In addition to writing several poems that have been anthologized (just check out the most recent edition of the Norton Anthology of African-American Literature
for proof), poet and scholar Quincy Troupe has authored two books about Miles Davis. He penned Davis’ autobiography and also wrote a book about his friendship with the jazz icon. Troupe, who just came to Cleveland this past summer for the dedication of League Park, returns to town to talk about Davis. He appears with the Kenny Davis Quartet at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 10 at the East Cleveland Public Library. A $15 donation is requested.
“I got to be good friends with Miles Davis, who was one of my heroes while I was growing up in St. Louis,” says Troupe. “He grew up in East St. Louis and the first band he played in as a high school senior was my cousin’s band. We got to be really good friends and we stayed friends until he died. When he did, he said, ‘I know you’re going to write a memoir about me. But don’t write about me until I’m dead. You have those dirty things you could talk about.’”
Troupe’s warts-and-all autobiography has plenty of dirt in it and created a fair amount of controversy when it came out. But it’s also been translated into thirtysomething different languages and is the source material for a new feature-length film that’s in the works.
“Miles Davis was a mercurial guy. In one instance he could be very charming and beautiful to be with and in the next second, he could be the meanest guy you ever ran into it and curse you out in a second. I’ve experienced it with him. He’s a Gemini and he told me one day that he was a double six and that meant he was the devil. He has that dual personality. The actor who plays Miles has to have that quality.”
Troupe says he still listens to lots of music. But he likes what he calls “progressive music.”
“Now I don’t like the regular run-of-the-mill jazz program music,” he says. “I can’t deal with it. When Wynton [Marsalis] came – I don’t have anything against him because he could be a great school teacher and teach music and he can play— but he’s not a creative genius. He’s not exciting like that. When they picked him to be the standard bearer, I thought he took jazz back a long way. He wanted to make it standards. I believe art should be trying to evolve whether it’s painting or poetry or music or dance. Last week, I went to see Youssou N’Dour and the other night I went to see Seun Kuti. I like Coldplay and U2 as well. I like great music.”