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The Miles Davis Reader: Interviews and Features from DownBeat Magazine Frank Alkyer Hardcover; 356 pages ISBN: 142343076X Hal Leonard 2007
Miles Davis (1926-1991) was more than a trumpet player and bandleader. He was also well known for his outspoken personality, sometimes viewed as the epitome of an idolized jazz musician and an 'object' of obsession. Or as Frank Alkyer says in the preface to this book, "Miles made for great copy because he was fascinating, not just musically but also personally. Interestingly enough, the book starts with several entries on Miles being arrested in 1959, even though he plays on Charlie Parker records that are released and reviewed in the mid to late '40s.
Though involved with the bebop movement, it was Miles' solo on "Now's the Time (under Charlie Parker's leadership in 1945) that hearkened the Cool School. From there, it could be argued that he was the instigator of several styles of jazz: Cool, Modal, Third Stream (with Gil Evans) and Fusion. The "Blindfold Tests are some of the most interesting entries in this book. While entertaining, on a deeper level Davis' reactions to recordings played for him are an important glimpse into his musical values. Many would be surprised by some of his likes and dislikes and, beyond that, would be very interested in his observations about musicians as diverse as Clark Terry, Stan Getz, Eric Dolphy or Sacha Distel, to name a few.
Though this book is a very good one, compared to Mark Tucker's great The Duke Ellington Reader there are limitations that must be noted. All the material is exclusively from the pages of Downbeat. The Duke Ellington Reader has two indices (topical and general); The Miles Davis Reader has no index at all. So if you read an interesting comment that Miles makes on Clark Terry, for instance, you cannot cross-reference it through the book. Shortcomings aside, this a very important addition to the jazz bibliography.
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.