ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Selected Poems from

Nia: Haiku, Sonnets, Sun Songs

By Neo-griot Kalamu ya Salaam



Books by Kalalmu ya Salaam

The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)

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Miles Davis CDs

Kind of Blue / Birth of  the Cool / Bitches Brew / Miles Ahead  / Sketches of Spain

'Round About Midnight  / In A Silent Way  / Milestones  / On the Corner  / A Tribute to Jack Johnson

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Miles Davis

                  Short story by Kalamu ya Salaam 


Greta Garbo is credited with saying "I want to be alone." Except I'm sure

"alone" she meant away from you lames. I want to be where I can be me

and this place is not it. Then she would blow some smoke, or pick her

fingernails, or do something else nonchalantly to indicate her total boredom

with the scene. Miles on the other hand never had to say it. He made a

career of being alone and sending back notes from the other world, notes as

piercing as his eyeballs dismissing  a fan who was trying to tall him how

pretty he played


Here this man was: Miles Dewey Davis, a self made motherfucker, a total

terror whose only evident tenderness is the limp in his smashed-up hip

walk, like he can't stand touching the ground, the cement, the wooden floor,

plush carpet, whatever he is walking on. The man who, considering all the

abuse he has dished out to others as well as all the self abuse he has

creatively consumed, this man who should have died a long, long time ago

but who outlived a bunch of other people who tried to clean up their act.

This pact with the devil incarnate. This choir boy from hell. This disaster

whose only value is music, a value which is invaluable. If he hadn't given us

his music there would have been no earthly reason to put up with Miles, but

he gave on the stage and at the studio, he gave. if there is any redemption he

deserves it.


As for me, I admit I don't have the music, but so what? perhaps in time you

will understand that I really don't want to be here. I don't want to be loved

or to love, I . . .


Perhaps you will understand that once you don't care, nothing else matters

I don't need a reason why to hit you. Why I'm letting you pack and split

without a word from me, without any "I'm sorry," or anything else that

might indicate remorse or even just second thoughts about what I've done.

Instead, I'm cool.


Just like Miles could climb on a stage after beating some broad in the mouth,

I cross from the bedroom where I knocked you to the floor and go into the

living room and put "Round Midnight" on. The unignorable sound of Miles

chills the room. I stand cool. Listening with a drink of scotch in my hand,

and a deadness in the center of me. Anesthetized emotions.


As you leave you look at me. Your eyes are crying, "why, why, why, do you

treat me so badly?" I do not drop my gaze. I just look at you. Miles is

playing his hip tortured shit. You will probably hate Miles all the rest of your



You linger at the door and ask me do I have anything I want to say. I take a 

sip nonchalantly, and with the studied unhurried motion of a journeyman

hipster, I half smile and drop my words out of the corner of my mouth

"Yeah, I want to be alone. Thanks for leaving."

And I turn my back on you, trying my best to be like Miles: a motherfucker.

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Hear the audio of Kalamu performing this Miles Davis piece

(featuring Kenneth D. Ferdinand - trumpet) 

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Miles Davis on YouTube

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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

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Miles Master of  Cool and Fusion: Filles and Bitches Brew

By Kalamu ya Salaam


Filles de Kilamanjaro is not only great music, the album is also a major milestone and signifier in the dazzling journey that was Miles’ musical career. Filles is more than a crossroads, it is the last of the cool, the death of the cool. I mean this in the same sense that Miles’ Birth Of The Cool is celebrated as the genesis of that movement, so too Filles is that movement’s ‘revelations’—the last statement opening us to further questions but paradoxically offering few certain answers for adherents of the cool style.

The album Filles is actually a composite of two different recording sessions released as one statement. “Petits Machins (Little Stuff)”—June 19, 1968; “Tout De Suite” (alternate take) and “Tout De Suite”—June 20, 1968; and “Filles De Kilimanjaro (Girls Of Kilimanjaro)”—June 21, 1968, all feature the last great quintet: Miles, Wayne, Herbie, Ron and Tony. “Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry)” and “Frelon Brun (Brown Hornet)”September 24, 1968, feature the transitional quintet in which Chick Correa is on keys and Dave Holland on electric bass, along with Miles, Wayne and Tony.

In any case, Miles was not simply transitioning to another quintet. Classic combo days were over, within a year the sound would be overwhelmingly electric and polyrhythmic with the addition of Airto Moreira, and later James Mtume. And that electro/percussion line up fed directly into the rock energy that occupied the majority of Miles’ recording career post-Filles.

Alas, even though he commandeered Charles’ Lloyd’s band (Keith Jarrett on keys and Jack DeJohnnette on drums), among black audiences Miles was never able to become as popular or sell as much as Herbie when Herbie turned to funk. And at the risk of being totally misunderstood, it is important to realize that after Bitches Brew , Miles Davis recordings were never as influential as those of some of his former sidemen, especially the Zawinul/Wayne Shorter Weather Report collaboration, and the aforementioned Herbie Hancock Headhunters and beyond forays.

After Bitches Brew  Miles Davis was through as far as shaping the future of music. Miles had abandoned mainstream jazz, had never been heavy into the avant garde, was more a legendary figure than a real influence in rock music, and was never a major force in funk music. I understand that some acolytes point to On The Corner and a couple of other albums as influencing the aesthetics of some rap producers, however without denying a contribution, on the basis of rap recordings from that period, Miles did not significantly influence the direction of rap.

I know that assessment sounds extreme but facts are facts. . . . I’m not saying this is better than listening to Miles Ahead  or Sketches of Spain but I am saying that this live version of "Aranjuez" is absolutely sublime.

Miles never fully shook his petit bourgosie upbringing, hence his expensive taste in the accoutrements of wealth such as elite foreign automobiles, high fashion clothing, and yes, trophy women. Regardless of his public persona, Miles Davis was never a street cat without formal education who survived by relying on mother wit. . . .

The age-old truth about our people is our ability to adopt and adapt other cultures thereby creating not only something new but also creating incredibly beautiful hybrids. Hendrix envy notwithstanding, Miles Davis was a master of sophisticated cool jazz, and was never a master of rock or funk. The beauty of Bitches Brew  is that the recording ushered in the fusion movement, which ushered to the frontlines musicians and forms that never otherwise would have been considered jazz. I say “beauty” because the immense strength of black music is that the music can genuinely make room for everybody regardless of their ethnic or class background.

Fusion music with its heavy backbeat never intended to swing, moreover in the long run as all the jazz fusion records make clear the predominant influence became rock rather than funk. Many of us old jazz heads have major issues with fusion jazz, not the least of which is the absence of swing but like Courtney Pine said about some Eastern European jazz cats, they had no intentions of swinging. And that’s ok, that’s their prerogative.

We don’t have to trash post-Bitches Brew  Miles because we love cool Miles. To quote another R&B cliché: different strokes for different folks. I don’t disparage fusion Miles, I just don’t dig it. I wear my allegiance on my sleeve: cool Miles for me, and except for the live recordings from Trane’s last tour with Miles, I’ll take the music of the second great quintet quick as a Tony Williams heartbeat.

Just as Miles never found a second horn voice to match either Trane or Wayne, after Tony Williams there was a barrage but no match in terms of subtly shifting the music. Make no mistake Jack DeJohnette is a powerful and beautiful drummer but a great lake is not the ocean. . . . As far as I’m concerned, after Filles, Miles Davis the master trumpeter takes a backseat to Miles Davis the innovator who was searching for new directions in music.

Although Miles had a whole bunch more to offer, as a trumpet stylist this was the last hurrah—the last of the cool. After
Filles it was into the hot, into some other kind of/different kind of vibe whether you could dig it or not. But no more hip, tortured, acoustic trumpet solos that left you sitting in the dark, tear streaks on your inner face, contemplating some unforgettable emotional catastrophe that indelibly pockmarked your internal heart, the one that most people never ever felt, saw or heard, that heart that Miles’ horn unlocked with the brilliant cobalt blue trumpet sound of the cool.

Source: Breath of Life 

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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African-American Odyssey, The Combined Volume

By Darlene Clark Hine

The African-American Odyssey is a compelling story of agency, survival, struggle and triumph over adversity. The authors highlight what it has meant to be black in America and how African-American history is inseparably woven into the greater context of American history. The text provides accounts of the lives of ordinary men and women alongside those of key African-Americans and the impact they have had on the struggle for equality to illuminate the central place of African-Americans in U.S. history more than any other text. This compendium of resources includes up to 100 most commonly assigned history works like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and Machiavelli’s The Prince. Students can monitor their progress and instructors can monitor the progress of their entire class. Automated grading of quizzes and assignments helps both instructors and students save time and monitor their results throughout the course.

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Allah, Liberty, and Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

By Irshad Manji

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times. What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation? 

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 9 May 2012



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Related files: Miles Davis (Sharif)  Miles (Grue)