The Last Miles - the Music Of Miles Davis 1980 - 1991
the last miles
the music of Miles Davis 1980 - 1991
a book by George Cole

published by Equinox Publishing in the UK
and University of Michigan Press in the USA
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Miles's first record label Columbia Records (now Sony Music) has released many Miles compilation albums, as well as a series of back catalogue releases that have included some superb boxed sets. Until recently, Miles's second and final record label, Warner Bros., has been more reticent about issuing Miles's compilations or rare or unreleased studio recordings. But now, Warner Music UK has just released The Very Best of Miles Davis: The Warner Bros. Sessions 1985-1991, a 15-track album that includes many of the highlights of Miles's Warner Bros. years (see my review of The Very Best of Miles Davis: The Warner Bros. Sessions 1985-1991 ).

The driving force behind the album (and the Warner Bros. Masters Series that included re-mastered versions of Tutu, Amandla, Siesta, Dingo, Doo-Bop and Live Around The World) is Florence Halfon, Jazz Catalogue Manager Warner Music UK. Florence kindly found time to explain the background to the album - and reveal some exciting news for fans of Miles's 1980s music.

Florence Halfon Can you explain what your job as jazz catalogue manager involves?

Florence Halfon: I market and oversee all jazz and world music releases. This involves exploiting Warner Music's extensive catalogue (Atlantic, Warner Bros., Elektra and Reprise labels - and more recently Gallo) by originating compilations (like the Right On! and Leopard Lounge series, People Get Ready etcetera), artist best ofs, and album reissues, like the Jazz Masters series, as well as marketing and promoting all our music.

TLM: How healthy is the jazz music scene today in your view?

FH: The last London Jazz Festival was bigger and busier than ever - I hope it continues that way.

TLM: What does the music of Miles Davis mean to you? Do you have a favourite Miles period or album?

FH: There are very few other musicians in this world whose careers span almost five decades, and who managed to reinvent their sound with such great results every time. With such a wide selection of styles and so many albums, it is difficult to definitely point out a favourite period or album. Right now, Sketches of Spain and the Gil Evans period come to mind - but I may have a different opinion next time!

TLM: Your latest release The Very Best of Miles Davis: The Warner Bros. Sessions 1985-1991 is interesting in that it's the first Miles compilation album (and there have been a few of them!) that focuses on this period. Can you explain how the project developed? Why you've released the album, whom it's aimed at and what you hope it achieves?

FH: I felt a one-CD compilation of Miles' time at Warner Bros. was very much needed. Like all best ofs, it is aimed both at people who enjoy a CD with good tunes they know and can play all the way through, as well as people who aren't very familiar with this period of his career, to give them a starting point. I hope this encourages them to explore his output for the label further.

TLM: How long did it take to put the album together?

FH: Almost a year!

TLM: How did you decide what tunes to include?

FH: I included the best-known ones, as well as the most accessible, plus a couple of rarer ones from the Warner soundtracks (Dingo and Siesta), just for good measure.

The Very Best Of Miles Davis The Warner Bros Sessions 1985 - 1991

TLM: Did you have to edit any tunes in order to make them fit on to a single CD?

FH: No, apart from a bit of applause at the end of "Summertime". I am against editing, as a general rule. Music should be left as intended by its creator.

TLM: Where there any other tunes that you wanted to include but had to leave off because of space issues?

FH: Actually, no, because we are also planning a two-CD anthology for the future.

TLM: Do you feel that this period is under-appreciated by music fans and critics?

FH: Sadly I feel it is, which is a shame. However, with time, I think people will appreciate his time at Warner a lot more.

TLM: Where you surprised by the excellent review the album received in The Guardian newspaper (four star rating)

FH: I was, and very happy too!

TLM: You're also responsible for releasing Miles's Warner Bros. albums on the Warner Bros. Masters Series. What was the idea behind this series?

FH: I felt Warner needed a strong jazz reissues series, that the public could recognise and trust. The idea was to remaster, repackage with new liner notes, and sell at a reasonable price (these are all mid price), and to include repertoire across all the labels, from the beginning (Atlantic circa 1948) to our recent time (the most recent ones being the Sphere and Jimmy Scott All The Way reissues).

TLM: Warner Bros. America had planned a four-disc set, The Last Word, that would have included Miles's official Warner albums, plus unreleased material, but it was abandoned. Are there any plans to revive this project?

FH: Watch this space. I very much hope so.

TLM: Warner Bros. has released a DVD-Audio disc of Tutu. Are there any plans for more Miles DVD-Audio titles?

FH: DVD audios are worked by Warner Vision, and not the record label. I am hoping however that in future we can create joint projects.

TLM: Are there any plans for more Miles video releases like the Miles In Paris DVD?

FH: See previous question.

TLM: Are there any plans to release "Miles and Quincy at Montreux" on DVD?

FH: Ditto

TLM: Warner Bros. has released the magnificent Complete Miles at Montreux boxed set and there was talk of a DVD boxed set. Are you aware of any plans for this?

FH: No - see above.

TLM: Do you have any further plans for your Miles catalogue?

FH: A two-CD anthology is planned for the autumn - more to be confirmed soon.

Many thanks to Florence.

Visit the Warner Jazz UK website.


You can buy The Very Best Of Miles Davis: The Warner Bros. Sessions 1985 - 1991 online from and


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‘The best Miles Davis book ever.’ Randy Hall, singer/guitarist/producer, who worked with Miles in the 1980s

‘An important book.’ Brian Priestley, co-author of ‘The Rough Guide to Jazz’, jazz pianist, critic and reviewer

‘Very moving, emotional material.’ Gordon Meltzer, Miles’s last road manager and executive producer of the ‘Doo-Bop’ album

‘George Cole’s writing, his choice of references, his descriptions of many incidents – it is all so clear and respectful, and shows a deep understanding.’ Palle Mikkelborg, composer, arranger and producer of the ‘Aura’ album

"Wow! What a great book. Finally, something that really gets it right. Thank you for capturing what was going on, the mood, everything." Adam Holzman, Miles’s keyboardist and musical director 1985-1989

"Wonderful job, congratulations! An immense amount of work must have gone into it, I can't even imagine. But it was very cool to see that era of Miles treated with the same respect as every other... someone gets it!" Benny Rietveld, Miles's bassist 1988-1990

"The book is wonderful. Congratulations for your very important contribution to the historical documentation of many [musicians] who would otherwise have been overlooked!!!!" Robert Irving III Miles’s musical director 1983-1988

"I have to say that you did a marvellous job! It brought back strong memories of that time period and answered a number of questions I had, especially the chapter on the Rubberband sessions. A brilliant job!" Patrick Murray, who worked on the road with Miles from 1986-1990 and was Miles’s concert sound mixer from 1988-1990

"It is truly an excellent body of work that literally takes a reader from hearing rumours to realising truths about the Chicago group and our collective take on the Miles Davis comeback." Glenn Burris, co-writer of "Shout"

"The most immediate impact that this book had on me was to make me listen again to Miles’ later recordings with a completely regenerated ear and this really is the reason why this book works so well and is an essential read for any true Miles Davis appreciator… you will be hard pressed to find a more inspirational read, written by a man who quite simply loves Miles Davis’ music." Mike Chadwick,

"There are large chunks of fresh material here…Fill[s] in quite a few gaps and dismisses blanket condemnations of [Miles’s] pop phase." Stephen Graham, Jazzwise

"Cole does for Miles’ late work what Ian Macdonald’s ‘Revolution In The Head’ does for The Beatles, examining each album in meticulous detail." John Lewis, Time Out

"Cole’s analysis has a meticulous, forensic character… [and] is able to bring a wealth of new information to light….This book should get people talking. It should be the first rather than the last word on an intriguing chapter of the life an extraordinarily complex artist. And Davis’s vanity would surely have loved that." Kevin Le Gendre, Independent on Sunday

"The book is beautiful. I think you did a great job on covering Miles’s life and legacy." Sid Reynolds, hip-hop producer

"GREATFUCKINJOBWITDABOOK" Foley, Miles’s lead bassist 1987-1991

"Cole’s certainly produced a fascinating book." Chris Ingham, Mojo

"As with any good musical biography, Cole had made me think again about those albums such as Siesta, You’re Under Arrest, The Man with the Horn, that are now stashed in my attic."  John Bungey, The Times

"I thought it was wonderful. It’s a very detailed look at a certain part of the career and life of Miles Davis. A lot of people didn’t pay attention to this and I’m glad that George Cole took the time to focus on these final years of Miles’s life." Easy Mo Bee, co-producer of Doo-Bop

"Many people have come to me in the past about how the "last miles" bands had been overlooked and ignored by journalists. This book is a comprehensive answer to these omissions. From my discussions with musicians from the latter years with Miles it seems pretty clear they feel some vindication as a result of this book. I thank you sincerely for telling our story. Most everything I have read is as close to my memory of how things happened as any book could hope to be. I think you've done a wonderful job." Darryl Jones, bassist with Miles 1983-85, 1986-1988

"The title is likely to send most jazzbos running, with received wisdom having handed down the rule that in the 80's Miles was only good for playing live; and half of that was just the pleasure of seeing him in person.  For a single man to take on the 400-page+ task of changing popular opinion is a very tall order indeed.  For him to make you want to actively revisit the decade in question is a near-miracle. Detailing album histories and giving final verdicts, Cole has made every effort to lay the evidence out bare.  The analysis could have been a chore were it not for the presence of first-hand interviews with all the major players, making this not just a scholarly study, but a tribute to the man himself,  And for a book such as this, you learn more about Davis that could have been expected." Jason Draper, Record Collector

"There simply hasn’t been another book published on Miles Davis, in any period that has managed to obtain the wealth of interview material and cover his recorded work and various live tours in such a complete and comprehensive fashion... Engagingly written from start to finish, filled with more facts than you’ll be able to remember first time through, The Last Miles is an essential portrait of Miles’ last decade and a strong argument that his music was both valid and perfectly in keeping with a musical philosophy that would ultimately stretch over six decades." John Kelman, All About

"We veterans of Miles’ last bands are lucky to have such a thorough and insightful look into Miles last period...I really enjoyed the book!" John Scofield, Miles's guitarist 1982-1985

"Cole has spoken to practically everyone who worked with Miles in his final decade. He has traced the evolution of each of those final albums, cut by cut, splice by splice….[Miles] comes out of Cole’s account larger, warmer and if anything even more important than ever." Brian Morton (co-writer of The Penguin Guide to Jazz), The Wire

"Through lively analyses of all Miles’ recorded work from this period and much that went unreleased, including the ‘lost’ album Rubberband, [Cole] does enough to send readers back to the original albums." Simon Evans, Choice

"... Cole is a persuasive writer: he prompted me to go and dig out albums that I'd dismissed as inconsequential and listen again with fresh ears. ...  A rewarding read" Charles Waring, Blues & Soul

"Cole takes us on an exhaustive journey deep into the heart of Miles’ late recordings…The Last Miles needs to be covered by working musicians, producers and Miles’ fans alike." Livingstone Marquis, Straight, No Chaser

" George Cole has written a book that should be required reading for anyone with a serious interest in Davis’ life and work irrespective of which period of his music you prefer. It offers a valuable insight into this most complex of personalities, and reveals a side to Miles that many may not have known existed…for this reader it has prompted a re-examination of this decade which has revealed a fascinating area of music that I had previously overlooked." Nick Lea,

"In the flurry of books since [Miles Davis's] death, none has dealt in depth with the music of this period. Music writer George Cole fills this gap. . . It is so detailed and intimate that the reader feels he is virtually living with Davis as he seeks to reinvent himself… a rich and rewarding read." Irwin Block, The Montreal Gazette

"This is a must for every Miles fan." Neal Gardner,

“A fantastic book, an amazing insight into Miles. Guy Barker, jazz trumpeter

“For Miles fans, this book is a must.” Jez Nelson, presenter BBC Radio Jazz on 3

“I really do recommend The Last Miles…it is a fine work.” John Cavanagh, presenter Radio Scotland’s Bebop to Hip-Hop

"A great book that plays a great tribute to the last years of Miles’ life.” Erik Telford, presenter Miles

"The fact of having personally interviewed all those characters...without much recall to interviews already noted and the usual anecdotes, renders "The Last Miles" as excellent...a book that certainly is seen as a work of reference."Maurizio Comandini, All About Italy

"[Cole] has written a comprehensive account of the comeback and the albums it produced...He takes the reader through each of the albums, cut by cut, examining the musical choices, the musicians and their successes...Cole's book is a valuable resource on the last 11 years of a true music legend's life."Chris Smith, Winnipeg Free Press

"I've been thoroughly enjoying your book. I'm sure it'll go a long way towards rectifying some of the negative historical appraisals of  Miles' later works that have become prevalent." Kei Akagi, keyboardist in Miles's band 1989-1990.

"Cole gives an exhaustive account of every track recorded [and, it seems, every live show] in that decade and of every one of the dozens of musicians who played on them but what's most interesting is the portrait of Miles Davis that emerges from it all. Sometimes an asshole and a bully, yes, but also a very funny guy who was a good friend to many and a mentor to even more, a man with drug problems who was more often in great pain from other maladies. Through it all, Davis was obsessed with moving his music forward with anyone who could help him do it - from Prince to Public Enemy, from Scritti Politti to a violinist he saw on Johnny Carson and hired on the spot." Rock & Rap Confidential

"I thought your book was awesome and straight to the point. To tell stories the way it really happened is nothing but the truth! Congratulations and thanks!"Ricky Wellman, Miles's drummer 1987-1991

"George Cole has made a major contribution to jazz scholarship...written over a three-year period, the degree of detail is quite astonishing and the research so extensive that it becomes possible to contradict claims made by Miles himself in his autobiography. Every track on every 1981-1991 album is discussed in length …a very valuable book.” Chris Yates, The Jazz Rag

“This book is a model of how these types of books should be…If late period Miles is in the readers’ interest, the reader should rush out and purchase this volume. It is invaluable.” Robert Iannapollo, ARSC Journal

The Last Miles was voted one of the top ten music books of 2005 by Record Collector magazine.

The Last Miles was joint winner of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections’ Best Jazz History Book 2006 award.


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the music of Miles Davis1980 to 1991 a book by George Cole
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