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JazzTimes 10: Great Jazz Memoirs

What some of the music's most important figures have written about themselves

The genre of memoirs by jazz musicians is a rich one, filled with tales of trials and tribulations as well as success stories. To make a memoir work, the author has to not only recall events and feelings from the past correctly, but also manage to project the right tone and voice, with genuine rather than false humility. On top of that, we readers would like to learn something about the author that we didn’t know before, which presents another challenge. Every memoir here except (spoiler alert!) Charles Mingus’ required an assist from a writer or editor, who deserves credit for helping to bring the project home.

2. Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe: Miles: The Autobiography (1989)

2. Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe: <i>Miles: The Autobiography</i> (1989)
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Any serious jazz fan would want to learn what made one of the music's most creative and mercurial artists tick. And given that everyone has a Miles Davis story, why shouldn’t the original provide some of his own material? The writing about his early years on the New York City jazz scene is particularly engaging and rich with detail. Throughout his travails, Miles is unapologetically blunt and profane. His collaborator Troupe deserves much credit for bringing so many ribald stories into one narrative.

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