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January/February 1999

Jack Chambers
Milestones: The Life and Time of Miles Davis

Published together, the two volumes of Jack Chambers’ definitive Milestones:The Life and Time of Miles Davis make for a somewhat unwieldy trade paperback—appropriate given its subject. The noteworthiness of this new edition lies in Chambers’ new 19-page introduction (counting a page of footnotes). During the first half of the introduction, Chambers details the familial politics that shaped Davis’ will, the trumpeter’s late interest in drawing and painting, and the impact of his failing health on his music in his last years.

The second half of the introduction centers on the obvious appropriations of Chambers’ narratives strewn throughout Davis’ autobiography. The evidence against Davis, ghost writer Quincy Troupe, and the editorial staff of Simon & Schuster is damning. Chambers’ tone in this section is intriguing, however, as his outrage at being blatantly plagiarized is blunted by the unlikely pathos of Davis’ demise.

New readers should perhaps save the introduction for last. Only by savoring Chambers’ exhaustive research and analysis of the life and music of Miles Davis will the poignancy of his introduction be fully felt.

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