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

miles-davis-birth-of-the-cool I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal (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 phrase ‘Birth of the Cool’ you quickly think of Miles Davis, the classic nonet and the legendary recording Birth of the Cool.

The article recalls the days of Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, the influential bandleader Claude Thornhill, 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 both jazz and Miles Davis’ history. Though we now know the biopic will (most likely) veer away from a traditional narrative, it doesn’t mean such a landmark recording and important chapter should be overlooked.

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 during a 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 to those moviegoers who are simply 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. They can deconstruct the biopic all they want, but it still has to be entertaining.

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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1 thought on “The Miles Davis Movie: Filming the ‘Birth of the Cool’”

  1. Re: Birth of the Cool. I may have missed it on your blog — but the really interesting thing about the album, is that it was recorded years before it was released, so the whole “cool” thing had been through the whole cycle before Miles’ recording came out. Ironically, he could have been known as a leader in the cool school if the record came out when it was first recorded, but instead I think most people didn’t get the point, since cool was little old by the time its “Birth” was announced by the label. Miles was always on the crest of the wave — not necessarily a leader, but he knew what to do with the new material that kept popping up in music. What? Miles Davis playing Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”. Well, why not? I loved the original pop tune, and I loved Miles’s rendition of it. What? Miles has gone electric? Who’s next — Bob Dylan? Ask Carlos Santana what he thought of Miles going electric. On second thought, don’t ask him – just listen to Santana’s take on “In A Silent Way”. I think it led Santana in a whole new direction, and forced him to take some chances just when he was starting to slide into a “smoothed out” version of himself.
    Uh, Bill — can we stay on the original subject for more than a sentence? Nope, not tonite — too much caffeine. I better go now, before Facebook smacks me for violating word counts.

    Rock on, y’all!

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