George Duke: The Master of the Game" data-original-title="" title="">Julian "Cannonball" Adderley at the Beacon Theater in New York. We had finished our show and I was out front listening to John McLaughlin, and Miles came to the show.
He said [slips into gravelly Miles Davis voice], "Hey man, what you doin' in this band?"
I was, like, "Damn, did I just get dissed?" I didn't know if he was saying I wasn't good enough to be in Cannonball's band. I didn't know how to take that comment.
Years later, Miles would come to my shows in New York but he wouldn't say anything to me. A murmur would go through the audience: "Miles is in the room!"
As time went by, he'd call me on the phone and tell me he wanted me to write a tune for him. He actually asked me to join his band at one point. We were never close friends and I wasn't in his band, but we had this weird kind of relationship especially when he was with Cicely Tyson. I'd see him all the time. He said, "George, I want you to write me a tune."
I wrote "Backyard Ritual" and sent it over to him as a demo thinking he'd go in and rerecord it live with his guys. But he said, "I like it because it sounds funny."
I said, "Miles, that's a demo. We're going to come in and re-cut it."
Miles said, "Naw, man. I like it the way it is."
And that's the way it came out. "Backyard Ritual" [ from Tutu (Warner Bros, 1986)] is a demo Miles played over. I never saw him in the studio.
The original song I wrote for Miles had a French-Cuban atmosphere to it. Dianne Reeves came in the studio and heard me working on it. She said, "What's that?"
I said, "This is for Miles."
She said, "Wait a minute. We're family. I want that tune for my record."
I told her, "Well, you can't have it."
Dianne said, "We're family. You got to tell Miles he can't have it. Write him something else."
I said, "He's already heard it. You call Miles and tell him he can't have it!" She said she was already writing a lyric for it. I told her, "You gotta stop!" Well, Dianne is my cousin, so I had to call Miles tell him. I said, "Hey Miles?"
"You know that I tune I wrote for you?"
"You know my cousin, Dianne Reeves?"
"Uh, can I write you another tune? She wants it for her album."
Miles cussed me up and down. It took him about 15 minutes of swearing at me and her. "Tell that blankety-blank to get her own song!"
The song that came out of it for Dianne's album was "Fumilayo," and it was nominated for a Grammy. It didn't win, but it started out as a song for Miles Davis.
AAJ: You hear these amazing stories about how intimidating Miles was and you think no way could it be true, but maybe it is.
GD: Miles was quite a character and much funnier than most people realize, especially if you were with him one-on-one. Very interesting dude.