'ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT: A Portrait of Miles Davis by Eric Nisenson

'ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT: A Portrait of Miles Davis

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While Ian Carr's impressive Miles Davis (p. 832) concentrated intensely, and in nearly note-by-note detail, on Davis' recordings and performances, this somewhat more casual biography pays about equal attention to the music itself and to matters of personality. The essential life-story comes across pretty much the same in both books: middle-class East St. Louis background; the N.Y.-centered lure of Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, and (especially) Charlie Parker; the early disappointments and drug addiction; the up-and-down moves through be-bop, cool, orchestral concepts (collaborations with Gil Evans), the great quintet, thorny colleague-ships with John Coltrane and others; illnesses (emphasized more by Carr); brushes with the law; three marriages. And, like Carr, Nisenson fails to find much shape or depth in Davis' personal life--despite drug-addiction anecdotes, quotes from Miles himself, some raunchy interview material, and a good deal of (not-always-convincing) reconstructed dialogue. Still, Nisenson's less scholarly appreciations of the Davis career, though often dependent on quotes from other critics, do offer a subtly different, sometimes equally plausible view of his musical development: more emphasis on outside influences (Ornette Coleman especially), greater enthusiasm for the work produced during Davis' ""down"" periods. So, while serious jazz buffs will probably prefer Carr's more exhaustive and technical approach, less hard-core fans may find this slightly livelier, not-so-authoritative study a serviceable alternative.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0306806843
Publisher: Dial