Miles Davis 2011: A Look Ahead

Miles Davis Biopic: With a possible release date (according to IMDB) sitting comfortably on the 2013 calendar, it’s no surprise news is fleeting. It didn’t stop me from starting a blog about it in 2008! Boy was I early to the party.

Nevertheless, 2010 closed with an unexpected bang of news about the slow-moving biopic. The Hollywood Reporter’s Shirley Halperin caught up with Don Cheadle who said the script was complete and now they are on the hunt for investor money.

Most importantly, we now have some concrete hope that the project is moving ahead.

But 2011 is expected to be low-key, unless a studio jumps in to pay the tab and a start date is confirmed. Maybe an actor or two sign on, but I’m not hopeful for much action. A script leak would be welcome!

With Cheadle’s busy workload it’s tough to see where the biopic fits in – in the short-term. The Miles Davis Biopic isn’t even listed on his credits, which is strange.

We assume Cheadle is still going to direct the movie as well as play the lead role of the jazz legend. I’ve wondered if Cheadle should not direct and just focus on playing Miles Davis. But I’m on record in my confidence with Cheadle as star and director of the Miles Movie.

Music: In 2010 we had the release of the behemoth box set The Genius of Miles Davis and Bitches Brew: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition.

In his recent article on Miles Davis, Will Layman notes that Erin Davis, Miles’ son, said Davis’ post-comeback music is at Warner Brothers and is being packaged now into another box set.

Vince Wilburn Jr., Miles’ nephew and part of the team with Erin and Cheryl Davis (Miles’ daughter) that operates Miles Davis Properties, said they were going ‘to go into the vault and release some bootlegs.’

You can always count on some type of re-release or re-packaging of a Miles Davis album. 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of Someday My Prince Will Come, so perhaps we’ll see something from Columbia. It’s also the big 50th for Steamin’, so perhaps that awesome recording will see an anniversary edition.

We do know that Bitches Brew Live hits stores February 8, while Jazz Legend arrives February 15.

In April we get The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige.

Business: Miles Davis Properties cut licensing deals for a special beer and high-performance headphones in 2011. Where they go in 2011 is a mystery. Wilburn Jr. has said in the past the group turns down 95 percent of the business pitches that hit their desk, so clearly they have a specific idea where they want to take the Miles Davis brand.

“We’re trying not to over-saturate the public,” Wilburn Jr. tells Will Layman, and I applaud him for the licensing restraint. I’d love to see some of the pitches they turn down, but I never would have guessed special beer or headphones as green light business deals.

It must be tough because you don’t want to harm the legacy, but still find ways to push the iconic name and what it represents.

Radio: Not sure why there isn’t 24-hour channel on Sirius/XM already. There was a limited-run last year (Miles Davis Radio), but no word since if a dedicated Miles Davis channel is in the works.

TV: We’re anxious to get a look at The Miles Davis Documentary from Christopher Wilkinson. From what I’ve read the project is headed to HBO.

iPad & iPhone: There should be an App; nothing fussy, but one should be developed. This is an area where Miles Davis Properties could investigate, find a way to enhance social media and technology. I know the headphones can be considered part of the tech market, but an App is all about getting the content right to the user. Accessibility is the key. Connecting with the fans is essential.

The App for Wynton Marsalis is a prime example. It’s free. It’s outstanding. The features include music, videos, photos and live concert streaming. A fan of Miles Davis would love this type of new media on his or her iPhone (and iPad).

On a side note, I still think Jazz Hero: Miles Davis could be awesome. Can we get that going somehow, someway?

Books: “Miles: The Companion Guide To The Miles Davis Autobiography” will be released February 2011. Written by DJ Antomattei, the book functions like an annotated sequencing companion guide to Miles’ original autobiography.

Also in February look for “The Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-68.” Using transcription and analysis, author Keith Waters illuminates the compositional, improvisational, and collective achievements of the Second Great Quintet.

We Want Miles: The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts produced a wonderful exhibit this year – “We Want Miles”: Miles Davis vs. Jazz. Prior to that, the exhibition was staged at the Musee de la Musique, a part of the Cite de la Musique complex, in Paris, France.

The multimedia retrospective was a big success in both cities, a superb combination of image and sound to offer visitors a look into the life and career of Miles Davis.

There were rumors of bringing the exhibition to San Francisco, but nothing has been confirmed. The Miles Davis Estate might already be in the planning stages, but I think we’ll see the expo play a few more cities in 2011; it’d be a shame if more people are not given the opportunity to see the exhibition.

Style: I usually defer to my friend Christian Chensvold at the always excellent Ivy Style on matters of style, especially where Miles Davis and fashion is concerned.

But I can almost guarantee there will be a at least one blog post, website feature or magazine article somewhere in the world in 2011 detailing the fine style (regardless of era!) of Miles Davis. Posting/Publishing cool photos of Miles Davis and writing about it never gets old.

Art: The Artist Series has been a real treat for me to curate. The art and photography I have encountered – with a Miles Davis spin – has been nothing short of amazing. We have plenty more entries lined up for 2011, and I am excited about the prospect of finding new artwork and photos of Miles Davis from all those immensely talented artists.

Miles Davis’ last remaining 100 original drawings and oil paintings showcased at Gallery 27 in London this month. I hope to see the exhibition find its way to the states in 2011.

Digital Media: The official website made the jump to Sony in 2010. The original did not function properly on numerous levels and the Sony team has outfitted MilesDavis.com with a better design and content features. But compared with the official websites for Frank Sinatra (a fellow music icon) and Wynton Marsalis– two excellent examples – the official hub for Miles Davis is definitely a few steps behind.

Like I mentioned with the need for an iPhone/iPad App, accessibility is vital – connecting with the fans is essential. Surely the estate has enough content to throw at an App, or on the website. You put an old Miles Davis concert streaming online and I’ll click over right this second from MDO to the official website.

Their website is not terrible! It’s not without merit. But I’m trying not to be too critical because around here we like to think of ourselves as the ‘unofficial’ official web axis for All Things Miles Davis. What I lack in access to the vaults of priceless photos, music and memorabilia, I more than make up for with passion and energy, a happy desire to curate a daily conversation about Miles Davis and appreciation of a remarkable career.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see the other site do well.

What the (clearing my throat) official site needs is an emphasis on web content. They have a nice library of MP3s, but so does iTunes, so big deal. But iTunes doesn’t have tons of Davis’ music in the vault. The official site should release an exclusive, rare track every now and then, which would really get folks excited. Just release a clip of Miles chatting in the studio – that alone would be great!

The merchandise is nice, the artwork is great if you can afford it and there is a decent stream of news, but there’s no ‘voice’ to the operation, no soul. The website is part of a corporate framework, which no doubt is serviceable, but you’re not going to get the passion, just the basics. The good news is that there are many options for building a superb digital play on the ‘net.

If it happens, great, if not, Miles Davis Online rolls merrily along: we might not be the ‘Official’ Miles Davis website, but we sure as hell are going to be the ‘Best.’

© Francis Wolff

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1 thought on “Miles Davis 2011: A Look Ahead”

  1. How would I go about licensing music off the album Tutu for a documentary film about the liberation leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu? Would Miles sanction this?

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