Miles Davis

Why Miles Davis this week? Simple: I just finished his autobiography, Miles, the autobiography by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe (Picador Books), which like Davis himself, is not an easy read. Musical genius, pimp, innovator, heroin addict, pioneer, woman beater, superstar – all these conflicting, competing and colliding descriptions applied to him and he was the first to admit it. He was not the nicest guy you could meet. By his own admission, he could be brusque and downright rude to people he did not know. He was tough on his band members, cutting them off mid-solo during a live concert if he judged the playing was not up to scratch. But the flip-side is that he played with the greatest jazz musicians in the world from 1944 to 1948, sometimes known as the bebop years. Legends such as John Coltrane (sax) , Charlie Parker (sax), Bill Evans (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Max Roach (drums) and many many more. He also handed so many young musicians their break and many of them went on to have successful careers. Herbie Hancock (bass), Daryl Jones (bass, Rolling Stones), Wynton Marsalis (sax, Sting) are all indebted to Davis’ patronage. Rolling Stone described him as “the most revered jazz trumpeter of all time, not to mention one of the most important musicians of the 20th century.” When you listen to him play, aside from the beautiful tone of his trumpet, the main thing that emerges is his fierce, proud and uncompromising intelligence.

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