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It's hard to give a rating to this book. It's a very frank and open and detailed account of Davis's life. It's also troubling and frustrating. Taken on its own terms, it absolutely succeeds in what it sets out to do. Whether you come out at the end believing that Davis is a suitable subject for a biography is another story. One thing is for sure, this book is never boring.
Actually, compared with a lot of the celebrity memoirs coming out these days, there's no question Miles deserves his say. It's just distressing to see so little evidence of personal growth over the course of his lifetime.
The person who comes across in this book is someone who only ever cared about music, over and above family, friends, relationships, fans, or anything else in this world. If you were looking to find some revelation about why Miles behaved the way he did in front of an audience, it appears that he really didn't care about the audience. He was there to play, and if you were there to listen that was fine, but he wasn't there to entertain you.
As for his contradictions, sometimes I wonder if his ghostwriter (Quincey Troupe) juxtaposed them on purpose or not. Sometimes he says that music is always music, and other times he says that old music is dead. Sometimes he says that women have to be interesting, but the way he describes them suggests the opposite. Sometimes he says that he never cared about what color someone was, but most of the time he expresses a vehement hatred of white people. I have no doubt that he encountered a good deal of racism in his life, but he also seems to have gone out of his way to look for signs of it even when people were simply trying to reach out to him. Again, I have to wonder if Quincey Troupe consciously constructed those episodes to convey that.
I have to say that regardless of how Miles himself comes across, the first half of the book detailing the jazz scene in New York City in the 40s and 50s is absolutely fascinating. This is a first-person account by someone who was there and in the middle of it and connected to everyone who was anyone.
Quincey Troupe did an incredible job of putting this narrative together and making it sound like a monologue Miles could have delivered. Be forewarned that Miles uses a lot of profanity. Dion Graham does a creditable job of imitating Miles's breathy, raspy voice. There were times that I forgot it was not Miles actually speaking this book. However, this also makes it a difficult read if you're in the car or anywhere else with a lot of ambient noise.
52 of 53 people found this review helpful
"Kind of Blue" is my favorite album and has been for many years. I love Miles Davis as a musician and especially admired how he constantly reinvented himself. That's why I wanted to read this book. I was blown away. It was like having a long conversation with the man.
Besides his life (family, school, friends, etc.) this book is great as a history of jazz - the many amazing musicians he played with, how the albums came together.
Davis is one of the most blunt, no-nonsense,and does not suffer fools MF you'll ever have the pleasure to read. If you are offended by the F word - stay far away from this. Besides learning about his life and music, Miles tells in detail about drugs and sex - his own and others around him. This, and also his thoughts about racism made parts of the book very uncomfortable to listen to.
At his core. for Miles it was all about the music, but also pushing to make sure blacks got credit for what they did, and not have it taken away by whites. The man made a difference and left his mark.
Quincy Troupe did an amazing job of capturing Miles' voice in helping write the book, and Dion Graham caught Miles' throaty voice perfectly. If you love jazz, or want to hear about a unique life - read/listen to this book.
20 of 20 people found this review helpful