Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography

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9780002552226: Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography

The acclaimed classic biography, fully revised, becomes the definitive.

The revised edition of Ian Carr’s classic biography of Miles Davis throws new light on his life and career from the early days in New York, with Charlie Parker, to his Birth of the Cool band which brought together some of the most remarkable musicians of the time, through his drug addiction in the early 1950s, and the years of extraordinary achievements, 1954-1960, during which he signed with Columbia, created a whole series of masterpieces on record, and drew to his band such unequalled talents as John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly and Cannonball Adderly.

Ian Carr illuminates Davis’s genius for growth and renewal during the 1960s and 1970s, with new interviews, information and insights. In perhaps the most engrossing pages of the book, Carr has produced a new long and detailed description of Miles’s dark reclusive period, 1975-1980, with first-hand accounts of his descent towards disintegration. He also tells how the dramatic events of one single day forced Davis, against his will, to turn back to life and move slowly back into music.

The incessant activity of his last ten years – the music-making, his painting and art exhibitions, his extraordinary trumpet playing, his marriage to and divorce from Cicely Tyson – is recounted with fascinating insight. The facts of his unnecessary death are made public for the first time. Miles Davis remained controversial until the end, and the controversy is dealt with in full detail. Graphic accounts of live concerts highlight his huge body of recorded work, which has been called ‘one of the greatest musical legacies of the twentieth century’.

With access to the inner circle of Davis’s friends and associates, Ian Carr includes interviews with the people who knew Davis best. He introduces new interviews with such jazz greats as Max Roach, George Russell, George Avakian, Ron Carter, John Carisi, John Scofield, Bill Evans and Jack and Lydia DeJohnette, and revisits those who contributed to the first edition, including Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, Dave Liebman, Joe Zawinul and Paul Buckmaster. This new and revised edition is an essential source for those who want to understand Miles, his music and the ‘jazz life’.

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Even allowing for publisher's hype, it takes a bit of nerve to call any book the "definitive biography". But in this case it is no more than the truth. I defy even the most committed Miles Davis fan to pick holes in this.

Miles Davis has become a byword for cool. You can be sneered at for liking all sorts of modern music, but no one will ever have a go at you for liking Miles Davis. Musically he has become almost beyond criticism. Even his most inaccessible works are reckoned to be streets ahead of anyone else's. What's more, he reinvented himself as a jazz trumpeter so many times in his 45 -year career that he is almost beyond categorisation. From his early bebop days with Charlie Parker, through a period with John Coltrane, from the minimalism of Kind of Blue to the orchestral Porgy and Bess, from jazz fusion of the 1970s to the virtual rap-jazz of the late 1980s, Davis was the master of eclecticism.

This might be a problem for a lesser biographer. Fortunately, Ian Carr is as in control of his material as Davis. Carr is both an accomplished jazz trumpeter and writer and is able to unpick the music without coming on like some muso-anorak. Moreover, he is not so in awe of his subject that he loses the ability to think objectively about it.

Davis is no straightforward character. He was born into a wealthy middle-class family and studied at the Juillard School of Music, before dropping out to play jazz. He had two lengthy periods of drug addiction, was notoriously reticent with the press and enjoyed a peculiarly ambivalent relationship with his fans; some times he would play inspired five-hour sets, at others he would stand with his back to the audience for the whole show. In short, he was a mass of contradictions and Carr never fudges the difficult issues.

This book was good when it was first published in 1982. Now that it has been revised and updated to take account of Davis's final decade it is even better. Miles Davis is the seminal jazz musician of the last 50 years; this is the seminal book. --John Crace


‘In a class by itself… he knows his music and his Miles’
New York Times Book Review

New Society

Daily Telegraph

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Carr, Ian
Published by Harpercollins Uk (1998)
ISBN 10: 0002552221 ISBN 13: 9780002552226
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 3
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, U.S.A.)

Book Description Harpercollins Uk, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110002552221

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