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Miles Apart (1961, and collected in Profiles, ed. Ernie Eban, 1990)

1961

by Kenneth Tynan (1927 - 1980)

This profile of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis begins with musical history and critique, then describes ‘Miles in the flesh’: his extreme egotism and disdain for the British, yet talent at the very British art of one-upmanship.

Telling quotations suggest the musician was a puritan potentate. The second half is a standard potted biography, lit by Tynan’s brilliant turns of phrase. The end contains a cutting description of Davis, in his New York apartment, declaiming on music while telephoning his stockbroker. A recurring comparison between jazz and bull-fighting is linked to Davis’ love of Spanish music and the untranslatable term ‘duende’.

Related recommendation: Truman Capote’s ‘The Duke in his Domain’ (1957)

Origin: Britain

Themes: Artistic Method, Vocation and Celebrity

Genres: Profile or character, Critical

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