The Miles Davis Movie: Should The Miles Davis Biopic Premier At Cannes?

With the 2010 Festival de Cannes set for May 12-23, I am wondering about the Miles Davis Biopic and if, perhaps, the film could make its debut in the south of France. Once it’s finally made, of course.

This is pure conjecture, but it makes more sense by the minute, especially when you consider the unique relationship between Miles Davis and the country.

Miles Davis’ adventures in France are well documented in books and magazine articles and on various musical recordings, so I won’t delve too deep into the specifics.

I will, however, point out two Miles Davis projects I enjoy, both with a decidedly French twist.

The first being the album “Miles Davis in Europe,” which was recorded live in France at the Festival Mondial, du Jazz Antibes Miles Davis in 1963. Alongside tenor saxophonist George Coleman, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams the album is wonderful; my favorite track is the ballad “I Thought About You.”

The second item is film-related. It’s 1957 and Miles Davis has ventured off to France for a tour and recorded the soundtrack for the film “Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud” — otherwise known as “Elevator to the Gallows,” directed by Louis Malle and starring Jeanne Moreau.

In doing some research I happened upon what seems to be an academic study about Miles Davis, Louis Malle and Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud titled “A Jazz Film of Collaborative Integrity.”

Based on the URL it appears to be from Cornell University, but I am unsure of the date. There is a video component so it cannot be too old.

The essay provides some wonderful information about Davis’ involvement with the film, including this snippet of conversation Davis shared with friend Quincy Troupe about his time in France.

Then I went to Paris again to play as a guest soloist for a few weeks. And it was during this trip that I met French filmmaker Louis Malle through Juliette Greco. He Told me he had always loved my music and that he wanted me to write the musical score for his new film, L’Ascenseur pour l’echafaud. I agreed to do it and it was a great learning experience, because I had never written a music score for a film before. I would look at the rushes of the film and get musical ideas to write down. Since it was about a murder and was supposed to be a suspense movie, I used this old, gloomy, dark building where I had the musicians play.

I thought it would give the music atmosphere, and it did. …When I got back to New York in December 1957, I was ready to move forward with my music again. I asked Red to come back, and he did. When I heard Monk’s gig at Five Spot was ending, I called Trane and told him I wanted him back, and he said, “Okay.” Man, when this happened, I knew some real great musical shit was about to go down; I could feel it in my bones. And it happened. It went all the way down. (Troupe, 217-222.)

While researching photos I ran across this image – a statue of Miles Davis by by Niki de Saint-Phalle outside the Hotel Negresco (on the Promenade des Anglais on the Baie des Anges) in Nice, France.

Miles Davis had a special relationship with France and is, no doubt, part of the country’s musical and artistic foundation.

The thought of a Miles Davis Biopic premiering in Cannes feels right. It feels like an event!

I have no idea when the film will be completed, but wouldn’t it be great if the Miles Davis Movie were to debut in the French Riviera at the glitzy Cannes Film Festival?

I think the ol’ jazz legend would get a big thrill out of it….

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Miles Davis Online Turns One Year Old!

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Happy Birthday!

Miles Davis Online is one year old. First and foremost I want to thank all of you loyal readers who have made this Miles Davis blog what it is.

I had already been writing the Miles Davis Movie blog to chronicle the ongoing process of the Miles Davis Biopic.

But then I decided I wanted to produce a website devoted to All Things Miles Davis.

There had been two ‘official’ locations for Miles Davis – one from the Miles Davis estate, and one from Sony Legacy -, but neither was/is very good. The estate website has since shuttered, halting any plans for producing their own content for a Miles Davis website. They decided to make life easier by allowing the gang at Sony Legacy to handle any web business; whatever news and updates from the estate can just go directly to miles-davis.com (now using the estate’s milesdavis.com address).

There is a just-announced partnership between the Miles Davis Estate and Sony Music for a new official website, but I am reserving judgement until I see just how far they are willing to go to make the website truly shine.

Without going into a long dissertation, let’s just say I had big plans/ideas/hopes for the official Miles Davis website. But it’s not to be, so here we are with Miles Davis Online.

Look at sinatra.com – a fantastic example of official website greatness, and where I want to take Miles Davis Online. What I lack in access to the vaults of priceless photos, unreleased music and memorabilia, I more than make up for with passion and energy, plus the desire to curate a daily conversation about Miles Davis and appreciation of a remarkable career. Like I said, when I started this project, more than anything I want Miles Davis Online to be entertaining, interesting and function as a central axis for fans of Miles Davis.

For the past year it has been an absolute delight producing this blog. And I want to say thanks to everyone who has stopped by the blog and Facebook page to check things out. I really appreciate all the comments, tips and suggestions.

Miles Davis Online might not be the ‘Official’ Miles Davis website because of legal mumbo jumbo, but it sure as hell is going to be the ‘Best.’ We have a lot of fun and interesting features on deck in the coming months, so for sure the best is yet to come.

Thanks!

– Jeff

Miles Davis / The Album Covers

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* sessions, imports, singles, reissues, compilations, live recordings…
** mostly just album covers i think look really cool…

Celebrate Miles Davis’ 84th Birthday With New Box Set and CD/DVD Releases

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Click here for the details.

There’s also news of a “unique partnership/collaborative effort between the Miles Davis Estate and Sony Music,” which is featuring a brand new official Miles Davis website.

Game on! Look, the estate and Sony has so much material, I hope hope hope they throw all kinds of excellent content online – that way we all win! We shall see how regularly updated the website gets, but for now it’s a nice step up from the estate’s original web address. Still, the ‘official’ Miles Davis site has a long way to go to match sinatra.com for sheer heft. And do not sleep on Miles Davis ONLINE! The official ‘unofficial’ website for All Things Miles Davis.

+ In September, The Genius of Miles Davis will be unveiled. A limited-edition box set designed as an actual trumpet case, the case will house the eight deluxe multi-CD box sets that are the crown jewels in the Miles Davis Series’ 15-year history. The distinctive gilt-edged metal spines and the lavish packaging of those eight box sets have placed them in a class by themselves:

•Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings
•Miles Davis Quintet 1965-’68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings
•The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions
•Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961
•The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions
•The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions
•Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings Of Miles Davis 1963-1964
•The Complete On The Corner Sessions

The eight heavyweight box sets – with a cumulative total of 43 CDS and eight Grammy Awards between them – will now be gathered in their original metal spine editions (except for The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions, which did not originally appear with a metal spine) in the 21-pound collection known as The Genius of Miles Davis. The trumpet case will contain a number of additional items, including an exact replica of the “Gustat” Heim 2 model mouthpiece used by Miles; a previously unavailable fine art lithograph chosen by the Miles Davis Estate; and a boutique-quality t-shirt manufactured exclusively for this package by Trunk Ltd.

+ Starting on Miles’ birthday, The Genius of Miles Davis will be available for pre-order at MilesDavis.com.

+ In November, Miles’ 1959 classic Kind of Blue album will be released in two separate vinyl configurations. Collectors will be able to choose between a standard 180 gram vinyl single LP, or a 2-LP 180 gram set cut at 45 RPM.

The Miles Davis Movie: Don Cheadle Talks Miles Davis Biopic Amid Iron Man 2 Hullabaloo

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I’m not sure why the MTV news item about the Biopic not being a cradle-to-grave film should be adorned with an ‘exclusive’ headline. We covered this way back in August on the Biopic Blog.

Oh well.

Still… it’s nice to see Don Cheadle having positive things about the Miles Davis Movie:

“The story is really not… a biopic per se,” Cheadle said. “It’s not attempting to be any cradle-to-grave depiction of [Miles’] life. It’s more my take, as an artist, on what his music has meant. With wall-to-wall truth but not really much concerned about facts.”

He also plays the trumpet, but doesn’t have any intention of trying to fake the master musician’s licks. This, too, already covered! LOL!

“The instrument is a monster,” he said. “We’ve been working with the estate and Columbia… and Sony music [and they’ve] really been good about… giving us rights to the music. I don’t think I want to try to play if I can use Miles’ playing. But for the authenticity of it and for the reality of it and for me understanding the instrument, it’s great that I have that facility.”

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.

Miles Davis / The Sidemen

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Paul Chambers

The Magic and Mystery of Miles Davis

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The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts offers the only showing in North America of this exhibition devoted to ‘the Picasso of Jazz’

MONTREAL — According to Miles Davis in his scabrous autobiography, when the trumpeter was invited to a White House dinner in 1987, an older woman asked him what he’d done to merit being there. Davis shot back, “Well, I’ve changed music five or six times.” Drum roll, please …

Davis was hailed as “The Picasso of Jazz,” a sobriquet that Nathalie Bondil, director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, appropriated to explain the multimedia exhibition We Want Miles: Miles Davis vs. Jazz, opening on Friday. Like Picasso’s, his career was marked by distinct stylistic periods: bebop, cool, hard-bop, orchestral jazz, modal music, jazz-rock, funk and techno-funk.

Famously dubbed the Prince of Darkness, as artist and man, Davis created music worthy of the overused word hypnotic. Nearly 20 years after his death, he continues to put a spell on us.

We Want Miles, exclusive to Montreal in North America, is divided into eight themes, with different gallery spaces reflecting the periods of his career through over 350 items associated with Davis, many of them previously unseen by the general public – photos, films, album covers and artwork (including paintings by Miles), personal effects, instruments, assorted ephemera. And lots of music. The exhibition – assembled by Vincent Bessières, a former editor at Jazzman magazine of Paris, with input from the Montreal International Jazz Festival – was a roaring success during its run at Cité de la Musique in Paris last winter.

Read more of The magic and mystery of Miles courtesy the Montreal Gazette.

* excellent review and commentary of the We Want Miles exhibition in Montreal.

Photograph by: Photo courtesy of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, The Gazette

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.

Miles Davis, 1947

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circa 1947: EXCLUSIVE Portrait of American jazz trumpeter and bandleader Miles Davis (1926 – 1991) smiling and wearing a hat, with a blazer and a dark shirt.
Photo: Metronome/Getty Images
Jan 01, 1947

* Damn that is a great photograph

It Was ‘A Great Day in Harlem,’ But Where Was Miles Davis?

great-day-in-harlemArt Kane’s legendary photograph A Great Day In Harlem is one of my favorite images; a single snapshot of jazz history.

Often times, when I look over the faces of all those jazz greats who gathered on that August day in 1958, I wonder, “Hey! Where’s Miles Davis?”

I was reminded of my curiosity after reading Ian Patterson’s terrific retrospective of the classic, black and white group portrait of jazz musicians.

Patterson notes the prominent names of jazz legends that were not in attendance on 126th street in uptown Harlem for the photo shoot, resulting in an interesting sub-plot to the actual events of that day.

Along with Miles Davis, big names like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald (among others) were also not in attendance.

Patterson writes, “All those absent giants of jazz, and others too numerous mention, are nonetheless felt somehow to be present—represented by musicians who played with them, and who inspired and were inspired by them. Like with any family reunion, its absent members are with us in spirit.”

But Miles Davis, where was he?

I was lucky enough to catch up with Patterson recently and asked his theory of Miles’ absence.

“I don’t know where Miles was that day,” says Patterson, “but as none of his usual sidemen around that time (Cannonball, Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe) were in the picture it is quite likely he was out of town with his group that day.”

He added, “I do tend to think that even had he been in town he wouldn’t have been too bothered to turn up for the photo shoot. I don’t think it was his style at all.”

And let’s not forget the shoot took place at 10am – not exactly prime time for jazz musicians, many of whom had probably just gone to bed a few hours earlier after a long night of playing. Then again, some of the musicians might have just gone straight from the gig to the photo shoot.

Looking at the photo now, I wonder where Miles Davis would have been positioned for the photo; would he be front and center with Stuff Smith and Coleman Hawkins, or perhaps he’d rather be off to the (right) side, mingling with fellow trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Roy Eldridge.

Or maybe he walks up, checks the scene and decides to hell with it and goes home.

I’m not sure if the musicians were told where to stand, or if they just showed up and stood around waiting for novice photographer Art Kane to get started. I really need to see Jean Bach’s 1994 documentary of the event.

I found this quote from Art Kane on JazzBrat.com: “I couldn’t control it because you had musicians who hadn’t seen each other in one solid congregation probably ever before, and to try to control this group was near impossible.”

George Rafael, writing at The First Post, had this to say:

“Establishing a semblance of order at the shoot was another problem. Musicians who hadn’t seen one another in years fell into each others arms, caught up on old times, though stride giant Willie ‘the Lion’ Smith – who only taught Fats Waller the ropes – got tired of waiting and strolled off frame. A fatigued Count Basie sat on the curb and was joined by a swarm of children. Rex Stuart, late of the Ellington band, brought his ax along in case of a jam.”

That Kane pulled it off at all is a minor miracle. Sounds like quite an ordeal.

Looking back, it’s an interesting parlor game to think about where Miles Davis, Ellington, Coltrane and the other no-shows would be located in the famous photograph.

The photo is close to perfect as is, and perhaps there’s an added bit of folklore to the photograph because of who didn’t make it. Still, it feels like a family photo that’s missing a few siblings.

But back to the whereabouts of Miles Davis…

Marian McPartland, one of the 57 jazz artists in the photo, is quoted in Patterson’s story with her own theory as to Miles’ whereabouts: “Well, of course Miles (Davis) probably thought: ‘Oh, to hell with that, I’m not going.’ I’m sure he didn’t care about that a bit. But I’m surprised that Duke (Ellington) didn’t go because a lot of his band members were there, like Sonny Greer and several of the brass players.”

In the story Patterson recounts that, “notices were put up in all the jazz clubs, and at the Musician’s Union Local 802 office, announcing that the photo shoot was scheduled for ten o’clock on the morning of August the 12th, 1958.”

Again, 10am is not ideal scheduling for jazz musicians.

There might not be a great conspiracy, or even amusing anecdote as to why Miles Davis missed the photo shoot. Patterson’s opinion is most likely the correct version: out of town or ambivalent. It’s one of the two – or perhaps both.

I’m trying to recall if his absence was mentioned in any of the biographies, or perhaps in his autobiography. I also wonder, as the years went by and the photograph became so iconic, if Miles Davis regretted not being there. Or maybe he didn’t care one way or the other.

No matter. It’s still a wonderful photograph with or without Miles Davis. Sure, it might have been an even greater day in Harlem had a few other legends been able to attend, or chose to be there, but that’s their loss. They missed out on being part of what has become a much-loved image, jazz history in a single photograph.

A Great Day in Harlem: The Spirit Lives – 50 Years On

Image: A Great Day in Harlem (credit: Art Kane)

Miles Davis / From The Archives

miles1 We jump back to October 11, 1991, just days after Miles Davis had died, with a terrific commentary in Entertainment Weekly by Greg Sandow.

Death of the Cool
‘Remembering Miles Davis — For four decades he remade jazz in his own ever-changing image’

Miles Davis, not to put too fine a point on it, was a mother. When he died last week, 65 years old and long ailing, there was nobody, absolutely nobody, who wouldn’t have called him a giant of jazz, a titan of the trumpet, a founder of contemporary American music, or many other boilerplate articles of praise — all ringing true as the extraordinary notes he conjured out of his horn for 46 years.

As a jazz trumpet player, Davis was as great as they come. Beyond that, he was an innovator, instrumental in nearly every important jazz idiom between the ”cool” style of the late ’40s and the jazz-rock fusion of the late ’60s and ’70s. He was an unparalleled bandleader, able to inspire his ensembles to heights of group improvisation. And finally, as a mentor to younger musicians he had no peer, giving an important boost over the years to well, pick a name. John Coltrane, one of the few giants who might be called Davis’ equal? Herbie Hancock, sometime pop star and a leading jazz light of the generations after Davis? Wayne Shorter? John McLaughlin? Chick Corea? All of them got key early exposure and experience in Miles Davis’ bands.

Click here to read the full story

Birth Of The Cool Sessions

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High-angle view of the Miles Davis nonet in a recording studio at Capitol Records for the sessions that were released as ‘Birth of the Cool,’ New York, New York, January 21, 1949. Pictured are, clockwise from left, Bill Barber (1920 – 2007), Junior Collins, Kai Winding (1922 – 1983), Max Roach (1924 – 2007) (obscured behid screen), Al Haig (1924 – 1982) (at piano), Joe Shulman (1923 – 1957) (standing at rear), Miles Davis (1926 – 1991), Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan (1927 – 1996).
Photo: Frank Driggs Collection/Getty Images
Jan 21, 1949

Miles Davis / In Pictures

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Miles Davis Original Papercut Art

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Miles Davis Original Papercut Art No 1 Jazz by tinatarnoff

This is an original artwork, not a print. Each piece is entirely handmade, signed and dated. Due to the handcrafted nature of this artwork, each piece may have subtle differences. The mounted artwork comes in a protective, archival-quality, cellophane sleeve and will be shipped to you with the utmost care. Part of my “Jazz Giants” series, it is also available in black or white wood frames with glass fronts – see under my framing service offer.

I like it!