Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Miles and miles and miles of... yup, Miles

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There are only a few certainties in life: death, taxes and Miles Davis merchandise.

The legendary trumpeter was a masterful musician and a real personality during his life, and since his death in 1991 there have been as many boxed sets of recordings and single-disc reissues, and books about him, as any diehard fan could hope to collect.

The latest could be a boon to shelf-starved fans -- a coffee-table book combining iconic photos, posters, record jackets and essays from musicians and jazz writers.

Miles Davis, The Complete Illustrated History (Voyageur Press, $44) is a good overview of the jazz legend whose career ranged from bebop through cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz and jazz-rock fusion.

It doesn't pretend to be a definitive look at the complex man, but it does cover the basics in a series of essays by musicians he played with -- such as Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Dave Liebman -- and jazz biographers and columnists, such as Ashley Kahn, Robin D.G. Kelley, Francis Davis and Nate Chinen.

If you've read much about Miles Dewey Davis, a lot of the information will be repetitive. If you're new to Milesophilia, the book is an easy way to get started. Even longtime fans will find something new, and the photos, illustrations and even ticket stubs are fun to browse through.

There are 227 colour and 93 black-and-white photos from the likes of Francis Wolff, William Gottlieb and William (PoPsie) Randolph. They range from his early days through the more flamboyant attire of the '70s and '80s, and are generally very good, but I'm not sure great bassist Dave Holland will be pleased to see himself onstage at a festival in Texas in 1969 with wild hair and wearing a vest and no shirt. Granted, Miles gave him a break you can only dream of, and we all have similar photos in our past; it's just that ours don't end up in a widely distributed book decades later.

It's fun to read how Sonny Rollins, the great tenor saxophonist who remains active and vibrant at 82, admired Miles' playing and his stance that you must always be changing, you can't stand still -- a credo Rollins also embraced.

Pianist Herbie Hancock and bassist Ron Carter recount the musical laboratory that was Miles' "second great quintet" -- with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Wayne Shorter -- in the 1960s.

It was a great time for jazz fans -- it still is on recordings -- and a great time for the four musicians who Miles encouraged to take chances, to move the music in different directions.

Not all was sweetness and light in Miles' world and the book doesn't overlook the drug problems, the divorces and the sometimes erratic behaviour.

But warts and all, Miles was a great musician and band leader and this new book lays out his life and legacy as one of the best-known, bestselling (still) jazz artists of all time.

-- -- --

Singer Amber Epp and guitarist Keith Price promise to get loopy on Friday during their duo gig at Exchange Community Church.

Epp has recently started using a loop pedal and she and the guitarist will both use the technology, which allows you to record a sound and repeat it over and over in layers, on original songs, Christmas tunes and to add what Epp calls "new flavours" to melodies by Paul McCartney and Wings, Stevie Wonder and Arcade Fire.

The two musicians, who met as students in the University of Manitoba jazz studies program and who began their musical partnership five years ago at the Inn at The Forks, will perform Friday, Nov. 30, 8 p.m., at Exchange Community Church, 75 Albert St.; tickets $15 / $10 students.

chris.smith@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 26, 2012 D3

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