Monday, June 29, 2015

Immersed in Miles

Following a conversation with a fellow trumpet player a few weeks ago, I was inspired to pick up the book, Miles- The Autobiography by Miles Davis. No, surprisingly I had never read it. It is an amazing course in jazz history of the mid-20th Century. Davis, of course, is one of the greatest jazz innovators, ever. He is right there with the pantheon of Armstrong, Ellington, Parker, Powell. Few beyond those four have had the kind of influence that Miles Davis had on music.

Son of a dentist from East St. Louis, IL, Davis was powered by music. He started at Julliard but left after one year- it was too confining. It is clear from his music and his writing though, that Julliard helped unlock the knowledge and awareness that Davis utilized so effectively over his musical career.

The book is interesting for the history and how Davis fit into the milieu of the era. It is also interesting in the language, which is far more than even an "R-rating" at times. Quincy Troupe is the co-author, and it is obvious that in many places he simply transcribed the unique Miles voice allowing us to feel the emotion and inspiration that Davis wanted to portray.

But perhaps most importantly for a jazz-fan is the insight that Davis gives to how and why he did what he did. He talks about the changes in his style, where they came from and sometimes even a little music theory about them. He talks about many of the famous names he played with and who played with him. He spends quite a few paragraphs on the ideas behind one of my favorite albums of his, Sketches of Spain. Intriguing and interesting as he describes the background of the haunting "Saeta".

He clearly had a very strong ego and a need at times to justify himself. It has been a journey into a musician's heart and soul.

Davis's album, Kind of Blue is often rated as the greatest jazz album of all time and is most likely the best-selling jazz recording of all time. All the cuts are remarkable, but here's the one that has a light, comic touch, "Freddie Freeloader".

No comments: