Larry Kart

New light on Miles Davis autobiography

87 posts in this topic

 

 (From what I've looked at so far, this will be, in effect, the best book on Davis across the board. Also, the chapter and verse evidence that  Masaya Yamaguchi has uncovered (among other things, Yamaguchi  compared the actual interview tapes and transcripts with Miles to Quincy Troupe's "reshapings" of what Miles actually said; what Troupe did will take your breath away.

A message from Masaya Yamaguchi in NYC:

I've been working on "Miles Davis Autobiography Re-examined" for several years . I completed the book and I had found 2 possible publishers (academic); but I still can't get the contract (very slow). Dr. Lewis Porter suggested that I should publish my book as KINDLE (because I should not waste my time to wait for the publisher anymore) ....... SO I decided to use Amazon KINDLE service. My Miles book is just released out on June 6, 2019:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07S6MTF4S/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=miles+davis+research&qid=1558960903&s=gateway&sr=8-3

Please take a look at my book by Amazon's "look inside" function. Your PC or Mac desktop or laptop will work (no smartphone) for Amazon's "look inside" function. You don't need the KINDLE device - you can read it on smartphone, PC, Mac, iPad, etc. if downloaded (purchased). In fact, Amazon set up "look inside" pages and I cannot control the showing pages. We can read the followings:

Preface 

Miles Davis on Biographies 
Prologue 
Miles Davis’ Earliest Memory 
Troupe’s Educational Background 
Chapter I: The Early Miles 
Elwood C. Buchanan 
“Gustav” 
William Vacchiano 
Harry James 
Miles was Charlie Parker’s roommate? 
Eugene Haynes and Larry Rivers 
Irene “Birth” 
The Blues 

Miles' friend, Dave Liebman gave me the foreword:

This text is more than just a “book.” It represents hundreds of hours of research by Masaya Yamaguchi into every aspect of Miles Davis’ life, from the mundane (cooking habits and clothes worn) to his relationship with John Coltrane and much more. In the case of Miles with whom I played in the 1970s, separating fact from myth is challenging. Miles was more than a great jazz musician. He represented what “cool” meant culturally in America of the ‘50s and‘60s. Masaya painstakingly points out inconsistencies in the well known biography of Miles and backs up his assertions with fact-based quotes (most often by Miles himself) and writings. This book is important and necessary to be published. It will set the standard that all other books on the subject will be measured going forward. 

.... I hope you'll enjoy my efforts (767 pages - KINDLE). I'd really appreciate if you could spread my book release info to your jazz buffs friends.

Masaya
 Yamaguchi

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Posted (edited)

I've only spent 5-minutes skimming the sample, but this is all both intriguing (seriously) -- but also the level of detail (some would argue "minutia") to which this document delves (with, thankfully(?) documentary evidence, in the way of images of transcripts and photos), is perhaps a bit overwhelming.

We've all been hearing for years about Troupe playing loose with the facts, and perpetuating inaccuracies from prior Miles biographies.  Personally, I think I must have first started hearing about that close to 20 years ago.

I still think Miles' autobiography gives a fair bit of insight into what Miles must have been like, and is probably a fair study of what his "voice" (thought process) sounds like.  But the thing is, any particular thing -- fact, detail, story, whatever -- has always had the (strong?) possibility of simply not being accurate (at best), or true at all (at worst).

Perhaps, in a perfect world, someone could take all these transcripts and mold them into the sort of thing that Troupe should have done in the first place.  Probably never happen, I realize.

I've only read Miles' Autobiography twice, iirc -- back around 1992, and again sometime between 2000-2005 (no idea when).  The more I've heard about it over the years, the less cause I've ever had to revisit it.

EDIT: Take a look at the sample pages (about 15 pages total, by my wild guess), and I'll be curious what people's reactions are.  There was a time, 20 years ago, when I would have eaten all this up.  Not I'm not sure I have the time, or interest -- or at least not this level of interest. 

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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...separating fact from myth is challenging...

yeah, I'm kinda like, at this point why bother trying?

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I looked at a bunch of it, and "minutia" doesn't even begin to describe it! It is perfectly titled: "New Research on...." And, based on what I've seen, it is also a good example of the kind of work for which self-publishing with Amazon is a good format, because I can't imagine any publisher spending the money to do it. In essence, what it constitutes is not an analytical biography at all, but rather, all of his notes for *writing* a biography. I am not dismissing it at all, by the way. In fact, I think it would be a very important source for a new biography of Miles, but exhaustive discussions about things like the *exact* building in which he lived and exactly where Bird lived in relation to him are a classic example of losing the forest for the trees.

 

 

gregmo

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Somebody refresh my memory - did Miles himself have anything derogatory to say about Troupe's work after it was published?

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Is the Troupe a good read?  I have had it for years after picking it up as a remainder, but have never gotten around to reading it.

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I think it's a fine read, just not sure how factually/minutia accurate it is.

Don't really care though, since Miles had long before exhibited a desire to create an "image" that had no more than partial bearing to the reality of his person.

Why would he want to do that? Hell, why does anybody?

So, "image" in life becomes "myth" post-life. It's naïve to expect it to be otherwise...what did that guy say, if god didn't exist we'd have to invent him?

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I remember it being a great read too ('great' with a lower-case 'g').  Hard to call it just 'good' -- it's a fairly wild ride, though a lot more in the delivery than what's actually being delivered (iirc).

But despite the mountain of salt you gotta take with it, I still always generally recommend people read it (or I certainly wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading it).  There's bound to be a lot of 'truth' in it, facts be damned.

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I think Troupe gave Miles the book he was looking for.

 

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Does it touch on the debt the autobiography owes to Jack Chambers' biography of Miles?  I got the impression that Miles/Troupe used it as a guide and every-so-often outright  cribbed from it. 

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2 hours ago, JSngry said:

Somebody refresh my memory - did Miles himself have anything derogatory to say about Troupe's work after it was published?

According to Dan Morgenstern, when Dan asked him for his opinion of the autobiography, Miles said, "I don't know -- I haven't read it."

As for Troupe 'giving Miles the book he was looking for," what does that mean? Take a look at some of the examples of what Miles actually said in the interviews and what Troupe has him say in the book. Would you want -- and why would you want -- your words to be twisted that way, and with outright errors introduced?

Haven't gotten to the Chambers book issue, but anyone who knows both books knows that Troupe committed highway robbery there.

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Posted (edited)

Well, it's been common knowledge that Troupe plagiarized Chamber's book extensively.  But I'd always assumed that the facts and perspective presented were -- for the most part -- accurate.  But it sounds like that may not have been the case.

As for "what Miles was looking for": He apparently didn't care about the contents or the accuracy of the book if he didn't even read it!  So he must have been interested in something other than setting the historical record straight.  Publicity?  Money?  Myth-making?  Something else?

Who knows?

 

Edited by HutchFan

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1 hour ago, Larry Kart said:

According to Dan Morgenstern, when Dan asked him for his opinion of the autobiography, Miles said, "I don't know -- I haven't read it."

As for Troupe 'giving Miles the book he was looking for," what does that mean? Take a look at some of the examples of what Miles actually said in the interviews and what Troupe has him say in the book. Would you want -- and why would you want -- your words to be twisted that way, and with outright errors introduced?

Haven't gotten to the Chambers book issue, but anyone who knows both books knows that Troupe committed highway robbery there.

Chambers himself writes about it in the introduction to the one volume edition of his book published by Da Capo Press. ( It's unfortunate that he's never been given the chance to issue a revised edition-- De Capo merely added this new introduction but made no changes to the original University of Toronto 2 volume edition. )

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2 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

According to Dan Morgenstern, when Dan asked him for his opinion of the autobiography, Miles said, "I don't know -- I haven't read it."

...and he displayed his poll plaques because he liked good wood...

2 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

As for Troupe 'giving Miles the book he was looking for," what does that mean? Take a look at some of the examples of what Miles actually said in the interviews and what Troupe has him say in the book. Would you want -- and why would you want -- your words to be twisted that way, and with outright errors introduced?

To tell a good story that people want to hear.

It's not complicated, really.

52 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

...he must have been interested in something other than setting the historical record straight.  Publicity?  Money?  Myth-making?  Something else?

I think you've covered all the bases, what else is there? :g

Seriously, if you're going to live in a world of myths created by other people, why the hell not make your own for yourself?

In the end, play the records, they're all historical now, and they straighten themselves out (in accordance to whatever mythology one brings to them, of course).

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4 minutes ago, JSngry said:

...and he displayed his poll plaques because he liked good wood...

To tell a good story that people want to hear.

It's not complicated, really.

Take a look. Troupe's "reshapings" of what Miles said don't make for a better story IMO, not at all. And introducing outright factual errors, like getting wrong who played on what recording session when Miles got it right, and besides there are readily available discographies, no? Just ignorance, sloppiness, on Troupe's part; apparently he didn't give a crap or was pressed for time, maybe farmed things out to people who knew less or cared less than he did, God knows what.

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and nobody cares.

Some people keep trying to take people like Miles "back" into "reality", and ooops, too late. They made sure that there's no "reality" there, just mythology based on some reality.

Microdata vs Macromeaning. If it affects what you hear in/out of the music one way or another (and it does), you're living in your own mythology (and we all are).

I think this speaks for itself:

 

9 minutes ago, Larry Kart said:

... apparently he didn't give a crap or was pressed for time, maybe farmed things out to people who knew less or cared less than he did, God knows what.

That's the other black Quincy that pisses off white people! :g

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1 hour ago, HutchFan said:

Well, it's been common knowledge that Troupe plagiarized Chamber's book extensively.  But I'd always assumed that the facts and perspective presented were -- for the most part -- accurate.  But it sounds like that may not have been the case.

As for "what Miles was looking for": He apparently didn't care about the contents or the accuracy of the book if he didn't even read it!  So he must have been interested in something other than setting the historical record straight.  Publicity?  Money?  Myth-making?  Something else?

Who knows?

 

Asked by Lee Jeske in a 1986 interview if he had read the various biographies of him that had been published by that date, Miles says, “No. My wife [Cicely Tyson] reads them, but I don’t read  them. She reads them to see if she’s in them. You know why a woman would read them. Or who I f——d. See all women are so competitive — they’re in competition with air, anything."

"Seriously, if you're going to live in a world of myths created by other people, why the hell not make your own for yourself?"

Sure enough. But the autobiography was not a myth that Miles made for himself -- would that it had been -- but a slop job made by Mr. Troupe.

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History - the lies the victors tell.:alien:

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3 hours ago, JSngry said:

Seriously, if you're going to live in a world of myths created by other people, why the hell not make your own for yourself?

On June 11, 2002, Troupe was appointed California's first poet laureate by then Governor Gray Davis. A background check related to the new political appointment revealed that Troupe had, in fact, never possessed a degree from Grambling; he attended for only two semesters in 1957–58 and then dropped out.[11] After admitting that he had not earned a degree, he made the decision to resign, rather have it become a political issue for the Democratic Governor.[citation needed] As a consequence, he resigned from the poet laureate's position in October 2002 and retired from his post at UCSD.

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4 minutes ago, Captain Howdy said:

On June 11, 2002, Troupe was appointed California's first poet laureate by then Governor Gray Davis[...] [H]e made the decision to resign, rather have it become a political issue for the Democratic Governor.

Well, at least Gray Davis avoided troublesome political issues. ;)

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Is the Chambers biography the one I should be reading rather than the Troupe book?  BTW, I read "The Making of Kind of Blue" by Ashley Kahn recently, and enjoyed it quite a bit, probably more for what it offered on the process of making and marketing the album than for anything it revealed about Miles or the other musicians.  The photography and layout were also very attractive.

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I don´t really understand all that discussion about Quincy Troupe´s book, since this is an old thing, I think it was published around 1989, right ?

I would have liked to read that new book, but sorry to say I think I´m too conservative for Kindle. To read a book means to me to read paper format, not to press buttons. I tried Kindle, when Peter Pullman´s "book" about Bud Powell came out. I even bought that Kindle Equipment and someone told me how to handle it, but I fear I have forgotten how it has to be done, and have misplaced the Kindle Book somewhere. And the guy who was my "computer expert" died to early, so I´m alone and lost with stuff like that........

I hope, that new book will be published some time on paper format.

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2 hours ago, felser said:

Is the Chambers biography the one I should be reading rather than the Troupe book?

John Szwed's "So What: The Life of MIles Davis" (2002) is my go-to Miles biography. It might not be the only Miles book you'll ever need, but it's the best written one I've yet found.

Szwed is perhaps better known for his definitive biography of Sun Ra, from a few years earlier (late 90's).

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went to Amazon site via link but getting "This title is not currently available for purchase" - maybe it has something to do with an out of US customer (I'm in Australia). Anyone from the states having the same issue??

I can't even get into the "sample' info

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2 hours ago, felser said:

Is the Chambers biography the one I should be reading rather than the Troupe book?  BTW, I read "The Making of Kind of Blue" by Ashley Kahn recently, and enjoyed it quite a bit, probably more for what it offered on the process of making and marketing the album than for anything it revealed about Miles or the other musicians.  The photography and layout were also very attractive.

I think so, though anything after 1980 is only covered in the introduction and he's very negative about it. 

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