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Miles Davis And The Search for the Sound


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Miles Davis and the Search for the Sound (graphic novel)
Dave Chisholm
150 Pages
ISBN: #9798886560428
Z2 Comics

Miles Davis and the Search for the Sound could not be a more appropriate title for Dave Chisholm's altogether riveting graphic novel devoted to "The Man With The Horn." The latter spent the better part of his career literally and figuratively hunting for novel forms of music that would challenge both himself and the musicians with whom he chose to play (including such luminaries of the jazz idiom as John Coltrane and Joe Zawinul).

Graphic novelist Chisholm, who received his doctorate in Jazz Trumpet from the Eastman School of Music, devised this 150-page graphic novel in such a way its storyline follows Davis through four decades of musical innovation. And the experience of reading it quite closely mirrors hearing the music of Davis' ranging from The Birth of the Cool (Capitol, 1957), through the modal approach of Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959) then on to the expansive eclecticism of In A Silent Way (Columbia,1969), Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) and beyond.

But the author frames his narrative around Davis' recovery from a stroke in 1982, thereby allowing for the intrinsic drama that arises from his chronological back and forth to that period. Such often kaleidoscopic action, combined with the colorful figures like the musician's paramour, actress Cicely Tyson and Columbia Records label mogul Clive Davis populating the timeline(s), are reflected in the adventurous use of design and layout. Pages 88 and 89 are a microcosm of the diversity emblematic of the entire work, deep reds and blues contrasting pastel shades in such a way the pacing of pictures is altogether akin to a finely-paced musical performance.

Dave Chisholm does it all here. Writing, drawing, coloring and lettering (with color flats by Dustyn Payette), he is comparably knowledgeable about Davis' professional and personal life as well as the broader milieu of modern jazz. Accordingly, he dedicates his work to the late Wayne Shorter and has the sufficiently empathetic touch to allow the iconic trumpeter/bandleader's youngest son Erin to compose the foreword. The overall execution is as unerring as the concept is ambitious.

Restless creative soul that he was, the subject of Miles Davis and The Search for The Sound would no doubt be both proud and approving of Chisholm's work. The latter captures Davis' irascible personality in as much detail as the cultural totems of the times in which he lived—see the police incident outside the Blue Note club in 1959—the sum total of which is not only the chronicle of a once-in-a-lifetime artist but of a paradigm shift of a society.

Narration adapted from Davis' own words outlines a story in which the main character unknowingly finds himself on a quest to find a mysterious tone he once heard in his childhood. Contrary to what skeptics might avow (similar to that demographic that besmirched the work of the man in the Sixties, Seventies and beyond), the graphic novel medium is ideally suited to the task Dave Chisholm set for himself; he can clearly illustrate not only the St. Louis native's transcendence of obstacles. but also this earthly plane from which the music lifts him (and his audiences).

At once kinetic and penetrating, the combination of art and dialogue is almost as multifaceted as the music that forms its foundation. Z2 Comics and its distributor Simon & Schuster deserve more than a few kudos for the release of Miles Davis and the Search for the Sound in standard hardcover and deluxe editions. Particularly in comparison to similar configurations published in the superhero and fantasy realm, both are reasonably priced to attract genuine aficionados and the curious dilettante.

With or without using as soundtracks the extensive body of work including the powerhouse titles on Prestige Records as well as those by his two great quintets, those demographics that will no doubt savor ownership way past the holiday gift-giving season in which the piece purposefully debuts. On its own terms and for the vivid means by which it mirrors both the adventurer that was Miles Davis and his transportive, adventuresome records, Dave Chisholm's ...The Search For The Sound is an artful complement to those groundbreaking efforts.

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