Book Review - The Extraordinary Journey of Jason Miles – A Musical Biography

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    The Extraordinary Journey of Jason Miles – A Musical Biography (2022)

    Jason Miles can accurately be described as your favorite musician’s favorite musician because, to paraphrase a certain action hero, he possesses a certain set of skills that have made him indispensable to artists as diverse as Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Jane Fonda and Vanessa Williams. Miles is a pianist, keyboard and synthesizer programming wizard and producer, just to name a few of his talents.

    Just how indispensable is Jason Miles? Well, his handiwork as keyboardist, sampler and keyboard programmer can be heard on projects that defined the sound of 1980s and 90s R&B, contemporary jazz and pop. He played on some of Vandross’s biggest cuts, including “Here and Now” and “Power of Love,” and he crafted the sound of Davis’s great 1980s albums, including Tutu.

    The Extraordinary Journey of Jason Miles – A Musical Biography (2022)

    Jason Miles can accurately be described as your favorite musician’s favorite musician because, to paraphrase a certain action hero, he possesses a certain set of skills that have made him indispensable to artists as diverse as Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Jane Fonda and Vanessa Williams. Miles is a pianist, keyboard and synthesizer programming wizard and producer, just to name a few of his talents.

    Just how indispensable is Jason Miles? Well, his handiwork as keyboardist, sampler and keyboard programmer can be heard on projects that defined the sound of 1980s and 90s R&B, contemporary jazz and pop. He played on some of Vandross’s biggest cuts, including “Here and Now” and “Power of Love,” and he crafted the sound of Davis’s great 1980s albums, including Tutu.

    Music autobiographies usually focus on the person whose face graces the album cover and stands on the stage bathed in the spotlight. But more often, Jason Miles’ name was found in the credits and liner notes, although he has released several albums under his name or as a band leader.  Still, someone who worked with some of the most innovative, compelling and controversial artists of the last 60 years must have some pretty good stories to tell and Miles tells their stories and his in the autobiography The Extraordinary Journey of Jason Miles: A Musical Biography.

    It becomes clear that the words extraordinary and musical are appropriate. Miles came from a middle-class background in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of New York that gave no hint that he would travel the world and collaborate with legendary artists and producers like his good friend Marcus Miller.

    But in this book, Miles focuses relentlessly on the music. Anyone looking for celebrity dish on the many famous names involved is going to come away disappointed. He may have seen a lot of things, but he’s not telling. Miles is a music industry lifer who immerses himself in figuring out how to use his keyboards, synthesizers, drum machines and samplers to create the sounds and textures that have become an integral part of music over the past 35 years.

    Miles sometimes gets a bit technical when talking about equipment, which can be overwhelming for laypeople. However, his descriptions of the fluid way that creatives make music is an education. The product that magically appear on record store shelves and or more recently on streaming services take years to make. He had to contend with delays caused by scheduling, label politics, illness. Miles could be working with an artist in on studio and then get pulled into to work with another artist and Miles describes this world down to the minute detail.

    Sadly some shortcomings in editing left typographical errors in the text, sometimes detracting  from the powerful story being told. But despite those shortcoming, The Extraordinary Journey of Jason Miles is an inspirational story of man whose total dedication to his craft enabled him to reach the highest level of his profession.

    By Howard Dukes

     
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