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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miles Ahead’, 19 May 2016

Miles Ahead 
directed by Don Cheadle.
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... The places​ were Philadelphia and New York, the names were John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans and a few others, heirs to Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, spoken of with awe in every version of the story. Something called West Coast jazz, thought by many to be an oxymoron, was making itself heard in the persons of Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Shelly Manne and Dave Brubeck ...

Diary

Eric Hobsbawm: My Days as a Jazz Critic, 27 May 2010

... British musicians who played and formed the only real public for ‘modern’ jazz before Miles Davis began to make his impact. Writing about jazz in the 1950s meant, basically, trying to understand or at least come to terms with bebop (even the passionate jazz-conservative Philip Larkin eventually felt he had to make a gesture in this ...

Got to keep moving

Jeremy Harding, 24 May 1990

Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-War Pop 
by Charles Shaar Murray.
Faber, 247 pp., £7.99, November 1989, 0 571 14936 7
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Autobiography 
by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe.
Macmillan, 400 pp., £13.95, February 1990, 0 333 53195 7
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... music could have explored’. Further support for his case can be adduced from the fact that Miles Davis and Hendrix were playing and hanging out together a year before Hendrix’s death. There were hopes that the two men would make a recording, but it never happened. In his recent Autobiography, however, Davis is ...

Diary

Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman, 16 July 2015

... as one of his rivals told me. The trumpeter Roy Eldridge thought he was ‘jiving’. Miles Davis called him ‘all screwed up inside’, and wrote in his autobiography that Coleman ‘just came and fucked up everybody’.Coleman wasn’t the only jazz musician on the scene who was looking for a way out of chord-based improvisation, or who ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Telly, 9 August 2001

... spanking, and a good many others are anecdotes about Hemingway, Dietrich, Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Miles Davis, Gregory Peck, but it’s not all like that. On 16 November 1973, Tynan read a ‘peevish and neurotic attack by John Osborne on Larry, the NT and (especially) me … He calls me a “disastrous influence” and an example of “intellectual ...

Birditis

Ian Penman: The Obsession with Charlie Parker, 23 January 2014

Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker 
by Gary Giddins.
Minnesota, revised edition, 195 pp., £15, October 2013, 978 0 8166 9041 1
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Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker 
by Stanley Crouch.
Harper, 365 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 0 06 200559 5
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Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker 
by Chuck Haddix.
Illinois, 188 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 0 252 03791 7
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... disreputable tradition in jazz of oral biography. The ‘as told to’ voice here belongs to Miles Davis, in Miles: The Autobiography, first published in 1989 and officially attributed to ‘Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe’ (see also Lady Sings the Blues by ‘Billie ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Breathless’, 22 July 2010

Breathless 
directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
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... work in the use of jazz in film: Louis Malle’s Lift to the Scaffold, with its impeccable Miles Davis track, was only two years old. And our memories may not have followed very closely the life of the word dégueulasse in the film. A young woman uses it of Belmondo early in the film, and she means something like rotten and crooked as well as ...

At the Malin Gallery

Adam Shatz: Oliver Lee Jackson, 5 March 2020

... paintings achieve something like the same effect as the silences in a piece by Thelonious Monk or Miles Davis. (His use of white stands in striking contrast to the exploration of black in the work of many African American painters, including Kerry James Marshall and Glenn Ligon.) The centre of Painting (11.30.92), an enormous mixed media work on ...

Pwaise the wabbit

Claudia Johnson, 1 August 1996

Chuck Jones: A Flurry of Drawings 
by Hugh Kenner.
California, 114 pp., £12, September 1994, 0 520 08797 6
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... Press with the intention of celebrating American creativity. Books about Toni Morrison and Miles Davis will strike no one as unusual, although the volumes on Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, and Mabel McKay, a native American medicine woman, were less conventional. Chuck Jones falls somewhere in between. Until he won the Oscar this year ...

Love, Lucia

Lucia Berlin: Letters to August Kleinzahler, 4 August 2005

... helping words are missing, or who knows what I do? And all this time I thought it was Style! * Miles Davis: ‘Those dark Arkansas roads. That is the sound I’m after.’ Turner and Caravaggio are the painters that please me, but Bacon and Alice Neal’s portraits speak to me as a writer. I read their portraits like novels or poems. More than anyone ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miami Vice’, 17 August 2006

Miami Vice 
directed by Michael Mann.
August 2006
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... videos, an effect enhanced by guest appearances from Phil Collins, Willie Nelson, Little Richard, Miles Davis and many others. But the other, complementary theory of the series’ origin names a news story about vice cops using repossessed goods as a glossy cover for their assumed criminal characters. This is why Don Johnson drives a Ferrari and has two ...

Play hard

Dave Haslam, 20 October 1994

The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music 1972-93 
by Nick Kent.
Penguin, 338 pp., £9.99, May 1994, 0 14 023046 7
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... culture, he doesn’t hide the fact that sustained drug use turns geniuses into cabbages. Miles Davis fights a ‘debilitating’ drug habit; Shane McGowan falls apart under the influence of amphetamines and alcohol; David Crosby and Stephen Stills are ‘too coked-up all the time’ to keep their band together; and – playing in front of a ...

Even If You Have to Starve

Ian Penman: Mod v. Trad, 29 August 2013

Mod: A Very British Style 
by Richard Weight.
Bodley Head, 478 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 224 07391 2
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... In a lovely 1963 piece on Miles Davis, Kenneth Tynan quoted Cocteau to illuminate the art of his ‘discreet, elliptical’ subject: Davis was one of those 20th-century artists who had found ‘a simple way of saying very complicated things’. Jump to 1966 and the meatier, beatier sound of a UK Top 20 hit, the Who’s ‘Substitute’, a vexed, stuttering anti-manifesto, with its self-accusatory boast: ‘The simple things you see are all complicated!’ You couldn’t find two more different musical cries: Davis’s liquid tone is hurt, steely, recessive, where Townshend’s is upfront, impatient, hectoring ...

Flirting with Dissolution

Mark Ford: August Kleinzahler, 5 April 2001

Live from the Hong Kong Nile Club: Poems 1975-90 
by August Kleinzahler.
Faber, 82 pp., £8.99, September 2000, 0 571 20428 7
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... strip, is better, on summer evenings, than the ‘Marin hills at dusk/lavender and gold/stretching miles to the sea’. ‘Indian Summer Night: The Haight’ juxtaposes various distant street noises – a growling bus, a stand-up comic performing in a nearby café, gusts of laughter – with a childhood memory from Fort Lee: The summer my sister worked at ...

Remember the Yak

Michael Robbins: John Ashbery, 9 September 2010

Planisphere 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £12.95, December 2009, 978 1 84777 089 9
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... shift is about to end. When asked at a White House dinner what he’d done to be invited, Miles Davis supposedly said: ‘Well, I’ve changed music five or six times.’ I don’t know exactly how many times John Ashbery has changed poetry, but it’s enough to earn him the right to spin his wheels a little in his old age. They’re charming ...

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