Miles on Miles

Various authors

Miles Davis (1926-91) was a complex character, and this collection of 28 “interviews and encounters” effectively portrays what the editors call the “myriad mirrors to his life.” It seems odd to me to produce a book like this so long after Davis’ death, and I have to wonder what the audience for it will be. Among the selections—which date from a 1957 record-company interview to three brief bits from 1998—several do stand out. Nat Hentoff’s 1958 interview finds the trumpeter dissatisfied with the practice of relying on chord changes (“The music has gotten thick.”) and shows that Davis was looking for a way out; a way he soon revealed the next year on his classic recording, Kind of Blue, which focused on modes. Davis, who hated the word “jazz” and claimed to be “cursed to change,” was noted to be a difficult interview, and there are several examples to prove it, although later in life he was more forthcoming. Among the best interviews are those by Hentoff, Leonard Feather (1972) and Peter Watrous (1989). Nick Kent (1986) provides the best description of the latter-day icon: “he looks like some hack SF moviemaker’s version of a species of ebony mutant lizard.”