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So What: The Life of Miles Davis
So What: The Life of Miles Davis
by John F. Szwed
Edition: Hardcover
50 used & new from $3.88

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Prince of Darkness Deconstructed, December 28, 2002
I did not particularly like John Szwed's new biography of Miles Davis. His prose is stolid. His analysis of Miles' music is, at best, pedestrian. His presentation of the milieu in which jazz musicians work and create strikes me as disembodied and rather off-key. Still, this is probably the first book you should read if you are interested in the life of Miles Davis the man. (If his music is your primary concern, consult the bios by Jack Chambers, Ian Carr, and Paul Tingen for analysis of his early, middle, and late (electric) periods respectively.)
All the main events of Davis' life are touched on in a concise, workmanlike fashion. His family and financial problems are outlined in considerable detail and, while hardly edifying, will nevertheless be of interest to many fans. Szwed does do a superb job throughout of deconstructing and explaining the creation and maintenance of Miles' public persona. And it is indeed a persona worth deconstructing. No personality in the history of jazz so permeates the modern jazz sensibility and so seduces the imagination of its enthusiasts as does the great (and wicked) Mr. Davis. In the end, though, Szwed seems just as flummoxed as other commentators in grasping (much less explaining) precisely why Miles Davis came to be one of the towering figures in 20th century music.

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