cover image Miles Davis and the Search for the Sound

Miles Davis and the Search for the Sound

Dave Chisholm. Z2, $39.99 (150p) ISBN 979-8-88656-042-8

This fierce and focused graphic biography of jazz legend Miles Davis (1926–1991) matches the spirit of its subject. Chisholm (Chasin’ the Bird—Charlie Parker in California) employs a conventional framing—after his 1982 stroke, Davis starts sketching to coax his stricken hand into functioning—to tell the story of the artist’s quest for musical perfection. Ignoring much of his subject’s early life, Chisholm jumps into Davis’s attending Juilliard in the 1940s as a “smokescreen” for his real education: jamming in Manhattan clubs with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. The preternaturally talented and fanatically ambitious Davis formed his own groups to chase the indefinable “sound” in his head, derived in part from a vision he claims to have had as a child while walking rural “spook-filled back roads” of rural Arkansas. Chisholm’s kinetic art brings out the musician’s pugilistic drive and visualizes his development of the more “hummable” post-bebop sound as a color-splattered riot of abstract shapes. The fragments of Davis’s personal life that appear, from his addictions to abusive relationships, prove his dictum: “Music comes before everything.” Eschewing the typical portrayal of Davis as a loner, Chisholm highlights his collaborations, from the Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn–like work with composer Gil Evans to his mentoring of John Coltrane and even jamming with Jimi Hendrix. It’s an intoxicating introduction to a challenging genius. (Nov.)