Segment aired Dec. 31, 2015 as part of the “Dave’s Gone By” radio program hosted by Dave Lefkowitz.
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Miles Davis was auditioning trombone players for his new quintet. He tells the first guy, “The piece we’re practicing is in E flat. But I want you to play it so it sounds even flatter, almost off key.”
So the musician starts playing from the sheet music, but Davis stops him and says, “I’m sorry, but you’re too good. You keep going back on pitch; you gotta go under. Sorry.”
Davis calls in the next auditioner and gives her the same shpiel: “Remember, the band is in E flat, but you’re sliding beneath it. Begin.” The musician starts playing, but sure enough, she, too, can’t help but ease back in key with the rest of the band.
Finally, the last auditioner comes in–a young guy with a fuzzy afro. Davis gives him the rules, and the dude starts playing. After a half minute, Davis starts nodding and smiling: “That’s it! Now make it even more flat.”
The musician complies, and he’s doing great, only he notices that hair is piling up around his feet. In fact, the more he plays, the more his hair keeps falling out.
“Don’t stop,” says Davis. “And play even flatter!”
The musician obeys, and he does even better, but by the end of the song, he’s bald as an egg.
“Why didn’t you warn me?” he screams. “I didn’t know playing off key would make me bald!”
“Really?” says Davis. “Haven’t you heard the expression, `Flatter E Will Get You No Hair’?”