Miles Kington

A Musician Who is Blacker Than Most

Miles: The Autobiography

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Macmillan 400pp £13.95 order from our bookshop

A History of Jazz in Britain, 1950–1970

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Quartet 339pp £20 order from our bookshop

Miles Davis came into the New York jazz scene as World War II ended, at a time when Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were playing faster, higher and better than anyone ever had in jazz, or was ever likely to. So Davis settled, in his trumpet playing, for exploring the middle registers and more melancholy moods that Gillespie ignored. In a sense, his whole career has been based on changes like that – leaving what he was doing and searching for something new, something unexplored. It is very rare in jazz to change and experiment; you either stick to your style all your life or die young, leaving a question mark behind. Only Duke Ellington, apart from Miles, has really gone on changing all his life, but Davis has done it even more recklessly, to the point that he now feels he has left jazz behind (‘a museum music’, he calls it) and won’t recruit players from the jazz field.

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