The Miles Davis Movie: Filming ‘At the Blackhawk’

hawk In April of 1961 the Miles Davis Quintet played two nights at the Blackhawk, a legendary jazz club in San Francisco. The Friday and Saturday night shows were captured on two separate recordings (now available as a complete set w/ an unreleased fourth set).

I love this collection. The quintet (together only briefly) features Paul Chambers, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb, and Hank Mobley; like a master class in hard bop.

As for the Miles Davis movie, here again is a moment that can be a (quick) scene or two depending if the story gets to California. Or, if it’s just part of a montage of Miles on tour.

The album(s), and their iconic cover, are well-known in jazz circles, so a shot of the marquee (re-created because the place doesn’t even exist anymore) might ‘wow’ some jazz/Miles Davis fans, but in the context of the movie it probably registers low on scale of importance.

As Doug Collette touched on in a review of the 1961 recordings, “…the world of jazz was a culture far-removed from the mainstream…”

So being that it was ’61 and cultural change was stirring, maybe the biopic uses the dates at the Blackhawk as a signpost to underscore not only society going through a transformation, but also jazz music as a whole – and, of course, Miles Davis.

But the montage – there’s a good topic. Just like in “Ray” when they show Ray Charles traversing the world in a lively tour montage cut to the song “Bye Bye Love,” I can see a ‘cool’ montage, or two, being useful in the Miles Davis biopic. More to come on that….


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