Sketches of Pain

Miles Davis’s estranged firstborn son speaks, softly but angrily

Dark Magus also has harsh words for the critics and biographers poaching his father's legacy, but Troupe, for one, doesn't return the enmity. "I think Gregory is unappreciated, I really do," he says in a Voice interview. "I really think you have to be able to forgive people for their past problems. This is his sister. These are his brothers and sisters and cousins. They have to be able to forgive him if he did something to them. They ought to appreciate him for taking care of his dad. 'Cause he did. There's enough money for all of them. Damn."

Gregory's most painful recollections are of his father's death and its immediate aftermath—Miles on his deathbed in Malibu and Gregory stuck in New York City with no money for a plane ticket, shunned by the rest of the family. But Dark Magus, true to Gregory's word, never reads like outright vengeance, at least not toward Miles. Instead, he attacks misconceptions about his father. Miles wasn't defiantly turning his back on the audience onstage—he was facing and leading the band. As for hints of racism, Gregory writes, "Anytime you heard Miles say, 'You White motherfucka,' it was because he had thought of something this country had done to Black people, not because he hated White people."

If Gregory blames Miles for anything, its the apathy and inattentiveness that led to the hostile family takeover, which in turn caused Gregory's estrangement in his father's final years and the legal trouble following his death. "My father actually asked for my forgiveness," he tells me, several times. On his deathbed, Miles "told my uncle, his brother, 'Tell Gregory I tried to wait on him.' He was under the impression I was coming." Dark Magus admits that Gregory and Miles Jr. (the son who slapped Miles, incidentally) were rebuked and eventually disowned by their famously mercurial father, but Gregory has found other places to lay the blame. "What father isn't angry at his sons from time to time?" he asks me. "Especially this one."

Gregory Davis holds a book signing for Dark Magus Monday at Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction, mopitkins.com

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