babble / biopic

The Miles Davis Movie: What songs ‘must’ be featured?

From various reports we know that Producer Cary Brokaw reached out to former Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman John Calley to lock up the rights to much of Davis’ Columbia Records catalogue (now owned by Sony BMG), so it looks like the biopic should be loaded with classic tunes.

Now we can start to ponder over what songs must/should be featured in the film. I’m sure there will be plenty of performance sequences as well as montages (maybe), to spotlight the music.

Then there’s the film score, which I am very curious to see what the producing team has in mind. Would they consider a jazz artist(s) to handle writing the compositions, or are we talking full blown orchestration, etc?

If it were up to me I’d be on the phone with Wynton Marsalis to gauge his musical interest.

But back to the question at hand: what songs are a must to be featured in the movie?

I’ll drop 6 that come to mind right now that I think should surely be in the film:

“Summertime” (Porgy and Bess)
“All Blues” (Kind of Blue)
“Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” (Sketches of Spain)
“My Funny Valentine” (My Funny Valentine)
“Blues for Pablo” (Miles Ahead)
“Agitation” (E.S.P.)

I didn’t exactly go crazy with my picks, but they are personal favorites, so it’s a start. There’s so much great music to choose from, and I’m sure song selection will be key to really give the film its heart and soul. Without knowing the structure of the movie it’s tough to know how long they plan to spend in each of Davis’ classic periods of musical output.

— Because jazz music is not exactly a style of music captivating audiences right now (or at least the attention of the greater marketplace), as compared to top 40, pop, rap, etc…, it will be interesting to see how the film is presented to its intended audience.

Even a casual music fan probably has heard of Miles Davis, and his music grabs the attention of younger listeners all the time (record sales aren’t too shabby either), but the subject is not Ray Charles, or Elvis and Johnny Cash, (which I think many would say is more accessible, even though I don’t agree), so I’m curious to know how the producers will market the film, where the focus will be. Is jazz music too ‘inside’ for a big, Hollywood movie? Then again, this might be minor-big, Hollywood movie in scale – I have no idea about budgets, etc…

I don’t know if jazz films like “Round Midnight,” “Bird” and “Kansas City” can be described as blockbuster-type films (not that they were intended to be). Even “Mo’ Better Blues,” with it’s star talent and director, isn’t like an “Iron Man.” Those films all definitely have a specific tenor, which I think work quite well.

But “Ray” is a BIG movie. As was “Walk the Line.” So the issue is whether or not the Miles Davis biopic is going to be like “Ray” or like “Bird.” Do fans have a preference?

Oh boy, I have gone on off-topic. More on all ‘that’ later…

In the end, it’s fun to start thinking about how some of Miles Davis’ best-loved songs (and maybe, hopefully some hidden gems) will look/feel/sound on the big screen.

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2 thoughts on “The Miles Davis Movie: What songs ‘must’ be featured?

  1. Can’t wait for this movie to come out, hopefully the movie will introduce a whole new generation to the music of Miles and jazz as a whole. I think this movie definitely has the potential to be as big as “Ray” and “Walk The Line” Mile’s music may not be as well known as Ray Charles or Johnny Cash, but Miles had a very interesting life, he was a pimp a drug addict married famous actresses and was involved in every genre of music from be-bop to hip-hop (there are a couple rappers on Mile’s very last album). It’s all about how the movie is presented. I wouldn’t call Wynton for his musical interests Wynton was very critical of Mile’s later fusion work and the two didn’t really get along. Wallace Roney would probably be the man for the job, he’s the trumpet player who comes the closest to Mile’s sound, and was also very close to miles on a personal level.

  2. @Mike

    Good call on Wallace Roney; he’d be a nice ‘get’ for the music. I know Wynton and Davis had their ups n’ downs, but he certainly would bring a big-name element to the film. He’s probably the best-known jazz musician out there. I know not everyone loves the guy, but still… could be interesting.

    You’re also right about the drugs and the ladies. The darker chapters of Miles’ life, as well as his flashy lifestyle, should definitely be explored to the hilt; if his crazy life doesn’t make for good cinema, I don’t know what does.

    And yet, we won’t know the ‘style’ and ‘mood’ of the biopic until we can get our hands on some early drafts of the script, or, at the latest, the damn trailer (which I want to see now!).

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