The Miles Davis Movie: Filming the ‘Birth of the Cool’

I read a very interesting article in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal from Tom Nolan (Hidden in Plain Hearing) about the beginnings of cool jazz and what is often referred to as the ‘Birth of the Cool.’

And when you mention the Birth of the Cool you quickly think of Miles Davis, the classic nonet and the legendary recording Birth of the Cool.

It’s a great read, and you’re quickly pulled back to the days of Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, the influence of band leader Claude Thornhill, Miles Davis and a new coolness taking over the jazz scene.

Trumpeter Miles Davis was the nominal leader of this ensemble, but it was the outfit’s arrangers — primarily Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan — who were the real stars. The devices they drew on had been available for years, hidden in plain hearing within the big band of Claude Thornhill.

There’s probably a movie in itself about the story how the “Birth of the Cool” album was created, the important figures in jazz history associated with the project and the burgeoning ‘cool jazz’ scene.

So I got to wondering if there would be something in the Miles Davis biopic representing this moment(s) in jazz and Miles Davis history.

You’d have to think a scene with the nonet playing “Boplicity” or “Deception” would capture the moment nicely – perhaps practicing in Gil Evans’ apartment, or even in the studio session.

Somehow, somewhere Gil Evans is going to have to make an appearance, so here’s a great opportunity.

I think there is going to be a fine line at how much of the film’s story can be directed squarely at jazz aficionados who would love to see all the inner-workings of the making of Davis’ music and those moviegoers who are looking to grab onto a ‘great’ story that follows the usual ebb and flow of a legendary life.

It can’t be too ‘inside baseball,’ to borrow a phrase.

Still, the music and the artists connected with the recording of Birth of the Cool are significant to the story of Miles Davis and the history of jazz… and certainly deserve mention in the biopic.

I believe.


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