Miles Davis was one of the crucial influences in the development of modern jazz. His Kind of Blue is an automatic inclusion in any critic's list of the great jazz albums, the one record people who own no other jazz records possess, and still sells 250,000 copies a year in the US alone. But Miles regularly changed styles, leaving his inimitable ...
Miles Davis was one of the crucial influences in the development of modern jazz. His Kind of Blue is an automatic inclusion in any critic's list of the great jazz albums, the one record people who own no other jazz records possess, and still sells 250,000 copies a year in the US alone. But Miles regularly changed styles, leaving his inimitable impact on many forms of jazz, whether he created them or simply developed the work of others, from modal jazz to be-bop, his seminal quintet and his big-band work, to the jazz funk experiments of later years. Miles not only knew and worked with everyone who was anyone in jazz, from Coltrane to Monk, he was a friend of Sartre's, lover of Juliette Greco and musical collaborator with musicians who ranged from Stockhausen to Hendrix. John Swzed is uniquely well-qualified to do justice to Miles, both in terms of his impact on jazz, and as one of the great Black Americans: as political figure, icon and archetypal cool dude. His book fills in the gaps left by myth-making about Miles' life - both by Miles himself and by his previous biographers - telling the story of his childhood, his depressions and his relationship with heroin as well as the more familiar public career.
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Publishers Weekly, 2002-09-23 Jazz genius Davis once said, "Don't you try to make me into a nice guy." Yale professor Szwed neither sentimentalizes nor attacks his subject in this impressive biography, concentrating instead on the fascinating contradictions that led to Davis's artistic greatness. The son of a successful dentist in Illinois, Davis (1926-1991) showed talent for the trumpet early and followed his vision despite disapproval from his mother. He attended Juilliard, married a girl from the wrong side of the tracks and joined Charlie Parker's group, struggling to find his style and overcome feelings of inadequacy against Parker's exhilarating brilliance. While pointing out Davis's love for altering chord progressions and his skill at sketching arrangements in literally seconds, Szwed tracks a life that eventually spiraled out of control. Unsparing accounts of the musician's cocaine and alcohol addiction transcend Davis's life and become a larger portrait of the traps that destroyed so many jazzmen. Davis's love affairs with Juliette Greco and Cicely Tyson grippingly illuminate the narcissism, sexual hunger and violence that made lasting relationships impossible. Szwed offers crisply detailed backstories to such masterpieces as Sketches of Spain, Round About Midnight and Miles Ahead. His prose has a musical pulse, and he highlights the most significant element of Davis's soul: "he told every woman he became involved with that music always came first, before family, children, lovers, friends." Davis's music has been called a "divine disease," and this in-depth study clarifies the nature of that compulsive, satisfying malady in a way that will enlighten listeners and musicians. Agent, Sarah Lazin. (Nov.) Forecast: Szwed's work is only the latest in a slew of Davis biographies and studies (at least six have been published since last year), and it may not have an audience outside the realm of hardcore music fans. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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