Culture / Media

The Miles Davis Movie: Filming the Second Great Quintet

I’m fascinated by debate, specifically the type of competitive debate you see on high school and college campuses and in big state and national tournaments. I’ve seen HBO’s documentary “Resolved” about 100 times now, and I always get so jazzed watching the debaters in action.

I’d like to see an advanced debate played about over the issue of Miles Davis’ First Great Quintet versus his Second Great Quintet.

I would like to hear some real pros go to the mat over why one or the other quintet is ‘better.’ They are both equally legendary and amazing, so there’s no debate there – but if you have a situation where a winner must be chosen it would be an interesting topic to hear the different positions and arguments.

Speaking of debates, I found this nice, write-up from the website thenewblackmagazine.com:

There is no confusing the two quintets. Both sound magnifique but they have very little in common except the leader of each is Miles. Yet, even in that regard they are different. Even though immediately identifiable as Miles, the sound of his trumpet is different in each quintet.

The first quintet emphasizes Miles’ lyrical minimalism, especially the steel-strong fragility of his muted work. The second period is aggressive; the horn sound is both fatter and faster—indeed, middle period Miles is the peak of Miles’ technique as a trumpeter.

Oh yes, and there’s a Miles Davis movie on the way and you’d think the likes of the great Wayne Shorter (sax), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums) would be making an appearance – at least actors portraying the great musicians that is.

And because there’s no way I could do proper justice to breaking down the musical output of the Second Great Quintet, let me take this opportunity to happily link to Matthew Asprey’s Blog (Honey for the Bears), who in February wrote a fantastic overview of the recordings of Miles’ second great quintet (coming on the news of the passing of the legendary producer Teo Macero).

Part I
Part II

I own the bulk of what the Second Great Quintet recorded; I love some of it, like some of it and some I am indifferent. I tend to lean towards the First Great Quintet, but somehow I marvel at the hearing (at watching) the Second Great Quintet in action. That’s magic pure and simple. Those guys are just on a different level….

Knowing the film will not be 4 hours long one cannot assume there will be too much movie time spent on this collection of jazz greats Davis assembled, but we can wonder how much of their music will be featured, or the characters themselves…

Because Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter are still with us (R.I.P. Tony W!), Don Cheadle has access to those who were with Miles, deep down in the musical hole where the magic happens. They can provide so much context, I’m sure it’d make your head spin.

But this is a good thing…

I mention the ‘performance’ component of the Miles Davis film and how those scenes may serve as the heart of the movie – the ‘wow’ moments that people talk about.

When I think about “Ray” the first thing that jumps to mind is the sequence in the studio when he sings “Hit the Road Jack” and how it segues to the live show. And I think about how “Marianne” is presented and cut.

To wrap up my thoughts about the Second Great Quintet and the Miles Davis movie, I’ll just reiterate what I said when discussing the First Great Quintet –

“I’m happy just to see the Second Great Quintet celebrated one way or the other in the movie – they, and their music, is most deserved.”

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