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Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  69 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
When the renowned trumpeter and bandleader Miles Davis chose the members of his quintet in 1955, he passed over well-known, respected saxophonists such as Sonny Rollins to pick out the young, still untested John Coltrane. What might have seemed like a minor decision at the time wouldinstead set the coursenotjust foreach of their careers but for jazz itself.

Clawing at the L
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Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 5th 2008 by Thomas Dunne Books
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keith koenigsberg
Jun 01, 2010 keith koenigsberg rated it did not like it
As one reviewer on Amazon.com said, both unreliable and uneccesary. Read Porter on Coltrane, and read lots of others including Davis himself on Davis. I myself found several errors of fact in this book, and I am no scholar, just an enthusiast. There really is nothing to recommend this book over others, except its brevity. Given that much of the info is wrong or misleading, and that the entire book has a bit too much emphasis on race - such that one begins to wonder about the agenda of the author ...more
Andrew
Jul 20, 2014 Andrew rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, jazz, music
There were parts of this book I liked a lot, but as a whole I was not as impressed. With tighter editing (and vigorous fact-checking), it could have been really excellent.

The good parts:

- Interesting background on the families of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Both had grandparents with personal memories of the Reconstruction-era South.

- A similar focus on putting modern jazz in the context of contemporary culture, especially the civil rights movement.

- Extended and musically-informed discussion
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Bakari
Sep 26, 2010 Bakari rated it really liked it
I don’t have a strong background in the history of jazz, but this book seems to be a good one for studying the history and influence of two jazz greats, Davis and Train. I particularly like the second half of the book in which the authors devote extended interpretations and the cultural history of albums and single compositions, such as Milestones, Blue Train, Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, Giant Steps, ‘Round About Midnight. The first half of the book delves more into the personal background of ...more
Don
Sep 11, 2012 Don rated it really liked it
This book was very well reserached and very well written. It was extremely techincal at times, which was fantastic for a musician, such as myself. However, the long technical passages would be incomprehensible and even boring to someone who is not a musician. While the book is very well written, it could have benefitted from better editing. The authors often refer to musicians by only thier last names, and you often don't know whom they are talking about..."Powell" on piano...which Powell? Bud o ...more
Jason
Mar 28, 2009 Jason rated it liked it
Shelves: music
A pretty good overview of these two giants of jazz. My previous knowledge of the biographies of Miles and Trane was mostly pieced together by pouring over the liner notes to scores of their albums and picking up tidbits here and there on the web, so it was great to finally read a decent history of their lives and work all in one place.

The book is well-written, and the biographical info is great. Though a brilliant musician and seminal jazz figure, Miles the person is easily the less likeable of
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Sarah
Nov 04, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it
This book was a lot more technical than I thought it would be. That can be a good thing, but one must have knowledge of not only music terminology, but more specifically, jazz terminology and the components of a jazz song. The authors go into great detail in describing specific songs, some of which I was not familiar with. I think I would've enjoyed these passages more if I had the CDs at my disposal to listen along with while I read. I did, in fact, go out and get some of the recordings to list ...more
Vichmd
Dec 03, 2009 Vichmd rated it it was amazing
There is no dispute that Miles Davis and John Coltrane had a profound influence on jazz history in the post-bebop era. Thus, it should come as no surprise that a book about these two jazz giants is as much a lesson in jazz history as it is an examination into their artistry. Clawing at the Limits excels as both an analysis of Davis’ and Coltrane’s contributions to jazz, as well as a survey of post-war jazz history.

Fortunately, the authors provide just enough details of Davis’ and Coltrane’s chil
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Dawn
Oct 26, 2008 Dawn added it
I enjoyed the book, but it was probably a bit over my level, as I actually know very little about jazz, and pathetically little about music theory - especially considering I played an instrument for 9 years. So the technical discussions about music rather sailed over my head (but has inspired me to attempt to teach myself music theory). The historical discussions were rather more comprehensible to me, and much more interesting because comprehensible. However, the authors have a tendency to jump ...more
Zachary
Nov 23, 2015 Zachary rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2015, music
An otherwise insightful book unfortunately (carelessly, even) bogged down with arbitrariness.
Greg
Jun 14, 2013 Greg rated it liked it
Coltrane's collaborative period with Miles Davis and its place in history is covered. However this book looses me in conjecture and supposition. Not really interested in what Coltrane might have been thinking per the author's idea of what "might be" the facts. The writing is good and there are some valuable nuggets to be gleaned.

Perhaps the true jazz enthusiast that hungers for a new approach to the Coltrane/Miles Davis period of collaboration will see it differently. Either way, try your local
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Frank Taranto
Apr 28, 2011 Frank Taranto rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography, music
A look at Miles Davis and John Coltrane together and seperately. The book explores how they came together, influenced each other, and then went their seperate ways. As a relative newcomer to Jazz, I found the information on their lives interesting.
These were two distinct individuals who the book says blended their music together superlatively - I will have to listen to what I can find where they play together.
Some of the discussions on the music itself were very technical, and I know nothing abo
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Happyreader
Feb 09, 2009 Happyreader rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
This short, very readable book covers so much -- mid-century African American history, jazz history, jazz music theory with compelling portraits of Miles Davis, John Coltraine, and the musicians they played with. It was so good that I put the book aside for a couple of weeks when I was in the last chapter because I didn't want it to end.
Philip
Oct 03, 2010 Philip rated it it was ok
I'm not in love with this book. As other reviewers have pointed out, there are definitely some inaccuracies. This book has some nice anecdotes about Trane's time with Monk, but I have to take it with a grain of salt, considering some of the things the authors have gotten wrong.
Rob Renteria
Oct 15, 2008 Rob Renteria rated it it was amazing
wow..........this is a great piece of american history.......i got some very cool new insight for me on both miles and coltrane......even though someparts could get technical......it was a very easy and enlightening read......much love....

rob
Thomas
Aug 23, 2012 Thomas rated it liked it

A polemical view of Miles and his time. But it did have some interesting biographical and historical information. Good book for any Jazz fan, especially a fan of Miles Davis.
Ryan
May 22, 2013 Ryan rated it it was amazing
one of the most intriguing books I have read in years. an education on two of the most prolific black minds of our time. black nerds should celebrate this book.
Marian
Mar 14, 2013 Marian added it
What a marvelous book! An extraordinary book, it runs deep & wide
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Farah Jasmine Griffin is a professor of English and comparative literature and African American Studies at Columbia University, where she has served as director of the Institute for Research in African American studies.

In addition to editing several collections of letters and essays she is the author of Who Set You Flowin’: The African American Migration Narrative (Oxford, 1995), If You Can’t Be F
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