A new arrival at the Music Library, We Want Miles: Miles Davis vs. Jazz is a comprehensive and engrossing look at the life and times of Davis and the enormous contributions he made to the world of jazz. Further, it’s a fascinating look into the era that Davis’ music sprang from, telling an important story not only in musical history but in social history as well.
The books spans the story of Davis’ career, telling the tale of his early life in St. Louis, his nights in New York clubs, and his long recording career, in which he played with many greats of his era, always exploring new styles and pushing boundaries. We’re given a tour of how Davis helped define bebop, and went on to pioneer cool jazz, hard bop and modal jazz. Later he embraced new styles like rock and jazz fusion. Interesting, unsavory, sweet, and often gritty, Davis’ story is a window on the experience and trials of life as both a black man and a jazz musician in this period.
We Want Miles is a beautiful book in and of itself, using numerous devices to capture the reader. Large vibrant photos accompany the text on almost every page, immersing the reader in the visual and historical context of the story (the book was originally published in French to accompany an exhibition by the Musée de la Musique, Paris, and The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2009-2010). Anecdotes by people who worked with or knew Davis often supplement the central narrative, which refresh the reader and give the story personal depth. The narrative is a chronology of Davis’ life told as an almost intimate story, written with all of its deserving ingredients, heat, and spice. This style whets the reader’s palate for more rather than drying it with an overly clinical style of academic writing.
In short, We Want Miles feels part biography and part ethnomusicology, a book for studying but also one for storytelling, a look at an important life in music history – jazzed up.
Music Library Open Stacks ML141 .P2C57 2010