I finished both the autobiography of Miles Davis as well as Ian Carr’s excellent biography a few weeks back. Both were exhilarating reading to be honest. As for the autobiography I love Miles’ style injected with loads of vernacular and honest, brutal self-criticism at times and megalomaniac self-praise in others. It was a fascinating look into how he viewed his contemporaries and acolytes – particularly the respect he always paid to Trane was touching. I was not aware of the conflict between him and Wynton Marsalis – that was a bit of a surprise. It is a great document of the inner workings of genius and fame and just deepened my respect for the Miles mystique. Apparently, he spoke most of the text that Quincy Troupe recorded via audio and then transcribed. That gives the text a real casual, conversational feel and makes it such as pleasure to read.
Ian Carr’s biography of Miles is of extreme interest to anyone that wishes to explore all the various revolutions that Miles instigated in modern jazz: from his first breakthrough with Bird on Now’s the Time, to the cool jazz debut in The Birth of the Cool, to the epic Kind of Blue, the transformational In a Silent Way, the exhilarating Bitches Brew all the way to his music in the 80s…it is all there. I knew only sketches of his story and found the style highly readable and the level of documentation very impressive. I learned an incredible amount and due to this, the music in my collection of Miles has taken on a whole new dimension. For example, I had never paid any attention to the Live Evil album, but thanks to the biography, I discovered the addictive What I Say which I listen to nearly daily now. How Miles consistently discovered the most incredible talent and developed them until they left and created their own groups: Trane, Wayne Shorter, Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett, Branford Marsalis…it is really mind-boggling the amount of talent that orbited the Miles universe. Despite being an ego-maniac and a lifetime drug addict (having exchanged cocaine for heroin after the 50s), he was an incredible mentor to so many and never shied away from his ideas regardless of how vanguard they were and how the critics would initially grill him. He was a true artist that, for me at least, is up there in a pantheon including Hendrix, Dylan, Monk, Trane, Zappa, Duke…no compromises. I can STRONGLY recommend this book for any jazz fan.
Imagine my surprise when I learned last week that one of my favorite actors – Don Cheadle of House of Lies and Iron Man – has successfully crowd-funded a major biopic on Miles for release later this year. I am breathless with anticipation. The soundtrack will probably be epic.
OK, gotta finish a Monk bio now and then Billy Strayhorn and Reading Jazz…