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Milestones: The Music And Times Of Miles Davis Paperback – August 22, 1998

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jack Chambers, the author of several books, lives in Canada, where he is professor of linguistics at the University of Toronto.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 838 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (August 22, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306808498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306808494
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
By the time I found out about Jack Chambers' Miles biographies (two volumes, originally) they had been combined into this single book with some new material that brings the original manuscripts from the 1980's up to date. Despite the heading on this site, this is the complete 800-odd page monster bio, not an "introduction"!
This is a fantastic bio. Like many other critics and older fans who were raised on jazz, Chambers can't really relate to Miles' work from the late 1960's onwards, but he does give it comprehensive coverage, rather than pretend that it all ended with "The Quintet". I'm not sure that criticisms about his quoting reviews are justified. I saw it as just being thorough - giving details of the critics' reactions to recordings rather than just his own. I learned much from his chronicling of events, right through to the seventies, that I did not know.
If you are a fan of Miles' final period (1981 comeback to his death in 1991), then you're probably the only one who will feel short-changed. As this was not a period that interested me greatly, I was not particularly bothered (probably exhausted by then!).
A really professional effort.
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Format: Paperback
Jack Chambers has done a very hard task and that is to present the life of the legendary Miles Davis to readers in a very interesting, yet complex style which was reflective of the way Miles Davis led his life and music.
Miles Davis was the premiere jazz musician of his time along with John Coltrane, Charlie "Bird" Parker, Herbie Hancock, etc, yet while you can love Davis's music, to know the man was very hard to do, since Miles Davis was a standoffish and sullen individual. Chambers describes Davis's behavior as being sullen and hard to know because Davis's was a very shy man. I am sure that Davis lived a tough life because of injustice, yet it is sad that he didn't trust his fans and those who cared for him. Davis certainly lived the life of a "star", he over-indulged in sex, was an abuser of drugs, and had split personalities later on in life, yet his musical vision was almost always focused and clear, whether it be in the pinnacle of his talent (1950-1962), or his creating fusion (1967-1973), or the later part of his life.
Chambers does an excellent job of detailing the relationship Miles had with his fellow musicians such as the love-hate relationship with Theolonius Monk, the admiration and jealousy between Coltrane and Miles, as well as Miles being a mentor to such jazz greats as Herbie Hancock, John McGlaughlin, Chick Corea, etc.
I am a tremendous fan of Miles Davis jazz visions, I love his music and his musical style, yet after reading this book I feel sadness because I don't know if I pity Davis or just not liking him altogether, or admiring him no matter what, his final years were spent in paranoia, suspicion and feeding his ego, that is sad because if he would of just relaxed and enjoy his fans admiration I believe he might have lived longer. Anyways, this is an outstanding book and is highly recommended to all jazz lovers and fans of the immortal Miles Davis.
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Format: Paperback
"Milestones" is THE Miles Davis book to read. It has a wealth of knowledge of recording information, including Miles' early days as a sideman for Charlie Parker (which includes details of their rocky frienship). There is also a great account of the evolution of jazz and reveals the trials faced by upcoming jazzmen in the early 20th century. The book deals with Miles' problems with women, drugs and his 6-year seclusion without hype or pompousness, as well as his sometimes unusual method of recruiting musicians. It also puts to print the never-ending health problems Miles had that metaphorically ended up in the wailing of his trumpet (after reading it you will probably never hear of or know anyone who dealt with so many illnesses & ailments as much as Miles; it's a miracle he lived to be 65).
Many of Chambers' details surrounding his life would be plagarized by Miles' himself in his own wild autobiography. This is a must-read for fans who wish to know the man inside the maniac.
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Format: Paperback
I haven't read every Miles Davis bio - in particular, John Szwed's more recent book has gotten good reviews and therefore may end up replacing this one as a standard, comprehensive reference.

"Comprehensive" is probably this book's biggest asset - it tries to cover every item that Davis recorded (and released) before the mid-1980s. Written by a non-musician, it is accessible to laymen.

Unfortunately, there are significant shortcomings. Probably foremost is the author's bias against Davis's music from 1965 onward. Reading his commentary on the 2nd quintet and electric eras, you get the feeling that he doesn't "get" the music and is incapable of discussing it in an insightful manner. This is not the place to go for a substantive discussion of Sorcerer, B's Brew or Agharta. These shortcomings also come through in his commentary of the cultural context for post-1965 recordings.

There are also numerous errors in the discographical sections. Some of this couldn't have been avoided (when Chambers wrote the book, he didn't have the extensive online sessionographies we have today). Other mistakes are fairly obvious to serious listeners, and make me wonder whether Chambers actually listened to the recordings he reviews. Either way, for this information you're better off using another source.

Finally, Chambers uses no primary sources. This is a real shame as he wrote the book when Miles and a larger number of his sidemen were alive. His secondary sources are fairly wide-ranging, but surely we could have gotten more insight from the musicians themselves.

One aspect that was not a shortcoming to me, but may be more problematic to others, is the relatively cursory discussion of Davis's personal life.
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