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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miles​ Ahead’

18 May 2016
Miles​ Ahead 
directed by Don Cheadle.
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... The places​ were Philadelphia and New York, the names were John Coltrane, MilesDavis, 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 ...


Eric Hobsbawm: My Days as a Jazz Critic

27 May 2010
... who developed an enthusiasm for the music in the 1930s and 1940s, and the small corps of serious professional British musicians who played and formed the only real public for ‘modern’ jazz before MilesDavis 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 ...

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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by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe.
Macmillan, 400 pp., £13.95, February 1990, 0 333 53195 7
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... these arrangements ‘a gorgeously tantalising vision of one of the many possible futures Hendrix’s music could have explored’. Further support for his case can be adduced from the fact that MilesDavis 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 ...


Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman

15 July 2015
... musicians who considered him a musical primitive, if a shrewd one who knew how to ‘manipulate perceptions’, as one of his rivals told me. The trumpeter Roy Eldridge thought he was ‘jiving’. MilesDavis 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 ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Telly

9 August 2001
... a padlock and key) is a pamphlet of highlights. A good many of the selected entries concern spanking, and a good many others are anecdotes about Hemingway, Dietrich, Olivier, Vivien Leigh, MilesDavis, 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 ...


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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... of the taxi with us. He’d done already shot up a lot of heroin and now – There is a long and slightly disreputable tradition in jazz of oral biography. The ‘as told to’ voice here belongs to MilesDavis, in Miles: The Autobiography, first published in 1989 and officially attributed to ‘MilesDavis with Quincy Troupe’ (see also Lady Sings the Blues by ‘Billie Holiday with William Duffy ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Breathless’

22 July 2010
directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
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... started up, but which was not part of my immediate conscious memory of the movie. This was still pioneering work in the use of jazz in film: Louis Malle’s Lift to the Scaffold, with its impeccable MilesDavis 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 ...

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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... to the ‘Portraits of American Genius’ series launched two years ago by the University of California Press with the intention of celebrating American creativity. Books about Toni Morrison and MilesDavis 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 ...

Love, Lucia

Lucia Berlin: Letters to August Kleinzahler

4 August 2005
... So here is the key for your article. I can’t write a proper sentence! Either verbs or nouns or those helping words are missing, or who knows what I do? And all this time I thought it was Style! * MilesDavis: ‘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 ...

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 MilesDavis, 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 ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miami Vice’

17 August 2006
Miami Vice 
directed by Michael Mann.
August 2006
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... from a studio memo that read simply ‘MTV cops’, and certainly the episodes often look like music videos, an effect enhanced by guest appearances from Phil Collins, Willie Nelson, Little Richard, MilesDavis 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 ...

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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... of poems also cross-cut from coast to coast. The air outside Shop-Rite Liquor, on a gritty Jersey 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 ...

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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... much Kent believes that drugs fuel the creativity of musicians, or underpin their revolt against mainstream culture, he doesn’t hide the fact that sustained drug use turns geniuses into cabbages. MilesDavis 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 ...

Remember the Yak

Michael Robbins: John Ashbery

9 September 2010
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £12.95, December 2009, 978 1 84777 089 9
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... in poem after poem, for ‘Living is a meatloaf sandwich./I had a good time up there,’ and the waitress’s shift is about to end. When asked at a White House dinner what he’d done to be invited, MilesDavis 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 ...

The Power of Sunshine

Alexander Cockburn

10 January 1991
City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 462 pp., £18.95, November 1990, 0 86091 303 1
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... sunsets one can see from Interstate 15, looking west towards Pomona, have a sepulchral flush to them as the red light filters through the foul air rolling towards Riverside and the desert seventy miles east of the Pacific. And when the Santa Ana winds blow the other way and clean out the whole basin there’s nothing warm in the colour tones even then, just an eerie depth of field so clear ...

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