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
Read reviews and praise for The Last Miles
Order your copy online
from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
a miles davis library
A new series in which I look at the books that include references to Miles’s 1980s music. I thought I’d start with five excellent books. More titles will be included in future updates. You can see Part 2 of my Miles book reviews, Part 3 of my Miles Book Reviews and Part 4 of my Miles Book Reviews as well.
Vincent Bessieres and Franck Bergerot:
This book is companion to a terrific Miles Davis exhibition held in Paris in 2009 and Montreal, in 2010. This book differs from the Paris version in being a hardback with English text. There are essays covering all of Miles's musical periods, from his early days in St Louis to his final years in 1980-1991 (the last chapter is called "Star People: Global Icon"). The text is very informative (there are also essays from guest contributors including, saxophonist Dave Liebman), but what really takes your breath away is the sheer number of amazing photos, many of them published for the first time. The photographers include Teppei Inokuchi, who was a friend of Miles. Of particular interest are his shots of Miles rehearsing at home with his comeback 1980s band, and Miles recording during the Tutu sessions.
Verdict: A fantastic book that all Miles fans should get their hands on. These books tend to go out of print fairly quickly, so don't delay in getting hold of your copy!
Ian Carr: Miles Davis – The Definitive Biography (1998)
For me, this is the best all-round book on Miles Davis, combining a well-researched biography with excellent musical analysis. No surprise really, as Ian Carr is a noted jazz trumpeter, writer, teacher and broadcaster. In 1982, Ian published Miles Davis – A Critical Biography, just at the point when Miles was returning to the music scene. Hence this radically updated version. In fact, almost half of the book’s 600 pages are devoted to the last ten years of Miles’s life, and include interviews with Paul Buckmaster, John Scofield, the late Bob Berg, Bill Evans and Palle Mikkelborg.
Sadly Ian Carr passed away in February 2009. You can read my tribute to Ian.
My verdict: If you are into Miles and his music, you should definitely get this book.
Shigeru Uchiyama: Miles Smiles (1993)
I picked up this book in Japan in the early 1990s and have never seen it since, even on rare or out of print book sites. A shame, because it’s a wonderful collection of photographs covering Miles’s Japan tours from 1981 to 1988. Not only is Shigeru Uchiyama a highly talented photographer, but he obviously gained Miles complete trust and confidence. This is clear when you see that his photographs not only cover Miles’s concerts (and Shigeru was often on-stage with the band) but they include many personal shots of Miles in his hotel room, at home in Malibu and even emerging from a swimming pool. A few of the photos from the 1981 tour are included in the booklet of the Japanese CD Miles! Miles! Miles! (see the Miles Live section for more info on Miles! Miles! Miles!)
My verdict: A wonderful photo documentary of Miles both on and off the road in the 1980s. If you ever get the chance to purchase this book, snap it up.
Availability: Out of print - you can see some more photos though on this site: whisper.co.jp/miles/
Paul Tingen: Miles Beyond: The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis 1967-1991 (2001)
Until Paul Tingen’s book came along, coverage of Miles’s electric period had been patchy at best and dismissed at worst. The strengths of this book are that Paul Tingen is an enthusiast for Miles’s electric music, and he has gone out his way to find and interview as many Miles associates as he could - there are almost 50 interviews. As a result, there is a vast tranche of new material, combined with lots of critical insights into Miles’s music. Miles’s associates from the 1980s who are interviewed include: George Duke, Robert Irving III, Mino Cinelu, Darryl Jones, Marcus Miller, Jason Miles, Mike Stern, John Scofield, Ricky Wellman, Benny Rietveld, Marilyn Mazur, Paul Buckmaster, the late Bob Berg, Vince Wilburn Jr, Teo Macero, road manager Jim Rose, manager Peter Shukat, Miles’s partner Jo Gelbard, and Miles’s youngest son, Erin. There is also a fantastic sessionography by Enrico Merlin, one of the world’s leading Miles Davis discographers. I don’t always agree with Paul’s assessments of Miles’s 1980s music, but this is a highly informative and thought-provoking book.
My verdict: An essential purchase for anyone even remotely interested in Miles’s electric music.
Availability: Hard to believe that this book is out of print – madness! The good news is that you can order a signed copy direct from Paul Tingen’s website www.miles-beyond.com Snap up a copy while you can!
Jan Lohmann: The Sound of Miles Davis – The Discography A Listing of Records and Tapes 1945-1991 (1992)
Jan Lohmann, along with Peter Losin and Enrico Merlin, is one of the foremost authorities on the music of Miles Davis. The Sound of Miles Davis lists Miles's recording sessions, live performances, TV and radio appearances, guest appearances and more from throughout his career. It includes dates, locations, musicians and more. Jan’s work is so comprehensive that the information he provides is often used by official (and unofficial) record labels.
My verdict: A superb discography. This book is a treasure trove of information and there’s hardly week when I don’t take it down from my bookshelf and leaf through it.
Availability: Sadly, out of print but Jan keeps promising to publish a second edition! See also his website www.jan-lohmann.com/
Frank Alkyer (ed) The Miles Davis Reader (2007)
In this book, DownBeat magazine has assembled material it published related to Miles Davis and covers sixty years – the first piece was published in 1946 and the last, in 2006. There are news items, reviews, interviews and features, all arranged in sections in chronological order. Almost every new album Miles released in the 1980s is reviewed and it’s fascinating to see how these albums were first received. There are interviews by Howard Mandel and John Ephland from the 1980s, plus a great feature published after Miles’s death, which interviews a number of Miles’s sidemen from the 1980s – including Marcus Miller, Kei Akagi, Adam Holzman, Foley, Rick Margitza and Vince Wilburn Jr – they talk about what it was like to play with Miles.
My verdict: A superb Miles Davis resource, whatever period of Miles’s music you’re into.
praise for The Last Miles
‘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, Milesís 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, Ejazz.fm
"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 Jazz.com
"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, Jazzviews.co.uk
"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, Blogcritics.org
“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 Radio.com
"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 Jazz.com 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.
Contact George Cole at
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