Monday, November 28, 2005

Starting with his first recording sessions as a sideman in 1945 the recording career of Miles Davis would cover a span of nearly 50 years. During that time he would become the most influential trumpet player in post World War 2 jazz, and only overshadowed as most important jazz trumpet player period by Louis Armstrong. Not surprisingly a large number of books have been written about Davis, covering the entirety of his career. The most recent is The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991 by George Cole. This is the only book to date to concentrate on the music Miles made in the last years of his life. His comeback at the beginning of the 1980s shocked many, as poor health and a renewed problem with drug addiction had forced him into retirement in 1975. As was often the case with Miles the music was controversial, as so much of it was more overtly commercial, for lack of a better term, than even his electric music of the '70s.

Cole provides an in depth look at this period from the perspective of someone who enjoys this period of Miles' work. He obviously couldn't discuss this music with the most important person in the story, Miles himself, but he interviewed the majority of those musicians involved with this period, as well as members of the road crew, employees of Columbia Records and Warner Brothers Records, and friends and family. Although this is primarily a book about the music we also get a look at elements of Miles' personal life of the period given that its impossible to separate a musician's work from the rest of his life, and the ups and downs of Davis' health played a considerable role in that last decade of work. Cole gives us a comprehensive look at the studio recordings, live performances, and Miles' guest appearances on the recordings of others. There are a few places where I found Cole's description of certain technical elements of the recording process slightly off, but these aren't likely to be noticed by the non musician. Overall this is an enjoyable book, recommended for anyone interested in the music of Miles Davis.

No comments: