Iain Cameron's Diary
"Click here to access the Fruitful Album" - Click here to visit Music for the Highveld Project

The Highveld Project

Get your own
 diary at DiaryLand.com! contact me older entries

2003-12-29 - 8:56 a.m.

I have read more of the Miles volume here in Woodbridge - mostly from the back. One of the last quotes is from Miss Mitchell who says that MD and Picasso and MD are her heroes - not necessarily the best human beings in the world. They lived modern lives - never standing still and always reaching for something beyond - expecting those around them to share those objectives.

Marcus Miller plays a big role in the last phase of Miles' career starting when a band is being put together to bring the late 70s period of withdrawal to and end. In the middle of the 80s Miles changed labels - from Columbia to Warner Bros - and at this point MM effectively becomes Miles' producer. Tutu and Amandla are the principle results - although there is a film score, Siesta, which I don't have.

These two albums influenced me a lot when I started to write again - using a Commodore Amiga around 1990. At the time I don't think I realised just how much influence they had. I was using a new tool which opened a lot of new possibilities - and I knew the goal was to find a vehicle for my flute playing. I eventually got to perform some of the stuff in 1993 at Sunningdale.I even sampled muted MD and did a piece which had a virtual MD line on it.

There are a couple of albums on CBS which are pointing in this direction - You're Under Arrest and Decoy - which I think are done after Miles has sacked Teo Macero - after he has been his producer for 30 years.

Between those last CBS albums and the first on Warner Bros there is a Danish album - Aura. It was actually released at the end of the 1980s but as far as creative relationships are concerned it is at the point of transition between the labels.

It is a composed work which features Miles and J Mclaughlin. Its opening motif has a Cageian origin - the composer took the alphabet and mapped letters onto pitches. Then he used Miles Davis to create a motif. I only have this piece on tape - not on CD.

Some people think that Aura is the best thing he did in his last decade - I am not sure about that - although it is remarkable that the piece came into being at all. Equally remarkable that MD requests JohnMac plays on it.

I am putting off reading the sections of the book about the most challenging music - the stuff I have been listening to over the last 3 - 4 years done between 1968 and 1975. I need the CDs close by. This music is the stuff which leads Miles to a standstill. It is provoked by the emergence of improvised electric music especially in New York especially in the wake of Jimi Hendrix and the Cream. It is wildly experimental both in the use of collective improvisation and studio techniques.

Miles pushes in this direction almost until his 50th birthday and then he falls silent for about 4 years.

This would be between 1975 and 1980. It is a time when he gets ill and (apparently) indulges in excess. Paul Buckmaster, the English arranger, who I think was in the Third Ear Band at one stage, is instrumental in triggering the change in Miles' domestic surroundings which put him back on the road to recovery.

Anway here's a few comments on the book (especially the last one):

"The most important book on Miles Davis ever. I was knocked out by Tingen's knowledge of what to many people is a confusing period in Davis's career and music. [Tingen's] very open-ended way of writing allows in the magic that makes his debut volume a tantalising excursion into the unknown. Why Tingen's book is so fascinating is that it makes you want to know more about this devil of a genius." - MARK PRENDERGAST, author of... in Bloomsbury Magazine.

"Miles Beyond is masterfully done. The first chapter, “Listen,” is captivating and charismatic. It’s like an elevator, taking the reader up to the 26h floor where the rest of the story will be told... It seems lately that more people are getting into electric Miles, and this book gives them the tool with which to do it. It covers all of the stages, all of the bands, all of the personnel, all of the records. It explains what, how, where, when and – the trickiest one – it examines why. It’s done with intelligence and flair. While Tingen is an admirer of the great artist and his music, it is a balanced, no-nonsense account... There are great anecdotes from the musicians about the various recording sessions, the way they felt when they met Miles, the things they learned and events that took place on the road. It’s enlightening and even fun to know the stories. There are also first-hand observations of Miles and his life that are revealing – at times warm, at times troubling... This book is a must for fans of Miles, fusion and music in general. It is involved and detached, eye-opening and unapologetic." - R. J. DELUKE, allaboutjazz.com.

"Paul Tingen has written a gem of a book. It contains the most extensive and exhaustive chronicle to date of Miles's final decades. If you have any interested at all in what Miles's electric years were about, this is the book to read." - BOBBY JACKSON, music director and producer at WCPN, Cleveland Public Radio.

"An exhaustive, judicious and immensely helpful new study of Davis' electric work. Neither conventional biography nor criticism, the book includes new information about Davis' personal life as well as a critically perceptive analysis, in chronological order, of every recording the trumpeter made with electric instruments, between 1967 and his death in 1991.... This fascinating, 400-page tome is not only readable, but a must-have for any serious student of Davis.... With Miles Beyond, Tingen offers an unusually selfless pointer that steers your attention directly to the radiant heart of the music it so passionately describes." - PAUL DE BARROS, NPR.

"This book is an absorbing read for any fan of Miles, and an essential road map for those who are interested in his electric years - and ought to intrigue anybody who is simply interested in the 20th Century's musical legacy." - ALEX WEBB, BBC.

"Tingen's research is exhaustive. He interviews more than 50 of Miles' sidemen, producers, friends, and lovers from the period to convincingly make the case that Davis' recordings from this era are serious music. Not only did Miles discover and nurture a generation of musicians now at the forefront of jazz, Tingen argues, he took jazz improvisation to even more challenging, if sublime, levels. Above all, Tingen paints a sensitive portrait of a musician struggling with age and ill-health and the demands of art and fame and desperate to return jazz to the center of African American youth culture. A must-read for all true jazz fans." - TED LEVENTHAL, review in Booklist.

"Tingen is an indispensable guide, both for his determination to sort the cool from the crap and his thoughtfulness in trying to understand a creative initiative which, with Bitches Brew in 1969, discovered an almost entirely new kind of music. Discovery is the key concept here, and Tingen offers many worthwhile insights into the nature of Miles' compulsion to explore ahead of whatever was happening at the time. References to Zen and Ken Wilber's 'holon' theory prove illuminating, as does Tingen's suggestion that Miles' move into fusion represented, as much as anything, a return to his blues roots." - IAN MACDONALD, review in Uncut.

previous - next