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Book Reviews

Electric Miles: Danger, High Voltage

By Published: March 8, 2004
Interspersed throughout, he tells Miles' story, personal troubles and triumphs, using the first-hand words of many of the people who were there, including former lovers. What is painted is a realistic portrait and a supreme artist, who, like everyone else, battled some problems. Many of those problems came from his upbringing (which, as we know, is usually the key element) by a violent mother and misogynist male influences. Others came from the pain of many serious ailments that had to be constantly soothed by painkillers — prescription and not — that eroded his patience and sometimes his reason as he embarked on his relentless pursuit of art.

There are great anecdotes from the musicians about the various recording sessions, the way they felt when they met Miles, the things they learned and events that took place on the road. It's enlightening and even fun to know the stories. There are also first- hand observations of Miles and his life that are revealing — at times warm, at times troubling.

There's even a chapter on Miles' infamous layoff period, 1975-80, which shows that there was music going on in his life, even though some accounts have him holed up and getting high. There was decadence, but the ember of creativity would still glow from time to time, and things were not always as dark as they are portrayed elsewhere.

Tingen captures with great style Miles' influence on people and music. He was a pure genius who simply saw and heard music differently, more clearly, than others, almost savant-like. The interior and not the exterior, Tingen says. The ever-changing creative process

"You can?t wait for someone to agree with what you're doing," says Corea in the book. "That?s why it's so ironic he was accused of 'selling out' when he went into this direction. But that was simply what happened around that time. Anyone who played electric instruments, and it didn't matter what he played on it, he was accused of 'not being honest' or something like that."

Says Wayne Shorter, "There's nothing mysterious about the way we put things together. There was just more courage involved. The courage to say: 'to hell with the critics.'"

This book is a must for fans of Miles, fusion and music in general. It involved, and detached, eye opening and unapologetic.

"The future is still catching up with Miles," says Tingen.

Still Miles ahead, no doubt.


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