Photographs from Miles Davis’ Japanese tours from 1981 to 1988 by photographer Shigeru Uchiyama.
No Picture! by Shigeru Uchiyama cover
Japanese paperback, published by Tokyo Kirara, 144 pages with colour illustrations, 15x21cm, ISBN 9784903883212
We’re delighted to present musician, author and writer Anthony Reynold’s review of this book. Anthony’s works include critically acclaimed books on Scott Walker, Japan and Leonard Cohen.
Well the title’s a misnomer. This lovely book is nothing but pictures.
I’m assuming it’s a version of Uchiyama’s earlier book, Miles Smiles (1993) of which I’ve been looking for (to no avail), on and off for over fifteen years. So, as Miles Smiles is seemingly rarer than an Albino Peacock I can’t compare the two. [editor’s note: there are many pictures from Miles Smiles, but also many new ones].
What No Picture! is, is a portrait of the maestro getting his (third? fourth?) and final wind. Uchiyama captures Miles during the dusk of his life. But it was a summer’s dusk and a fruitful one.
Decoy recording sesssion, NY, 1983 © Shigeru Uchiyama
Most of the photos are taken from Miles’ trips to Japan between ’81 and ’88. What’s immediately apparent is that the – sometimes – confrontational Miles both trusted and was comfortable with the photographer. Thus the scope of the photos is wide ranging and mostly candid. There are photos of Miles walking toward hotel lobbies; Miles both goofing around and posing like a God in messy hotel rooms; Miles on stage: Miles drawing: Miles in the studio; audience photos; subway posters advertising Miles’ concerts. Whatever the setting, the surroundings appear like a set in “The Miles Davis story”. He dominates every scene.
Miles at home in Malibu © Shigeru Uchiyama
The book doesn’t seem to be chronological so it’s a bit startling to see Miles go from the late 80’s Issey Miyake robed Sorcerer (post hair weave) to the slightly battered looking and frail Miles of ’81. What’s consistent is that Miles is rarely self-conscious in any of the photos. I’d love to know what his relationship with Uchiyama was but what text there is in this pocket sized book is in Japanese… [editor’s note, for more on this, see our interview with Shigeru here]
I wish the book were bigger. It’s hard to lose yourself in something so small, where the binding interrupts what are obviously beautifully composed and printed photographs (both colour and black and white).
Size comparison between Miles Smiles and No Picture!
But for those of us still seeking Miles Smiles (which I assume is in a bigger format) it’s at least a small portal into a world where few were privileged access.
Pour yourself a sake and put on the October 4, 1981 Shinjuku Nishi-Guchi Hiroba, Tokyo gig and you’re almost there…
photo of Miles 1981 tour © Shigeru Uchiyama
Many thanks to Anthony for this review! Check out Anthony’s work at www.anthonyreynolds.net
IDEA has imported limited copies of No Picture! into the UK. The book sells out quickly, but you can put your name on a waiting list for the next consignment. More details here.