Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever

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Macmillan, Aug 5, 2008 - History - 294 pages
11 Reviews

When the renowned trumpeter and bandleader Miles Davis chose the members of his quintet in 1955, he passed over well-known, respected saxophonists such as Sonny Rollins to pick out the young, still untested John Coltrane. What might have seemed like a minor decision at the time would instead set the course not just for each of their careers but for jazz itself.

Clawing at the Limits of Cool is the first book to focus on Davis and Coltrane’s musical interaction and its historical context, on the ways they influenced each other and the tremendous impact they’ve had on culture since then. It chronicles the drama of their collaboration, from their initial historic partnership to the interlude of their breakup, during which each man made tremendous progress toward his personal artistic goals. And it continues with the last leg of their journey together, a time when the Miles Davis group, featuring John Coltrane, forever changed the landscape of jazz.

Authors Farah Jasmine Griffin and Salim Washington examine the profound implications that the Davis/Coltrane collaboration would have for jazz and African American culture, drawing parallels to the changing standards of African American identity with their public personas and private difficulties. With vastly different personal and musical styles, the two men could not have been more different. One exemplified the tough, closemouthed cool of the fifties while the other made the transition during this time from unfocused junkie to a religious pilgrim who would inspire others to pursue spiritual enlightenment in the coming decade.

Their years together mark a watershed moment, and Clawing at the Limits of Cool draws on both cultural history and precise musical detail to illuminate the importance that their collaboration would have for jazz and American history as a whole.

  

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Review: Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever

User Review  - Andrew - Goodreads

There were parts of this book I liked a lot, but as a whole I was not as impressed. With tighter editing (and vigorous fact-checking), it could have been really excellent. The good parts ... Read full review

Review: Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever

User Review  - Don - Goodreads

This book was very well reserached and very well written. It was extremely techincal at times, which was fantastic for a musician, such as myself. However, the long technical passages would be ... Read full review

Contents

The Head
1
Pass It
29
The Birth of a New Freedom
55
io9 Struggle and Ascent
109
Interlude
151
Clawing at the Limits of Cool
183
The
223
Glossary
259
Notes
267
Bibliography
273
Discography
277
Acknowledgments
279
Index
283
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Farah Jasmine Griffin is a professor of English and comparative literature and African American Studies at Columbia University, where she has served as director of the Institute for Research in African American studies. She is the author of “Who Set You Flowin'”: The African-American Migration Narrative and If You Can't Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday, and has edited several collections of letters and essays. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Harper's Bazaar, Callaloo, and African American Review, and she is also a frequent commentator on WNPR's News & Notes.

An accomplished saxophonist, Salim Washington has led two bands, the Roxbury Blues Aesthetic and the Harlem Arts Ensemble. He has recorded four CDs as a bandleader, including Love in Exile and Harlem Homecoming. He is an avid composer and teaches music and Africana Studies at Brooklyn College.

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