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Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  618 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Ian Carr's book is the perfect counterpoint and corrective to Miles Davis's own brilliant but vitriolic autobiography, providing a balanced portrait of one of the undisputed cultural icons of the 20th century. Carr has talked with the people who knew the man and his music best; and for this edition, updated since Davis's death, he has conducted new interviews with a number ...more
Paperback, 669 pages
Published August 30th 1999 by Da Capo Press (first published September 1st 1982)
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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  618 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Concentrating more on an album by album appreciation and in depth analysis more so than on the enigmatic Miles Davis personality, British journalist and musician Ian Carr works his painstaking way through four decades of jazz trumpeter Davis' remarkable ups and downs.

An Excellent book for those interested in Miles Davis and his work.
Jordi Via
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Para los incondicionales de Miles Davis este es un libro imprescindible.
Aug 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Ian Carr's MILES DAVIS: The Definitive Biography is one of the more meticulous lives of the great jazz innovator. Published first in 1982, it was thoroughly revised in 1998 to cover Miles' final years as well as shed greater light on his entire career.

A strong aspect of the book is Carr's access to various recordings which the average fan wouldn't have a chance to listen to, such as early projects in the 40s and concerts during the 1980s. Carr very thoroughly charts Miles' health problems and th
Brandi Bates
Oct 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Loooooong and exhaustive, but taught me everything I know about the late great who started it all!
Jason Trent
Mar 31, 2017 rated it liked it
I thought I knew a little bit about Miles Davis, but now I feel 'close' to him ( as close as one could be).
I didnst know he was born affluent, or that he dropped out of Julliard to play with Charlie Parker of that the dope days were short and over before he was a star.
Carr's writing lapses into very specific descriptions about chords and notation, but not hard to understand. He drops in a lot of quotes from interviews and doesn't get too subjective.
Interesting and informative, if not thrilling
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A terrific biography that focuses mainly on his music and relation to other musicians. . . . After about 350 pages, the writing style gets tiring, but the content is engaging. . . . One odd thing is that on page 481, Carr writes, "One thing Miles Davis never mentions in his reasonably honest and remorselessly outspoken autobiography is his own bisexuality," and then doesn't expand on it or mention it again. It seems like that should have a larger part in the book.
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Don't waste your time, just read the Autobiography by Miles himself. Not only is it a cut and past job, Carr is a sycophantic Scotsman who loves Miles more than Miles did himself! Carr's music criticism is just as bad, Miles himself could have written it. The sycophantic attitude reaches its height in the mid-70s, when we're told that Davis' electronic music ( including "On the Corner") was just "super-great" and that everyone - including 70s Black America- just didn't appreciate its "True Geniu ...more
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this with the YouTube open which made it an experience rather than just a read. Some of the musical stuff went over my head (- chromatic, diatonic scales etc) and the personnel of some of his jazz combos didn't really interest me too much but overall a very enjoyable read
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Miles davis was extremely talented complex man Ian Carr does a great job in not overly praising Davis like all of us Davis was a combination of saint and sinner.
Owen Zoll
I actually mostly like late Miles Davis, but you can tell that the writer sort of loses the plot as Davis enters his post-Bitches Brew twilight - according to this book, nothing is wrong in the world of Miles Davis. and i guess that was true, he seems happy and married and creative during this time. but this exhaustively researched biography is lacking a certain amount of cultural commentary, in my opinion. anyways, it was admittedly very cool to get a more holistic idea of what went into his mo ...more
Frank Palardy
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-scripts
Read one of his biographies, not sure if it was this one. Interesting man certainly.
Michael Finocchiaro
Ian Carr’s biography of Miles is of extreme interest to anyone that wishes to explore all the various revolutions that Miles instigated in modern jazz: from his first breakthrough with Bird on Now’s the Time, to the cool jazz debut in The Birth of the Cool, to the epic Kind of Blue, the transformational In a Silent Way, the exhilarating Bitches Brew all the way to his music in the 80s…it is all there. I knew only sketches of his story and found the style highly readable and the level of document ...more
David Rullo
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ian Carr has written a monster of a book and while it covers the entirety of Davis' career, not all eras are examined equally. Much of Davis' output is given brief coverage. In fact, if you are seeking in-depth information about any of the trumpeter's seminal works you'd be better seeking other sources.

Curiously, the portion of Davis' career to which Carr provides the most detailed information is his later, post-1980 work. As most fans, critics, and even casual listeners can attest, this is the
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, music, america
I only picked this up to check something and I've ended up practically re-reading it (albeit this is the shorter, earlier version). It's brilliant, basically. Carr can be a fussy, stuffy old bugger in places, and, for a biography the subject gets off very lightly, but he's so learned and saturated with the music you can't help but feel immersed. I can't think of another music biography that so often sends me off into obscure corners of an artist's discography, or, because of Carr's ear for detai ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I'd been curious about Miles Davis since before I listened to his music, given the musician's impact on popular culture and really enjoyed this book. Something to keep in mind is it is written by a music journalist and this cuts both ways. It was well-written, factual and provided an in-depth chronological overview of Davis' life that, while not treating him with kids gloves, didn't linger on the salacious details. However, sections of the book, especially track-by-track descriptions of his albu ...more
Saul Souto
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Imagino que el mayor gusto de su lectura, lo tendremos los que apreciamos la música de Davis; se lee como una obra literaria en muchas partes, como una novela... y también enriquece el conocimiento técnico del autor en cuanto a la música y el jazz.

Recomiendo seguir el libro con los discos que van comentando, es bastante factible encontrarlos en YouTube, imagino que en Spotify, también.

Espero volver a leerlo.
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read. Miles Davis' life speaks for itself, and Carr exposes in detail every aspect of it, attaining himself more to the music than to the personal side (which is understandable). However, sometimes one can feel that more thorough incursions in those personal aspects would be fruitful. The descriptions of concerts, recording sessions and music in general are great, but sometimes can be a little overwhelming. Other than that, perfect.
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Carr knows his music. And this helps. because he is able to deconstruct Davis's music and the phases of his life and be able to analyse when Davis began to come into his own, and how his music changed slowly as he grew up into a man. Stage by stage Carr is able to talk with the authority of a pro and the love of a Davis buff about the inner journey of Miles Davis as much as could be possible by an outsider.
Gregory Tkac
Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I learned so much about someone that I was so thirsty for information about - from his youth (and particularly his relationship with his father), to his battles with drug addiction (especially his early heroin addiction and help from his family) to his ability to always see where the music was heading and still be two steps ahead. Highly recommended for even the casual fan to get some insight into true genius.
Nov 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Marc Lerch, my good friend and fellow jazz enthusiast, recommended this one to me. Miles was a fascinating personality, and he was always light years ahead of everyone in the business. This book includes loads of interesting vignettes about the man and his music.
Chris Penty
Jul 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Unnecessarily fawning considering most readers would already be fans. It might have been more useful to understand the context of his music and his influence. Nevertheless this is a useful analysis of Miles' technique, his relationship with his musicians and his composition techniques.
Carlos Repuestodelatabla
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant look at Miles by another trumpet player who understands very well what Miles was as musician. He also likes and understands the later, post-60s Miles work, which quite sets him apart. If you're gonna read a first book about Miles, this is a good one.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir
Surely more accurate than Miles' bio, but not as entertaining.
Jan 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Mar 19, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the trials and tribulations...So anyone who reads this tell me the most used word in the autobiography...
Serge Pierro
Aug 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
An nice biography of Miles Davis. It was nice to read this from the viewpoint of someone other than Miles himself.
Nathan Baune
Dec 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Simply well done; as far as biographies go this is great,though, as far as literature goes, it is hard to compare a biography to other works, so I gave it a three.
Tim Gause
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of the great jazz biographies. A virtual history of jazz from the forties onward. The author's understanding of Miles music is extensive and brilliant.
Rob Smith
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Ian Carr should have just written a dissertation analyzing Miles' music. He's not really interested in Miles's life in between studio sessions or performances.
Sep 29, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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Ian Carr was a Scottish jazz musician, composer, writer, and educator.

Apart from writing a regular column for the BBC Music Magazine, Carr wrote biographies of the jazz musicians Keith Jarrett and Miles Davis. He was also the co-author of the reference work The Rough Guide to Jazz which has passed through four editions from 1994 (originally Jazz, The Essential Companion, 1988). In addition he cont