Long considered one of the true innovators in jazz music history, Miles Davis was one of the most accomplished yet enigmatic musicians of the twentieth century. Director Stanley Nelson’s intimate look at the legendary trumpeter, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, opens later this month in New York and Los Angeles before expanding to additional markets throughout September. The film is being released through a partnership between Abramorama and Eagle Rock Entertainment.
“The story of Miles Davis – who he was as a man and artist – has often been told as the tale of a drug-addled genius,” said the director Nelson. “You rarely see a portrait of a man that worked hard at honing his craft, a man who deeply studied all forms of music, from Baroque to classical Indian. An elegant man who could render ballads with such tenderness yet hold rage in his heart from the racism he faced throughout his life. I’ve been fascinated with Miles since my college years and have dreamed of telling his story ever since. I am beyond thrilled to be working with Abramorama on the release of this film that is very special to me.”
Born in 1926 in Alton, Illinois, Davis began his career after dropping out of The Juilliard School in New York where became a member of Charlie Parker’s bebop quintet in the late 1940s and the film expertly recalls the artist’s patronage of jazz clubs along 52nd Street in New York City where he was introduced to such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Benny Carter, and Billy Eckstein. By this time, Davis had become well known in music circles as one of the great young jazz trumpeters of the era but he had also begun to come under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, and later heroin, an addiction that would haunt Davis throughout his career.
One of the most poignant sections of the film details Davis’ time in France where he discovered that the racism he had encountered throughout his life in America was nearly non-existent in Europe. Overseas he was accepted as what he was, a ground-breaking, innovative artist, not a man of color, something that would fuel resentment within Davis for the rest of his life.
After many years as a member of and then fronting jazz bands, Davis’ career apex came in the late 1950s with the album, Kind of Blue. The record went multi-platinum in both the U.S. and the U.K. and has been hailed as the greatest jazz record in history. In 2002, the album was one of only 50 to be added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.
Poor health would plague Davis in later years and the musician died in 1991 in California at the age of 65 after mounting a comeback in the early 1980s that would see the artist focusing on European and U.S. college tours. Though he was strictly a jazz artist, Davis’ work greatly influenced musical artists of all genres. Rock musicians such as Prince, Duane Allman, John Legend, Steely Dan, John Mayer, Mos Def and Pink Floyd all list Davis as a significant influence in their own careers and musical styles. Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
With full access to the Miles Davis Estate, the film features never-before-seen footage, including studio outtakes from his recording sessions, rare photos and new interviews with such notable musicians and music executives as Quincy Jones, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter and Clive Davis. The documentary also paints a vivid picture of the New York City jazz scene in the 1940s and 1950s and depicts how many of the arists of that genre, who would later go on to become jazz legends, would be performing in clubs next to or down the street from each other. The film is a feast for any jazz aficionado.
Abramorama CEO Richard Abramowitz and Head of West Coast Acquisitions and Business Development Evan Saxon jointly add, “The opportunity to work with Stanley is an honor and to be able to do it on this film is particularly rewarding as we’ve long prided ourselves in presenting films about the greatest talents in musical history. Miles Davis is in the Pantheon along with The Beatles, Dylan, Coltrane and a very few others who’ve changed the sound of contemporary music and culture.”
The distributor has also recently released content featuring such notable musicians as ZZ Top (which opens this week), Stevie Nicks, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney and Wings, and Buddy Bolden, along with a look at the famous Greenwich Village music shop, Carmine Street Guitars.
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool opens August 23rd and The Film Forum in New York City and August 30 in Los Angeles at the Landmark. Additional playdates will be announced.
forbes.com 13th Aug 2019