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Miles Beyond : Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991 Hardcover – May 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Easily one of the most influential musicians in the history of jazz, Miles Davis is the archetypal jazz artist: a brilliant, elusive and enigmatic virtuoso. Since he arrived in New York in the late 1940s to work with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Davis has transformed the jazz idiom, initiating a series of new jazz movements beginning with the cool jazz period in the early 1950s and continuing with the release of the groundbreaking album Kind of Blue at the end of the decade. But the accolades from jazz critics and fans usually end with his late 1960s work; around that time, Miles abandoned conventional jazz practices to experiment with avant-garde improvisation, rock music and electric instruments, using elaborate, electronic postproduction techniques to hone his studio recordings. Those explorations became what is now known as "fusion." Music journalist Tingen meticulously dissects Miles's bands, sidemen and musical techniques, offering a wealth of candid firsthand commentary on Miles and his music from former sidemen like pianist Herbie Hancock, guitarist John McLaughlin, saxophonist Wayne Shorter and other musicians, as well as Miles's friends, lovers and ex-wives. Most importantly, Tingen examines Miles's always turbulent but wildly creative relationship with Teo Macero, his producer at Columbia Records. Tingen can sometimes be at once presumptuous and contradictory, summarily declaring, for instance, that a recording should have been radically trimmed even after repeatedly praising Miles's knack for minimalist masterpieces. Nevertheless, Tingen has written a lucid, detailed and illuminating study of a generally misunderstood, often critically dismissed period in the creative life of one of this country's greatest musical innovators. The book also contains an extensive musician list, discography, bibliography and sessionology. 10 b&w photos, not seen by PW.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Several fine Davis biographies have appeared over the past few years, mostly ignoring or downplaying much of the music discussed here by Tingen, a music journalist based in Scotland and California. Arguing that Davis succumbed to rock influences to the detriment of his jazz stylings, many critics and listeners have denigrated the trumpeter's electric recordings. Tingen traces these experiments using examples from 1967 onward, culminating in Davis's 1969 masterpiece, Bitches Brew. That recording opened floodgates of criticism, but it also attracted a number of new listeners who welcomed the later music of 1969-75, as well as the work following his 1981 return from retirement until his death in 1991. Tingen recognizes that Davis recorded some duds, but he convincingly shows that his subject was entirely serious about developing this style. Featuring firsthand accounts from more than 50 musicians, producers, and colleagues, including Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter, this proves an invaluable work on an oft-neglected aspect of Davis's career. Recommended for all libraries with music holdings, public and academic. William Kenz, Minnesota State Univ., Moorhead
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Billboard Books; First edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823083462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823083466
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,484,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By J. Lund on May 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Much of MILES BEYOND contains perhaps the best explanations for Davis' artistry--as well as the contradictions and controversy surrounding Miles the human being--as anything I've ever read about him (and that covers a LOT of territory). Tingen effectively discusses Davis' Zen-like ability to maximize his sidepersons' potential, takes a praiseworthy stab at a psychological analysis (e.g., Miles' self-destructive streaks, his voilent tendencies), and does a heroic job of placing the 1973-75 group among Davis' best-ever units. Davis' music in general stands the test of time because he built on the past, not forgot it. Also, Miles' aesthetic successes came despite physical and psychological problems that seemingly left him devoid of inner peace when not creating music.
A key aspect of this book is that Tingen conducted fresh interviews with most of Davis' sidemen from his electric period. Thus there are a lot of fresh anecdotes and explanations particularly regarding the music itself. For instance, I've rarely read interviews with Davis' 1973-75 sidemen. Tingen talked in depth to all but one of them. Overall, Tingen explains with unique clarity Davis' gift for bringing his musical concepts to fruition, as well as Miles' ability to inspire his sidepersons to play "above what they know." Interviews with significant non-musical associates--specifically girlfriends--also help to provide as complete a picture as possible of Davis.
If the book has a flaw, it is the degree to which the author's views of Davis' recordings tend to move out of sync with his outstanding analysis of Davis' artistry in general--he leaves the impression that the "electric era" only sporadically lived up to what is in effect the author's own hype.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Tingen's great contribution is that he portrays Miles' early electric period as a continuation of the experimentation he was doing with the mid-60s quintet, along with pressure from his record company and his own desire to reach out to a broader audience. However, what he came up with was certainly not "commercial" or a "sellout" as some critics have asserted. Instead it was some of the most beautiful and challenging music of his career. But Tingen is also honest enough to point out that a lot of what Davis recorded after his "return" in 1981 was garbage. By 1985 Davis was just a showman resting on past laurels.
The sessionography and discography are excellent, especially Tingen's analysis of Teo Macero's groundbreaking use of editing. Through interviews with people like Lenny White and Billy Cobham, we get a great glimpse into the way Miles thought about music, the way he ran sessions, how he recorded, and how he interacted with his band - often they were downright afraid of him!
Some minor gripes: I just disagreed with some of his assessments of some Miles tracks over others, but that is a personal thing. The other drawback is Tingen's analysis of Miles' music through Buddhism and other exotic philosophies. Thankfully these are brief, but probably would have drawn some chuckles from the Man himself.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. Cuddy on November 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Paul Tingen's excellent new book is an in-depth treatment of Miles's "electric" period from 1967 to 1991. The timing of this publication couldn't have been better as Columbia/Legacy continues to issue/reissue important recordings from this era, including the recent "Live At Fillmore (It's About That Time)" and "The Complete In A Silent Way" box set.
The strength of the book lies in the fact that Tingen evaluates the electric Miles period on its own terms: an approach this much misunderstood and often maligned music truly deserves. Tingen backs up his thorough analysis with new interviews and first-person accounts from band members and other colleagues.
Tingen's book has set a new benchmark in writing on Miles Davis and jazz fusion. "Miles Beyond" offers both the casual listener and the fanatic fan much to learn about the electric years. And like all good music criticism, this book made me return to the source. I've been listening to albums like "Jack Johnson" and "Agharta" with fresh ears. An essential read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Charles Powell on September 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Anyone reading this is familiar with the arc of Miles Davis' career and tapestry of milestone recordings. Tingen focuses on the least understood of Davis' output, and the final 24 years of the trumpeter's life: his controversial electric period. Through a detailed narrative of Davis's career from 1967 onwards, in-depth interviews with dozens of musicians, friends and family, session notes and a rigorous analysis of his recordings, the author brings this formerly dark and misunderstood period to life and shows its continuity with Davis' earlier work as well as its linkages to the roiling ferment of America in the '60's and '70's. Tingen actually gets under the skin of Davis, illuminating crucial aspects of his working methods, values and approach to music as life that span the trumpeter's entire career. He nails Davis' approach as one of incorporating the new, while integrating it with the styles of the past: "transcend and include"; Miles always WAS a conservative Midwesterner at heart. The author's energy, creativity and intelligence mirror those of his subject. More than a document of some of the most brilliant and forbidding music of the last 35 years-the best book published about one of the giants of 20th Century music.
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