Miles Davis: “60 Minutes”




Miles Davis: Honky Tonk

I think it’s “Honky Tonk.” I don’t always love the fusion stuff, but the man is on fire in this clip. That’s heavy funk, and it is good. Probably recorded Nov. 17th, 1970 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA. Miles, Airto Moriera and Michael Henderson are visible; Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette can be heard. Gary Bartz was probably the saxophonist that night.

The Miles Davis Movie: Better as linear or nonlinear narrative? or: Deconstructing the ‘deconstructed biopic’

davis-life1 Get comfortable with the term ‘deconstructed biopic’ because you’ll be reading a lot about that phrase now that Darryl Porter (Miles Davis Properties) propagated it to describe the Miles Davis film.

I linked to a Variety article Monday about the state of music biopics, which featured a section on the Miles Davis project, and that’s where Porter commented on the narrative style being utilized for the movie.

He also said, “Our goal is to have a very broad audience and bring in a whole new demographic of Miles fans,” so a deconstructed narrative style is perhaps part of the strategy in trying to achieve that goal with the Miles Davis biopic.

Of course I’d love to know ‘how’ they plan to attract a broad audience to the movie and bring in that new demographic of fans. How the film is structured might have some impact, but casual moviegoers might need more than flashy cinema tricks.

The filmmakers could forgo a “Ray” like blueprint and follow something a bit more non-traditional like Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There,” the 2007 biography of Bob Dylan where six actors portrayed different facets of Dylan’s personality.

Porter noted that one idea being considered is to promote the film “…through posthumous collaborations between Davis and hip-hop artists…”

There’s a connection between Miles Davis and hip-hop (see: “Doo-Bop“), I agree, but is it enough to hang a film on? There’s a connection between Davis and musicians of all genres; he was that influential.

But the relationship between hip hop and Miles Davis, which I admit to not fully understanding on a purely academic level, is something I can imagine the producers trying to harness in trying to attract that broad audience they’re gunning for.

By that I mean tapping popular music (rap, pop, etc.) and the artists/celebrities associated with it to somehow cast an updated glow of pop culture importance on a film about a musician most people only know due to a ubiquitous name associated with nostalgic significance and a legacy of being ‘cool.’

Where linear and nonlinear is concerned, personally I see the Miles Davis movie succeeding in either option. The question of which storyline technique is best suited for a film about Miles Davis is certainly debatable.

I’m an admirer of films like The Usual Suspects, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kill Bill, Short Cuts, In the Mood for Love, Annie Hall, The Conformist, 8 ½ and Out of Sight – each a product of a creative, nonlinear structure.

The Miles Davis movie could very well start with Miles Davis on his deathbed and work back to various stages of his life. Or the movie commences by dropping in on Miles Davis during the Kind of Blue sessions and alternate between past and future. life-miles2

We’re not dealing with an intricately plotted crime drama like “The Usual Suspects,” so there’s no reason to make any biopic of Miles Davis a complicated experience for the audience.

It all depends how ‘creative’ Don Cheadle wants to be in telling the story. A Miles Davis biopic doesn’t need a lot of fancy narrative structure. There’s enough inherit drama and personal conflict to have a well-designed linear story that can thrive on powerful, affecting performances and the music, which, it can be argued, will be the second most important component to the film besides Cheadle’s portrayal of Miles Davis.

I like that Porter and Cheadle want to appeal to non-jazz fans as well. I’ve already said you don’t need to be an aficionado of jazz or Miles Davis to appreciate and enjoy the story of Miles Davis. I didn’t know much about Mozart when I watched Amadeus, but I loved the movie – because it stands alone as a slice of entertainment, and it’s a wonderful story.

Film is about adventure, mostly, as the audience commits to exploring a world (real/fantasy) they might know zero about, but are willing to find out.

I think a broad demographic will want to find out about Miles Davis; how the film achieves this remains a mystery – could be through clever marketing, critical-acclaim, hyper buzz or a combination of each.

Part of me is apprehensive about a deconstructed biopic. A nonlinear structure I have no problem with, but deconstructed worries me. I’d hate to think about the project trying to be too clever; you can start this thing at the beginning, roll camera right up to the end, and we’d have one heck of a biopic to experience.

So while all this stuff about hip hop, marketing and kooky narratives give me pause, at least we know the wheels are in motion. And with Thanksgiving around the corner that is definitely something to be thankful about.

*A brief word on the photographs: Google opened an online photo gallery this week that features millions of images from Life magazine’s archives that have never been seen by the public before. Needless to say there are some wonderful images of Miles Davis included.

The Miles Davis Movie: Yes! News!

right I’ll keep the commentary short and just link to the Variety article, which takes an in-depth look at the state of music biopics.

The story touches on a number of forthcoming and rumored music biopics and the various roadblocks that affect this particular genre.

Oh yeah, and there’s an update about the Miles Davis biopic.


Let’s not get crazy. It’s not a release date or anything like that, but it’s news and that’s cause for celebration.

An interesting comment in the story from Darryl Porter, who manages Miles Davis Properties LLC, is how he describes the project as a “deconstructed biopic.” Very interesting. Funny enough, but I’m presently working on a post about the type of story structure the filmmakers might utilize.

He also said the Miles Davis movie “will not just appeal to jazz heads” and that their goal is to “…have a very broad audience and bring in a whole new demographic of Miles fans.”

Again, very interesting. How they plan to bring in a ‘new demographic of Miles fans’ should fill countless Blog posts moving forward.

All told, it’s nice to hear from Porter regarding the Miles Davis movie project. If anything it provides a burst of energy over here at The Miles Davis Movie headquarters.

Onward and upward.

Miles Davis: Spanish Key (Antibes ’69)

The Miles Davis Movie: Filming Charlie Parker and Miles Davis at the Three Deuces

gerry-parker2 “But it was at the Three Deuces, playing every night there with Bird and Max, that really helped me find my own voice.”

— Miles Davis (excerpt from Miles: The Autobiography)

In 1944 Miles Davis moved to New York to study in the Julliard School of Music. His tenure would only last a few months. Instead he sought a musical education in the clubs of 52nd Street with musicians like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Davis soon joined Parker’s group at the Three Deuces club in 1945 and in the recording studio.

It was soon after that Davis would make his first recordings as a band leader, which featured Parker, pianist John Lewis, and drummer Max Roach.

Photographer William P. Gottlieb captured some memorable images from those days and the photograph above is recognizable to jazz fans: Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Miles Davis, and Max Roach at the Three Deuces, New York, N.Y., August 1947.

I’ve brought up the issue of who should play Charlie Parker, but I can only assume this point in Davis’ life (and career) would rate high on the scale of important scenes for the Miles Davis film.

Not only can the audience get introduced to a number of famous jazz musicians, but the Three Deuces setting provides an ideal opportunity for a musical sequence.

Kind of Blue: Made in Heaven





The Miles Davis Movie: The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

cool-miles You could make a strong argument that this Blog about the Miles Davis biopic is a bit early to the party.

Like the band hasn’t even set up yet kind of early.

It just feels like the Miles Davis biopic is a long way off from completion. That’s not to say the project is stuck at the starting gate, but by no means is the movie in the home stretch towards premiering at the local theater.

Without much news to stoke the hype and keep interest high, momentum behind the Miles Davis movie begins to wane; a stark contrast from last year when it was announced, to much hoopla, that Don Cheadle would be the star and director of the Miles Davis biopic.

But no one said the movie-making machine is a speedy one. And hey, it’s fun to speculate (re: this Blog!) and discuss the project from all sides.

I’m pretty much clueless as to where the Miles Davis biopic stands regarding development and eventual production. I just assume and go by any news that gets out, however minute.

Sometimes my assumptions about the state of the biopic are based on what I don’t see in the media.

Last week I read about Don Cheadle being honored with the humanitarian award at the 17th annual BAFTA/LA Britannia Awards in Los Angeles (along with Tilda Swinton/artist of the year, Stephen Frears/John Schlesinger directing award and Sean Penn/Stanley Kubrick award).

And that’s fantastic for Cheadle – he deserves all accolades when it comes to his fight against atrocities around the globe.

But in the Variety write-up I noticed a few sentences about his upcoming projects: The drama Brooklyn’s Finest directed by Antoine Fuqua and the comedy Hotel for Dogs.

Both projects are slated for a 2009 release. No mention of the Untitled Miles Davis Biopic (as it’s referred to on

The absence of the Miles Davis biopic is telling because it’s clear the project is not on the fast-track, as it were. That’s a bummer.

Speaking of IMDB, on Cheadle’s page the Untitled Miles Davis Biopic movie is not even listed. However there’s a good chance it is part of, which lists 5 in-development credits available. Let’s assume one of those is the Miles Davis biopic.

Still, just looking at what he has lined up on the regular IMDB page it is clear there’s not a lot of wiggle room for filming the Miles Davis movie.

The Avengers (2011) (announced)…. Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes
Marching Powder (2010) (announced)
Iron Man 2 (2010) (pre-production)…. Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes

Two of those are big movies and that’s great for Cheadle. But for anyone remotely interested in the fate of the Miles Davis movie it’s a bit saddening because development hell is a place no one wants this project to exist.

We know there’s a script circulating, but so much has to be in place before cameras role – namely money and distribution and lord knows what else. Oh, and a cast besides Cheadle. lislsteiner-miles-davis-de-buhne1962c2

The silver lining to all this was an entertainment brief last month that specifically addressed the Miles Davis biopic:

Forget reports of the demise of the long-talked-about Miles Davis film biography. Erin Davis tells us he’s just finished reading the script for the feature that Don Cheadle plans to direct, with Cheadle himself starring as the mercurial music legend.

“It was great, a great script,” Davis enthuses. “They’ll probably do some revisions on it and tighten it up, but maybe it can get started next year for a release in ’10.”

That news item is what keeps hope alive around Miles Davis Movie headquarters that one day we’ll see a movie about the life and times of Miles Davis.

I’ll admit that the part about maybe getting started in ’09 is troubling. A 2009 production start is even more daunting when you consider Cheadle having joined the Marvel Entertainment behemoth with “Iron Man 2” and “The Avengers.”

Could be we don’t see Miles on screen until 2011. Is it possible a new presidential election could be underway by the time the Miles Davis biopic hits theatres?


To sum it all up I will tweak one of my favorite lines of dialogue delivered by Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now:

“Someday this Miles Davis movie is gonna get made …”

The Miles Davis Movie: Can Obama presidency help the success of a movie about Miles Davis?

davis-office During the just concluded presidential campaign there was a moment when we learned what kind of music the candidates preferred. It was no surprise that when Barack Obama revealed his iPod playlist there was much (fun) debate and scrutiny.

Of course his music assemblage was greeted with cheers because, well, because his musical taste is just so darn cool and eclectic and perfect for a man tasked with saving the planet. But I digress.

Miles Davis was included in Obama’s compilation, as were other jazz legends like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. Obama also likes Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Jay-Z and Stevie Wonder, who he said was his ultimate musical hero during the 70s.

Regardless of your thoughts about Obama the politician, at least he’s a fan of Miles Davis. Whew!

It should be noted that on John McCain’s iPod he has the likes of the Beach Boys, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Neil Diamond – not a bad selection.

But no matter if it’s Obama as president or George Washington returned from the grave it’s not going to help move the Miles Davis biopic from development to screen any quicker. We need an act of God!

But does Obama in office, on a purely cultural level, somehow benefit a Miles Davis biopic if and when it debuts?

The word ‘cool’ has been heard a lot in reference to Obama’s style and behavior (that’s good or bad depending on how you view the guy), but there’s going to be numerous articles written about Obama and the cultural change presently underway in Washington.

Can we expect “Kind of Blue” played in the Oval Office?

“He’s a cool cat,” said Christopher Buckley, the political humorist in a NY Times story, “and I think he’s going to bring cool catness back, if it ever existed at the White House.”

Again, ‘cool.’ And when I think of cool Miles Davis comes to mind – always.

Is the Miles Davis biopic a film Obama can get behind? Surely he can speak about the jazz legend’s influence musically and socially. Maybe he even hops aboard Air Force One and joins all his new Hollywood best friends for the premiere.

But if Obama digs the Miles Davis movie, hey, ticket sales may get a boost. Maybe he gives the big endorsement and his broad constituency rushes to the theatres, or even to iTunes to download some tracks off “Porgy and Bess” or “Miles Ahead.”

(I was about to write ‘record store’ instead of iTunes, but I realized they don’t exist anymore.)

This is not a political Blog so I won’t delve into any discourse about Obama as president and whatnot, but while it remains a mystery how an Obama presidency will pan out, if there happens to be a cultural upshot that benefits the Miles Davis movie, well, that would be something to cheer about.

The Miles Davis Movie: Omission from ‘most anticipated poll’ further proof biopic won’t hit theatres in ’09

dxc__gu1095677 There was a survey from released last week (thx: DHD) conducted between August 8th and October 5th of nearly 4,000 movie fans who chimed in with their picks for the “most anticipated” films over the next 12 months.

The Top-10 Most Anticipated Films

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros)
2. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Fox)
3. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Paramount)
4. Public Enemies (Universal)
5. Angels & Demons (Sony)
6. Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian (Fox)
7. The Informant (Warner Bros)
8. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Fox)
9. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Fox)
10. The Taking of Pelham 123 (Sony)

Yep, no Miles Davis movie. I’ll go ahead and submit that even if the Miles Davis biopic were slated for a 2009 release that it still would not make the top ten of this particular survey from

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Seth Rogen and Halle Berry would each have to be added to the cast in order for the Miles Davis biopic to knock any of those ‘big’ movies listed above out of the way.

I do foresee hype and anticipation when more production and casting information hits the news cycle. But for now most Blog-reading, Hollywood industry-interested movie fans (and fans of Miles Davis) know only that Don Cheadle is set to star and direct in the Miles Davis biopic. And that news was revealed as far back as December of ’06, so clearly the project has been simmering for quite awhile — and that’s just this, the most current, of the Miles Davis projects to have endeavored to put the life of the jazz legend on the big screen.

There’s definitely intrigue surrounding the movie because a) it’s a project that’s bounced around for years but unable to close the deal, b) the idea of a Miles Davis biopic continues to interest movie and music fans and c) with Don Cheadle onboard it gives the movie prime legitimacy as a film that can finally get made.

Unfortunately news of Don Cheadle taking Terrance Howard’s role for the next “Iron Man” movie (not unfortunate for Cheadle) casts a drop of gloom over the Miles Davis project and highlights the question (again) of just how long it’s going to take for the biopic to transition from development to actual production.

It’s Hollywood. Stuff happens.

cheadle_miles_getty_260 The Miles Davis biopic is definitely not an event picture, it’s not going to overheat the hype machine (on the ‘net) like “Watchmen,” for example, but depending on components like – and perhaps most importantly – budget and studio (unless it goes it alone and looks for a distributor), the movie could exist somewhere between indie-flick and Hollywood blockbuster.

Whatever that means. I always defer to “Ray” as my paradigm, but “Ray” feels like a Hollywood movie. So what movie sits between big and small? Is there such a movie?

Whatever it is, the Miles Davis movie could fit the bill and in doing so generate its share of hype from fans and critics, which I think will be there when (I won’t say ‘if’) the film ramps up and it finally looks like we’ll get to see the life of Miles Davis on the big screen.


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Miles Davis Quintet – Agitation