Jazz genius Davis once said, "Don't you try to make me into a nice guy." Yale professor Szwed neither sentimentalizes nor attacks his subject in this impressive biography, concentrating instead on the fascinating contradictions that led to Davis's artistic greatness. The son of a successful dentist in Illinois, Davis (1926-1991) showed talent for the trumpet early and followed his vision despite disapproval from his mother. He attended Juilliard, married a girl from the wrong side of the tracks and joined Charlie Parker's group, struggling to find his style and overcome feelings of inadequacy against Parker's exhilarating brilliance. While pointing out Davis's love for altering chord progressions and his skill at sketching arrangements in literally seconds, Szwed tracks a life that eventually spiraled out of control. Unsparing accounts of the musician's cocaine and alcohol addiction transcend Davis's life and become a larger portrait of the traps that destroyed so many jazzmen. Davis's love affairs with Juliette Greco and Cicely Tyson grippingly illuminate the narcissism, sexual hunger and violence that made lasting relationships impossible. Szwed offers crisply detailed backstories to such masterpieces as Sketches of Spain, Round About Midnight and Miles Ahead. His prose has a musical pulse, and he highlights the most significant element of Davis's soul: "he told every woman he became involved with that music always came first, before family, children, lovers, friends." Davis's music has been called a "divine disease," and this in-depth study clarifies the nature of that compulsive, satisfying malady in a way that will enlighten listeners and musicians.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Adult/High School-Szwed opens his work on this music legend with a warning to readers not to expect him to tell the man's full story. Indeed, this is not an introduction to Davis, and the book requires a fair degree of understanding of either jazz or the fundamentals of music. It's easy to come away with the impression that the cruelty with which Davis could treat himself and others was merely the price of genius, an argument that isn't addressed directly. For all this, though, the volume does deliver on what it sets out to do, which is to examine why Davis has been such a powerful and ubiquitous figure in the world of music. Szwed shows how his subject's art developed, examining both his evolving styles and the smaller, specific changes in the writing and playing of particular pieces by Davis and his bands. The author also illuminates the ways in which popular music developed during the second half of the 20th century. Those interested in the topic or in the process of musical creation in general will find this title well worth reading.
Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Although the author acknowledges up front that there are a lot of gaps, there is still an undeniable continuity and understated authenticity to this (yet another) story of Miles'... Read morePublished on August 2, 2010 by Herbert L Calhoun
Miles was a deep guy, a musician's musician. This book is written by a musician with a lot of information that will mean more to musicians than lay readers. Read morePublished on February 10, 2010 by Jon Norstog
Miles Davis was a musical trailblazer. His creations and style of music put him far from the mainstream, and set him apart from other great musicians, who abounded in the 1950',... Read morePublished on October 10, 2009 by Pugwash
I read Miles' autobiography in all of it's shocking and hysterical glory regarding his personal life. Read morePublished on December 31, 2006 by Mark
I had always been puzzled by the deification of Miles Davis. Yes, he was a good trumpet player and bandleader, but the idolization of him always baffled me. Read morePublished on August 7, 2006 by Howard Wexler
In a way this is really a review of some of the prior reviews, above; it's odd that so much bad writing on popular music and jazz gets so highly praised, and yet when a book of the... Read morePublished on June 9, 2006 by Allen Lowe
Yale jazz historian Szwed established his credentials with an excellent biography of jazz eccentric Sun Ra (Space Is the Place: The Life and Times of Sun Ra ). Read morePublished on January 29, 2006 by David Keymer
I've read most every book about Miles Davis. So I don't know why I was expecting to learn many new things from this book. Read morePublished on March 12, 2003 by Drak
Even though Szwed captures Miles Davis in a brutally honest light, it is easy to appreciate the co0llective work and capability that Miles Davis excercised during his lifetime. Read morePublished on February 3, 2003 by Amazon Customer