The Unassailable Miles Davis, or, To Know Him Is To Love Him

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
Now that Miles Davis 70s fusion work has been critically rehablitated (and then some), does it seem fair to say he is the only musical force loved by everyone who pays attention? Have you ever heard of anybody who likes jazz but doesn't like Miles Davis? At least one of his phases, anyway (even Crouch/Mars. like the early stuff). What is it about Miles that makes him so great? And does anyone want to offer thoughts on his 80s output?

Mark, Wednesday, 15 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I take it you didn't see Uncut magazine this month, in which Miles Davis was the sacred cow of the month. Went on about how much he got credit for others work and stuff, loathed his own race etc. I couldn't tell whether the writer was just playing devil's advocate or really believed it.

Nick, Wednesday, 15 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Even UNCUT though didn't go as far as to say the records were bad, though - just that the records were good for reasons pretty much unrelated to Miles. I have no idea whether this theory holds any water or not NB and will continue to listen to my Davis albums with pleasure.

Tom, Wednesday, 15 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Loathed his own race?? Didn't detect any of that while reading the autobiography!

As far as his 80's output, it's not his greatest work, but check out "Aura".

Sean, Wednesday, 15 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I don't like modern jazz. At all.

Bill, Wednesday, 15 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

His last album Doo-bop, was an interesting trip into acid jazz .. i'll give him this , he never put out the same album twice

scott, Wednesday, 15 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

What made Miles so great was that he didn't give a fuck.

David, Wednesday, 15 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

i like some jazz. i have hated everything i've heard by miles davis, which includes kind of blue, bitches' brew, and in a silent way.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 15 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Sundar - Out of curiosity, what is some jazz you do like? This might help me figure this one out.

Maybe Miles is so great because of what Scott said -- he never made the same record twice (this could be going a bit far, though -- those mid-50s Presige albums are all pretty similar. All very good, too.) If you like lyricism, you got the Presige records, if you like sophisitcated arrangements, there's Sketchs & Miles Ahead, if you like funk, there's On The Corner, etc. He's the Neil Young of the jazz world, only Miles was such a major talent he could do all these things well.

Mark, Wednesday, 15 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I have no idea what makes Miles so great, unless you wanted to pick it apart with all sort of musical theory, which I've never thought is any kind of barometer for capturing that special, etheral quality that makes someone "great" anyway. He's an avatar, to me; Miles dripped *music* from every pore. There are people like that out there - not many, mind you - where everything they do has a music and a poetry to it. He was a bastard, a junkie, and an abusive spouse and lover. This is not up for debate. But I know few great aritsts who *weren't* one of those things, sadly. And he's dead now anyway, so it's all just water under the bridge at this point. The 70s stuff was just as brutal and uncompromising in its way as any free jazz (and they certainly gained him no larger of an audience to call it sell out. He probably made more playing "My Funny Valeninte" then he ever would with "Theme From Jack Johnson.") And people forget what a really great fucking horn player he was; it wasn't just the compositions, the bands, the was everything. I'm moving dangerously close to gushing fanboy mode here, so I'm gonna cut it short. As for his 80s work, I can't comment because I've never heard it. I will say that if his previously reviled 70s work can be reformed, I'm sure the same is already underway for his 80s stuff.

Jess, Thursday, 16 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Bill - why not?

Sundar - could you elaborate on that hatred a little, or are you just trying to play Devil's Advocate? I seem to remember a certain Kraftwerk thread in which you assumed the very same role... ;-)

Clarke B., Thursday, 16 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

'Jack Johnson' aside, I've never been able to get into the 70s stuff, but the Williams-Hancock-Shorter Quintet - wow! Endless repeat plays for those ones.

dave q, Thursday, 16 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I'm with Jess, I have no idea why Miles Davis is so great. And I hope i'll never find out. What I do know is that his post-In A Silent Way albums never bore me, they always sound new, somehow, even if you've been playing them for 10 years.

Now: the Neil Young of jazz? I don't think so! That would mean he never changed his style ;)

Omar, Thursday, 16 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Clarke - I think it's to do with the fact that what I've heard never has any tune and I was bought up on musicals/fred astaire films, which, if they featured jazz, had nice melodies. I'm not in any way opposed to experimentation, but I just won't listen to modern jazz as I've never heard any that I liked. It's the equivalent of only liking pictures cause they look 'nice', I suppose, no matter how much of a crappy daub they are.


Bill, Thursday, 16 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Tom, they did slag off some of the records. Didn't they say 'Kind of Blue' set the blueprint for BBC2 incidental music of the worst kind or something?

Nick, Thursday, 16 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

coltrane's interstellar space is my favourite jazz album. after that would probably come free jazz. i like other ornette coleman like "lonely woman" also. i like cecil taylor and some sun ra, though i don't know much about sun ra, and local free jazz group rake a lot.

free stuff aside, i love ed bickert's sound and playing, though he often works with lame musicians or plays on lame pieces. i even remember quite enjoying some cbc concerts by oliver jones and marian mcpartland, though i don't play them much. i've even liked some lenny breau, though again it's not something i play much and it was a long time ago that i liked it.

going back, i've liked things by dizzy gillespie, as well as duke ellington. some django reinhardt even - i think i just like guitarists. but i'll be honest - it's the free records that i pull out.

i've just been unable to listen to kind of blue without wanting to pass out by the third track or so. (outkast's aquemini, comparably, takes maybe six tracks. but it has shorter tracks, i think.) i'm not sure i can really elaborate much further without having the cd around to play. it just didn't grab or retain my interest. didn't seem like anything more than "pleasant," "tasteful," and "perfectly executed." my friend (who likes the album) once described it as "almost like ambient music," which goes a long way towards explaining things for me.

my dislike for bb and iasw comes partly from my distaste for john mclaughlin's noodling. and the laid-back wing-tip funk keyboards just aren't to my taste. i have no interest in herbie hancock or chick corea. i didn't think the rock side of md's jazz- rock fusions was cream-of-the-crop rock at all.

i don't think i quite hated round about midnight but i couldn't imagine wanting to hear it either.

clarke: what are you referring to? i really liked the mix, didn't care that much for radio-activity, liked some other things i'd heard from trans-europe express. i don't think i have ever said otherwise. outside of ilm, it has hardly been my experience that kraftwerk is so universally and uncritically acclaimed. do you think i pine away at night, secretly regretting that i sold radio-activity two years ago?

sundar subramanian, Thursday, 16 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Sundar, you should certainly check out some of Miles' more "out there" stuff as well - _Dark Magus_ and _Get Up With It_ are two I'd strongly recommend. Worlds away from _Kind of Blue_ (though that was one of the first jazz albums I fell in love with).

... do you think i pine away at night, secretly regretting that i sold radio-activity two years ago?

Well I should certainly hope so!

Clarke B., Friday, 17 August 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

nine years pass...

This is probably my favorite piece of music writing ever:

dirty *plop* (The Reverend), Friday, 17 December 2010 14:10 (twelve years ago) link

All I’m trying to say, really, is that most boutique customers should be lined up before a firing squad at dawn and that there should be a minute of silence to thank God for the existence of people like Miles Davis

There is something beautiful about this sentence.

Ned Raggett, Friday, 17 December 2010 15:20 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

US Postal Service to issue Miles Davis stamp

And it's the cover of Jack Johnson!

Let A Man Come In And Do The Cop Porn (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 26 January 2012 18:49 (eleven years ago) link


lag∞n affiliated (The Reverend), Thursday, 26 January 2012 22:19 (eleven years ago) link

I will buy these stamps!

sleeve, Thursday, 26 January 2012 22:42 (eleven years ago) link

WTF challops shit was I on??

EveningStar (Sund4r), Thursday, 26 January 2012 23:22 (eleven years ago) link

six months pass...

And I just saw Stanley Crouch run down there with a can of WD-40.

Choogle Image Search (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 17 August 2012 22:09 (ten years ago) link

Always glad to be reminded of "The Warlord Of The Weejuns"

Vagelis (The Reverend), Saturday, 18 August 2012 06:07 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

Don Cheadle is playing Miles in a new movie

Dreamland, Tuesday, 8 July 2014 08:04 (eight years ago) link

way too much muscle imo, unless it's a miles superhero movie

john wahey (NickB), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 09:35 (eight years ago) link

And especially because the movie centers around his coke-heavy never-leaving-the-house non-playing years. Don Cheadle's Miles weighs about triple what Miles did during that time.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 12:10 (eight years ago) link


Οὖτις, Tuesday, 8 July 2014 15:55 (eight years ago) link

i also heard that wayne shorter was now taller instead

john wahey (NickB), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 16:05 (eight years ago) link

miles davis: the man with the brawn

john wahey (NickB), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 16:07 (eight years ago) link

i guess setting it in the late '70s is a good way to get around the whole 'filming realistic performances' thing. although they could just have him play with his back to the camera.

festival culture (Jordan), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 16:20 (eight years ago) link

Don Cheadle learned to play trumpet:

With the music—I know you mentioned that you play the saxophone—will you be playing the trumpet in the movie?

You will? You’ll be playing his songs yourself?
No. I’m not going to be, we’re going to be using Miles Davis playing. [Laughs] We’re not going to do a movie with the rights to his music and not have him playing.

We’re going to use his recordings. I’ve learned how to play. There will be elements of me playing the movie but when it comes to the pieces that are Miles Davis playing, it will be Miles Davis.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 16:27 (eight years ago) link

Good to read that it'll mostly focus on the intense gym routines he enjoyed in his later years and will heavily feature music from his early albums Workin', Steamin', Liftin' and Pumpin'.

john wahey (NickB), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 16:39 (eight years ago) link

Not to mention Stretches of Spain.

john wahey (NickB), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 16:39 (eight years ago) link

Kind of blew out my arms during that epic lift sesh

LIKE If you are against racism (omar little), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 16:41 (eight years ago) link

The idea of a miles biopic that concentrates exclusively on 1975-1979 is amazing. No flashbacks, just a dark house and occasional visits from Herbie Hancock and Lester Bowie.

you guys are tripping. Miles used to box

rap steve gadd (D-40), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 16:46 (eight years ago) link

he def had biceps.

also this must be based on eric nisiensen's stories, in part.

this was the first Miles bio I read .. he used to hang out w/ Miles all the time during that era

rap steve gadd (D-40), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 16:47 (eight years ago) link

Actually, that photo is from somewhere around 1989-90; it's from the same photo session that yielded the album cover of Doo-Bop, which was released in 1991. This is a picture of Miles in the late '60s/early '70s:

Humorist (horse) (誤訳侮辱), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 17:03 (eight years ago) link

Based on the sunglasses, I'd guess that photo is '73/'74; he's wearing the same glasses on the cover of Get Up With It.

Humorist (horse) (誤訳侮辱), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 17:04 (eight years ago) link

lol thought he looked old, Google lied to me

Daphnis Celesta, Tuesday, 8 July 2014 17:04 (eight years ago) link

i guess he does have muscles on the cover of jack johnson too, but he sure looks like a skinny motherfucker in a bunch of photos from later in the decade

john wahey (NickB), Tuesday, 8 July 2014 17:11 (eight years ago) link

ok fuck this biopic shit and let's change the subject:

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 8 July 2014 17:43 (eight years ago) link

I ran across this at my local library:
MD Quintet live in Europe 1969.

It is as awesome as you would expect with generally good-to-very-good sounding recordings.
Also the dvd is a nice bonus.

one year passes...


tylerw, Thursday, 6 August 2015 15:18 (seven years ago) link

who is spc

marcos, Thursday, 6 August 2015 15:23 (seven years ago) link

To the jazz cognoscenti, Miles Davis’s peak playing years were when he was playing with Charlie Parker right up to when he made the series of recordings collated under the title “Birth of the Cool”.

Peak snobbery.

― Austin, Thursday, June 23, 2016 11:22 PM (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

lol yea it took some effort for me to read past that first line, i was just like "wha?????"

marcos, Friday, 24 June 2016 14:12 (six years ago) link

like what jazz cognoscenti

marcos, Friday, 24 June 2016 14:12 (six years ago) link

second great quintet pretty universally adored too right

wasn't that era wynton marsalis's greatest inspiration

marcos, Friday, 24 June 2016 14:14 (six years ago) link

It seems like in the last 10-15 years even most people who hated the electric period either died or went into hiding. But I've literally never heard anyone suggest that he peaked at BOTC.

socka flocka-jones (man alive), Friday, 24 June 2016 14:45 (six years ago) link

three years pass...

The Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool documentary on BBC2 tonight. A++

Psychedics with Rosie Swash (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 14 March 2020 22:45 (three years ago) link

Also now on Netflix in North America btw.

everything, Sunday, 15 March 2020 00:51 (three years ago) link

yes it was good. horrific stuff with his wife. i didn't realise she was going to be in the west side story movie.

made me want to hang out with lenny white. 'and it just moved, like an amoeba... every now and again something sticking out, just all moving along together'

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Sunday, 15 March 2020 01:37 (three years ago) link

I ffwd through most of this tbh

Οὖτις, Sunday, 15 March 2020 01:43 (three years ago) link

not much there that was new but i ate up actually seeing everyone tell those stories.

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Sunday, 15 March 2020 01:46 (three years ago) link

Missed this, but may still be on and/or re-broadcast for fundraisers etc.:

American Masters, starting Tues.:
Discover the man behind the legend. With full access to the Miles Davis Estate, the film features never-before-seen footage, including studio outtakes from his recording sessions, rare photos and new interviews.

― dow, Saturday, February 22, 2020

dow, Sunday, 15 March 2020 02:00 (three years ago) link

This was pretty boilerplate but a fun watch. The “never-before-seen/heard” stuff wasn’t a big deal imo. Like abt 98% of music docs, I just wished it had more actual uninterrupted music and performance.

turn the jawhatthefuckever on (One Eye Open), Sunday, 15 March 2020 03:58 (three years ago) link


Οὖτις, Sunday, 15 March 2020 04:02 (three years ago) link

Carlos Santana was funny

Psychedics with Rosie Swash (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 15 March 2020 08:33 (three years ago) link

Was that West Side Story thing movie or Broadway show? I think film was a translation of a theatre thing to the screen.
Yeah, seriously nasty. Glad she was around to tell the tale. Her and Juliette Greco.

I think I'd seen most of the performance video stuff cos a lot of its been around on bootleg for the last decade at least.
Not sure about the 'In Performance ' set they used to illustrate On The Corner with the Indian percussion stuff.
& I think they used a clip of the band around 1969 with Dave Holland on electric bass to illustrate something a bit later. But not sure.

Quite enjoyed it though.

& had just caught a Fairport Convention doc on Sky Arts before that was mainly good. Missed the start though.
Also saw that ZZ Top Little Old Band From Texas thing on Sky Arts the night before. So great week for biodocs.

Stevolende, Sunday, 15 March 2020 09:39 (three years ago) link

I liked when Stanley Crouch was like “it just didn’t sound good

turn the jawhatthefuckever on (One Eye Open), Sunday, 15 March 2020 14:39 (three years ago) link

Wasn’t surprised to hear Crouch say that. Although some of the stuff in the doc I wasn’t that familiar with, so it was worth seeing for me.

curmudgeon, Sunday, 15 March 2020 17:35 (three years ago) link

Crouch is right. It didnt sound good, it sounded AMAZING

Οὖτις, Sunday, 15 March 2020 18:48 (three years ago) link

one month passes...

go tell that shit to your new leader, Sting

justice 4 CCR (Sparkle Motion), Wednesday, 15 April 2020 22:24 (two years ago) link

All the Complete sessions are being reissued and are available from his store:

I'm mulling over "The Complete On The Corner Sessions".

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Wednesday, 15 April 2020 22:55 (two years ago) link

They gotta reissue the trumpet case!

The Mandymoorian (Whiney G. Weingarten), Wednesday, 15 April 2020 23:29 (two years ago) link

i’m mulling over a “bitches brew” 50th anniversary coffee mug

budo jeru, Wednesday, 15 April 2020 23:39 (two years ago) link

the tshirt with the sketches of spain graphic is tite

brimstead, Wednesday, 15 April 2020 23:40 (two years ago) link

I need physical copies of the 1965-68 quintet box and the In A Silent Way Sessions box. Thanks for the tip!

but also fuck you (unperson), Wednesday, 15 April 2020 23:54 (two years ago) link

suprised they don't have VOTE FOR MILES shirts or buttons

justice 4 CCR (Sparkle Motion), Thursday, 16 April 2020 00:24 (two years ago) link

All the Complete sessions are being reissued and are available from his store:🕸/

I'm mulling over "The Complete On The Corner Sessions".

Somehow despite being an insane fan of his mid-70s work I never got this. Even tho it’s at my local library (and I took it out) I never spent any time with this. May have to purchase assuming it’s a limited edition.

Naive Teen Idol, Thursday, 16 April 2020 14:56 (two years ago) link

That’d be Newton Free, GMBB.

Naive Teen Idol, Thursday, 16 April 2020 14:56 (two years ago) link

Thanks for the heads up! I think I might have to get On the Corner, it's the only one I want that I don't already have. (although I'm kinda tempted to swap out my Jack Johnson set since I only have the long box version that doesn't match the others)

soaring skrrrtpeggios (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Thursday, 16 April 2020 15:16 (two years ago) link

That trumpet case is such a flex--just went through my old CD-Rs a couple nights ago and was v glad to find my burned copies on the Complete On The Corner; going to find some quarantime to put in the work

Cysteine Chapo (Craig D.), Thursday, 16 April 2020 15:21 (two years ago) link

That’d be Newton Free, GMBB.

Hah, we borrowed the same copy! I made a playlist of my favorite bonus bits from the box, still not sure I need it all, my picks:
One And One (unedited master) - not the same song!
The Hen
Mr. Foster
What They Do

It makes a perfect companion to OTC with a similar feel.

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Thursday, 16 April 2020 15:33 (two years ago) link

Thanks for the revive, this is great news. Would love to get the 65-68 box (and maybe the OTC one too).

Gavin, Leeds, Thursday, 16 April 2020 16:14 (two years ago) link

Is it all of them? I don’t see Cellar Door in there (which is another I’d consider).

Why the fuck did they wait for a global pandemic/economic meltdown to do this?

Naive Teen Idol, Thursday, 16 April 2020 19:46 (two years ago) link

no plugged nickle from what i can see

brimstead, Thursday, 16 April 2020 19:58 (two years ago) link

i just got the Bitches Brew box set last year (the long tall one). for some reason i was under the impression that OtC was the only OOP studio box? maybe just because i don't think i ever saw it in an actual physical store

brimstead, Thursday, 16 April 2020 20:00 (two years ago) link

in a silent way box i listen to all the frickin time

brimstead, Thursday, 16 April 2020 20:00 (two years ago) link

The Cellar Door and Plugged Nickel boxes have never been reissued since they came out.

The On The Corner box was the only one of the Complete ... Sessions sets they allowed to go out of print.

but also fuck you (unperson), Thursday, 16 April 2020 20:11 (two years ago) link

Yeah, I think the other ones can be picked up p easily in used CD shops across the country

The Mandymoorian (Whiney G. Weingarten), Thursday, 16 April 2020 20:14 (two years ago) link

the 65-68 second great quintet box is fantastic — though it does throw into relief how well sequenced the original albums actually were.

tylerw, Thursday, 16 April 2020 20:21 (two years ago) link

Plugged Nickel comes in 7 and 8 disc versions - the latter has an extra gig?

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Thursday, 16 April 2020 21:09 (two years ago) link

Listening to Workin' today, and it's beautiful and perfect

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 16 April 2020 21:15 (two years ago) link

Plugged Nickel comes in 7 and 8 disc versions - the latter has an extra gig?

Nope; it was a Japan-only release in 1992 and several tracks were edited by two or three minutes so that the second set would fit on a single CD. In the 8CD box, it's split across two discs.

but also fuck you (unperson), Thursday, 16 April 2020 22:04 (two years ago) link

quality discographical info, thanks

budo jeru, Friday, 17 April 2020 00:52 (two years ago) link

Is the 15% discount applying for anyone ordering one of the Complete Sessions? It's saying it's applied but I'm not seeing it deduct anything and there is a caveat that "Some exclusions may apply including media" ...

Naive Teen Idol, Friday, 17 April 2020 18:10 (two years ago) link

Welp, sounds like pre-orders aren't eligible for some reason according to the email. Boo.

Naive Teen Idol, Friday, 17 April 2020 18:22 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

Can someone help me out by identifying this woman? This is from near the end of the American Masters documentary. I need her name for something. I'm sure she's identified earlier in the film, but I don't want to rewatch the whole thing right now.

(Terribly photographed with a camera, because you can't take screenshots from Netflix.)

clemenza, Tuesday, 14 March 2023 02:26 (two weeks ago) link

Is it Frances Taylor? I feel like she was interviewed quite a bit in that.

Naive Teen Idol, Sunday, 19 March 2023 20:46 (one week ago) link

She is, but it's not her (she appears directly after that scene and is identified). I think I'll have to watch the film again--my friend, who interviewed Davis in the late '80s, wasn't sure either. They must identify her earlier in the film.

clemenza, Sunday, 19 March 2023 21:04 (one week ago) link

Marguerite Cantu

Evans on Hammond (evol j), Monday, 20 March 2023 00:11 (one week ago) link

Yes! Many thanks.

clemenza, Monday, 20 March 2023 01:54 (one week ago) link

"Bess, You Is My Woman Now," right now on local station: arrangement briefly intros Miles and then disappears, staying out of his way (thanks, Gil). Living breathing solo.

dow, Monday, 20 March 2023 02:14 (one week ago) link

Or I should say the melodic statement is the solo, and vice versa. Wow.

dow, Monday, 20 March 2023 02:16 (one week ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.