As a revolutionary musician, whose constant innovation manifested an immortal influence on generations of players, Miles Davis was a true artist, epitomized. He was also a fine artist, whose paintings could have had a similar impact on the world as his albums did, had he chosen, full-time, the brush and canvas over trumpet and wax. With a narrative drawn from a Davis autobiography that pulled no punches (pun intended; Miles, too, was an avid and skilled boxer), and knowing Davis’ affinity for painting, this potent blend of art and story in the form of a graphic biography is one that is as inventive and progressive as Miles, himself.
Published by Z2 Comics, the 150-page examination of Davis was written, drawn, colored, and lettered by artist Dave Chisholm- who holds, as well, a doctorate in Jazz Trumpet from the Eastman School of Music- and comes with the full consent of the Davis estate. Utilizing narration from Davis’ own words, Chisholm opens the bio in 1982 as Miles is recovering from a stroke, then looks back at the trumpeter’s decades-long quest for the sound that would make him an icon.
It is a beautifully illustrated collection, with panels tightly aligning color and chronology, and rivalling in impact and engagement any fictive superhero; the late ‘60s into early ‘70s is particularly stunning. With a conspicuous eye for detail, both in his drawing of the characters, and their speech, but also in the palette of tones and shades as he moves through the eras, Chisholm is masterful at matching the mood and the message. Even those exceptionally familiar with Davis’ life likely will find here a new emotional connection to the icon.
With a foreword from Miles’ son, Erin Davis, that hints at the format being an ideal entry point for a younger generation curious about the musician, it again speaks to the genius of Miles Davis. Thanks to Chisholm’s spectacular work, Davis is still, as he always seems to be, miles ahead.