg played Kind of Blue, Frank had no idea what had hit him. It was 1959. The album had just come out, and he was eleven.

As he listened, it was like doors opening, one after another. The notes started running when he thought they would go slow. They walked off to the side when he was sure they should go straight ahead. They grew fins and swam just he had got used to them having legs. It was like knowing something and not knowing it at all.

“This is the record that will change history,” said Peg.


She blew a plume of smoke towards the the tea-colored patch on the ceiling. “Because it takes music to a whole new place. Miles Davis booked all the best players but they had hardly any idea what they were going to play. He gave them outlines, told them to improvise, and they played as if the music was sitting right with them in the studio. One day everyone will have Kind of Blue. Even people who don’t like jazz will have it.”

How could she be certain?

“Because it’s the dog’s bollocks. That’s why.”

The reason Peg loved mass musks was that she was like them. Rules bored her. Relationships were the same. It wasn’t that she had no love to give, but rather that it troubled her to keep it in one place.

Peg called the jazz musos by their nicknames. Diz, Trane, the Count, Pres. And she knew little things about them that a lover would know. Count Basie? He couldn’t go to sleep without the light on. Lester Young? Another one who hated the dark. Duke Ellington was afraid of finishing things, he never buttoned his shirt the whole way up. Dizzy Gillespie (Diz), God, Frank, he was a joker.

“And Miles? You know the story about Miles? Such a peacock.”

“No Peg.”

There was this session musician once, who got a call. Could he do a gig with MIles Davis? So he turns and he plays with MIles Davis and honest to God, it’s the best he ever played. Only Miles keeps coming up to him. Pointing at the floor, like he wants him to turn down the volume. So he does, of course. But Miles keeps coming back. Keeps pointing at the floor and he’s looking very angry. ‘Miles!’ shouts the musician, ‘’Just tell me what you want.’ And what do you think Miles says?”

“I don’t know Peg. I don’t know.” He was already laughing.

“Miles points to the floor. ‘Check out my new fucking boots,’ he says”

She just loved that story. They both did.

Jazz was about the spaces between the notes. It was about what happened when you listened to the thing inside you. The gaps and the cracks. Because that was where your life really happened: when you were brave enough to free-fall.

- from “The Music Shop”  a novel by Rachel Joyce


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