Miles Davis: Dark Prince


Miles Davis is to jazz as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, The Sex Pistols and Eminem – all rolled into one – are to popular music! Not only was he the most famous jazz musician, but he was also the most successful whilst he was alive. Miles Davis’s accomplishments are astonishing. In his late teens he joined the bebop revolution at its height. He then became the leader of a new style of jazz music known as ‘The Cool.’ From 1955-61 he formed a band that made John Coltrane a star. From 1957 he began to introduce a new style of jazz based on modes, which moved away from the usual European harmonic scales. In 1959 he made what is hailed as the greatest jazz record of all, Kind of Blue. From 1957-61 he made three records that had a great impact in the jazz world, Miles Ahead (1957), Porgy and Bess (1959) and Sketches of Spain (1961). From 1963-68 he formed the ‘Second Great Quintet’ which moved jazz to a new level of high art. Then, to everyone’s surprise, he transformed his own music into a further new form called jazz-rock fusion, which used electronic instruments and embraced elements of rock music. For a time, he retired totally from music, but then  returned to full musical activity, recording and touring with bands of young musicians, until his death. This record is very impressive by any standards, but the sheer facts alone of a career spanning six decades are entirely inadequate to obtain any kind of explanation or understanding. The Miles Davis history is often overshadowed by his mysterious and complex personality. Many would argue that his contributions to music would have been much diminished if it were not for the total integration of his personality into his work. After all, Miles Davis really did live and die for his music. This book reviews Miles Davis’s recorded works and includes an extensive discography.

Miles Davis: Dark Prince by Ken Trethewey

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Extract from Miles Davis: Dark Prince (2011) by Ken Trethewey:

New York, 1944. Straight, geometric roads, a tapestry on the loom of Manhattan Island. A dark, monochrome city of colourful characters. Positives and negatives. White men in black suits and black men in white suits. Of noise, of smoke, of artifice. Wealth and sleaze. People on the edge of the law: shady men in shady alleys. Awesome, fearsome, double-dealings and double-cross. The busiest and most dynamic city in the world. According to some, the city never sleeps, an attribute due in no small measure to the activities of its jazz musicians. Jazz musicians. A unique species living in a time warp. Rise after noon. Play nine ‘til two; jam two ‘til six. Eat, sleep. A life spent mostly in darkness. Heart abuse from appalling diet; brain and system abuse from drugs; liver abuse from alcohol. A jazz musician was a dead man blowing, alive in ways most of us can never understand.