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Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever Farah Jasmine Griffin and Salim Washington Hardcover; 304 pages ISBN: 0312327854 Thomas Dunne Books 2008
Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever is an in-depth exploration of the music made by two jazz icons, trumpeter Davis and saxophonist Coltrane: the recordings they made both together and separately and the ways each man influenced the other and the world.
While the authors Farah Jasmine Griffin and Salim Washington touch upon the personal lives and development of both men, their music is the main focus of the book. We receive exhaustive analyses of classic recordings such as Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959) and Milestones (Columbia, 1958).
The musical jargon that Griffin and Washington employ might scare away readers who are not musicians, but they do include a glossary to explain the terminology. For musicians, there is much here to digest and enjoy. The styles of Coltrane and Davis are studied in exacting detail and, although the authors are obviously ardent fans of the two men, they don't shy away from discussing the negative critiques both musicians, especially Coltrane, faced throughout their careers.
The musical ascension of Coltrane is perhaps the most interesting and inspiring case study. Griffin and Washington remind the reader that Coltrane didn't start out his career as a trailblazer. We get to see his transformation from talented sideman to iconic visionary, witnessing his spiritual awakening once he conquers his addictions, and his subsequent discipline to his instrument.
This is a well-written, informative book. Because of the technical nature of the material, it is best suited to musicians. Clawing at the Limits of Cool is wonderful for the musician who seeks a greater understanding of the legacies of two of jazz's most important figures.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.