The Miles Davis Movie: Why Not A Feature Documentary About Miles Davis?

I just finished watching When You’re Strange, Tom DiCillo’s feature documentary about the music and legacy of The Doors. I thought it was rather well-done and interesting. I like The Doors, so it’s no stretch for me to be a fan of the doc, which features some mighty impressive footage.

So I wonder, even with Don Cheadle’s ‘not a bio-pic’ movie about Miles Davis slowly crawling towards a production start date, is it possible to get a feature film documentary about the music and legacy of Miles Davis off the ground? And if so, who to make it happen?

Now that we know Cheadle is opting to focus his film’s narrative on an as-yet-unknown day and a half in the life of Miles Davis rather than follow the usual, Hollywood bio-pic blueprint, perhaps a comprehensive feature documentary could be produced to truly capture Davis’ life and music.

I imagine a producer or director interested in such a terrific idea would need the blessings of the Miles Davis estate and various music labels; the music is obviously the key ingredient, but previously unseen footage and assorted photo/audio content is almost a necessity in providing such a film project added importance.

Christopher Wilkinson (who along with Stephen J. Rivele were once the screenwriters on the Untitled Miles Davis Biopic) is working on the TV project The Miles Davis Documentary, which IMDB lists for a 2011 release. I’ve read the doc is headed to HBO, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.

So we’ll see what Wilkinson comes up with. The producers look to have landed a host of jazz legends and other fine, musical artists to chat about Miles Davis, but hopefully there’s some rare concert footage, or old interviews with Davis, mixed in to give the doc an extra spark. But we remain excited about the upcoming project.

Nevertheless, if the powers that be running the estate that oversees the business of Miles Davis wanted to get moving on a big-time feature documentary I think it would get done.

Cheadle is having trouble finding the funds to get the cameras rolling, so why would a documentary have better luck? It might not, but I have to imagine the cost would be much less. With the exception of interviews to be filmed, everything else is the music and lots and lots of audio and video footage to be edited.

Okay, so it’d be nice to hire someone with a great voice to narrate (famous or not), but that shouldn’t break the bank.

I already offered up the feature film versus Ken Burns’ documentary debate about which is the better way to produce a Miles Davis Biopic, so maybe Ken Burns might want to look into a project about Davis for the big screen.

Then again, if Burns wanted to take a 6-hour documentary about Miles Davis to PBS I’m overjoyed with that idea. I’m also totally ready for a 5-part/10-hour HBO movie event that has the luxury of time to tell the complete story. These two options, plus the feature film doc are great ideas!

I am excited about what Cheadle has up his sleeve. Just watching Cheadle on screen portraying Davis is going to get jazz/music/films fans all worked up when this movie gets done.

But regardless of Cheadle’s final cut, I still think a comprehensive telling of the Miles Davis story is essential.

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The Miles Davis Movie: Why Not A Feature Documentary About Miles Davis?

I just finished watching When You’re Strange, Tom DiCillo’s feature documentary about the music and legacy of The Doors. I thought it was rather well-done and interesting. I like The Doors, so it’s no stretch for me to be a fan of the doc, which features some mighty impressive footage.

So I wonder, even with Don Cheadle’s ‘not a bio-pic’ movie about Miles Davis slowly crawling towards a production start date, is it possible to get a feature film documentary about the music and legacy of Miles Davis off the ground? And if so, who to make it happen?

Now that we know Cheadle is opting to focus his film’s narrative on an as-yet-unknown day and a half in the life of Miles Davis rather than follow the usual, Hollywood bio-pic blueprint, perhaps a comprehensive feature documentary could be produced to truly capture Davis’ life and music.

I imagine a producer or director interested in such a terrific idea would need the blessings of the Miles Davis estate and various music labels; the music is obviously the key ingredient, but previously unseen footage and assorted photo/audio content is almost a necessity in providing such a film project added importance.

Christopher Wilkinson (who along with Stephen J. Rivele were once the screenwriters on the Untitled Miles Davis Biopic) is working on the TV project The Miles Davis Documentary, which IMDB lists for a 2011 release. I’ve read the doc is headed to HBO, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.

So we’ll see what Wilkinson comes up with. The producers look to have landed a host of jazz legends and other fine, musical artists to chat about Miles Davis, but hopefully there’s some rare concert footage, or old interviews with Davis, mixed in to give the doc an extra spark. But we remain excited about the upcoming project.

Nevertheless, if the powers that be running the estate that oversees the business of Miles Davis wanted to get moving on a big-time feature documentary I think it would get done.

Cheadle is having trouble finding the funds to get the cameras rolling, so why would a documentary have better luck? It might not, but I have to imagine the cost would be much less. With the exception of interviews to be filmed, everything else is the music and lots and lots of audio and video footage to be edited.

Okay, so it’d be nice to hire someone with a great voice to narrate (famous or not), but that shouldn’t break the bank.

I already offered up the feature film versus Ken Burns’ documentary debate about which is the better way to produce a Miles Davis Biopic, so maybe Ken Burns might want to look into a project about Davis for the big screen.

Then again, if Burns wanted to take a 6-hour documentary about Miles Davis to PBS I’m overjoyed with that idea. I’m also totally ready for a 5-part/10-hour HBO movie event that has the luxury of time to tell the complete story. These two options, plus the feature film doc are great ideas!

I am excited about what Cheadle has up his sleeve. Just watching Cheadle on screen portraying Davis is going to get jazz/music/films fans all worked up when this movie gets done.

But regardless of Cheadle’s final cut, I still think a comprehensive telling of the Miles Davis story is essential.

The Miles Davis Movie: “We’re struggling through, but it’s going to happen,” Says Don Cheadle

Talk of the Miles Davis Movie makes it into a recent Don Cheadle interview with New York Magazine. Between talk of his new film The Guard and his latest work as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for the environment, Cheadle delivers some words about the process of getting the Miles Davis film off the ground.

There’s been talk of a Miles Davis biopic that you’ll star in and produce for a few years now. What’s the status of that?

“It’s day by day. I actually just got off the phone with the studio executives about putting it together. It’s a difficult time to make films, especially ones that don’t have people flying or sequels or cars. So we’re grinding, you know. We’re struggling through, but it’s going to happen.”

Miles Davis Quintet Boxed Set From 1967 Set For Release

The transformation of Miles Davis‘ “Second Great Quintet” with Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums) is presented on Miles Davis Quintet – Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1.

Culled from original state-owned television and radio sources in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, and Sweden, the program spans five northern European festival performances over the course of nine days in October-November 1967. The audio shows consist entirely of previously unreleased or previously only bootlegged material. The 3-CD + DVD package will be available everywhere starting September 20th through Columbia/Legacy.

On the same date, a single-disc overview of the box set will be released.

The European tour dates brought the Quintet to Antwerp, Belgium (October 28th); Stockholm, Sweden (October 31st); Copenhagen, Denmark (November 2nd); Paris, France (November 6th); and Karlsruhe, Germany (November 7th). The tour was organized and promoted by Newport Jazz Festival impresario George Wein and also starred Sarah Vaughan, the Archie Shepp Quintet (with Roswell Rudd, Grachan Moncur III, Jimmy Garrison, and Beaver Harris), the Thelonious Monk Quartet (with Charlie Rouse), the Gary Burton Quartet (with Larry Coryell, Steve Swallow, and Bobby Moses), and Wein’s own Newport All-Stars with Buddy Tate.

The paradox of Miles Davis Quintet – Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 is the fact that all five concerts were recorded by state-owned radio and television outlets – a case of European bureaucracies preserving our American jazz heritage. Of the audio performances on CD, Belgium (an hour-plus set), Denmark and France are all full-length concert sets that are now seeing their first authorized release(s). Denmark is the rarest of the three, never released commercially (not even as a bootleg) so it is a particularly valuable 50 minutes of music.

The Paris concert is the longest of the shows in this collection, running 90 minutes across CD Two and CD Three. It includes the very rare versions of “Agitation” and “Footprints” which are not found on the unauthorized bootlegs that have circulated up until now.

The DVD contained in Miles Davis Quintet – Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 presents two concert sets by the Quintet, one from Stockholm on October 31st, and one from Karlsruhe, Germany on November 7th (although they are sequenced in reverse chronological order). This is the only known video documentation of the “second great Quintet” from the 1965 to ’68 period. The only previous authorized release of this video was as a bonus disc on the commemorative 70-CD + DVD Complete Miles Davis Columbia Album Collection, released in 2009 on Columbia/Legacy.

Putting Miles Davis Quintet – Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 into historical perspective are the illuminating liner notes by Ashley Kahn, author of Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece (DaCapo Press, 2000).

In preparing his liner notes for Miles Davis Quintet – Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1, Kahn’s extensive research included articles that ran during the concert tour, and multiple interviews, including various surviving Quintet members; indefatigable concert promoter George Wein and his long-time co-producer and tour manager Bob Jones; and tour mates Archie Shepp, Roswell Rudd, and Gary Burton. They all provide eyewitness commentary, musical insights, and priceless anecdotes.

As Kahn’s liner notes point out, the end of 1967 was a landmark moment for Miles Davis, as he was preparing to say goodbye to this Quintet lineup. They had started out three years before, playing the standards that Miles enjoyed, and many of those chestnuts could still be heard, such as “On Green Dolphin Street,” “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” “‘Round Midnight” and “Walkin’.”

But as the sound structures of the Quintet opened up and were pulled apart, the musical forms were reinventing themselves on stage every night. This was reflected in the original compositions from their recent albums, which framed their sets, among them Miles’ “Agitation” (from E.S.P.), Wayne’s “Footprints” (from Miles Smiles) and “Masquelero” (from Sorcerer), and Herbie’s “Riot” (from Nefertiti). This was also the period (starting in 1967) when Miles began to play his sets as one long jam with very little beyond opening melodic statements separating one tune from the next. This lay the groundwork for the revolutionary and scene-changing music that he would produce over the next decade, until his retreat in 1975.

Everything was driven by the aggressive, iconoclastic style of drummer Tony Williams, probably the one most responsible for opening up Miles to the possibilities that lay beyond traditional jazz. It was a way of thinking that was also being explored at the time by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and others. One thing is certain: the “second great Quintet” was the best and most satisfying band since the great Quintet lineup of the ’50s.

Miles Davis Quintet – Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1

CD One – Selections: 1. Agitation • 2. Footprints • 3. ‘Round Midnight • 4. No Blues • 5. Riot • 6. On Green Dolphin Street • 7. Masqualero • 8. Gingerbread Boy • 9. Theme. (Recorded on October 28, 1967 at the Konigin Elizabethzaal, Antwerp, Belgium by Belgian Radio and Television [BRT].)

CD Two – Selections: 1. Agitation • 2. Footprints • 3. ‘Round Midnight • 4. No Blues • 5. Masqualero • 6. Agitation • 7. Footprints. (Tracks 1-5 recorded on November 2, 1967 at the Tivoli Konsertsal, Copenhagen, Denmark by Danish Radio; tracks 6 & 7 recorded and broadcast on November 6, 1967 at the Paris Jazz Festival, Salle Pleyel, Paris, France on France Inter [ORTF]. Radio Program Producer: Andre Francis.)

CD Three – Selections: 1. ‘Round Midnight • 2. No Blues • 3. Masqualero • 4. I Fall In Love Too Easily • 5. Riot • 6. Walkin’ • 7. On Green Dolphin Street • 8. The Theme. (Recorded and broadcast on November 6, 1967 at the Paris Jazz Festival, Salle Pleyel, Paris, France on France Inter [ORTF]. Radio Program Producer: Andre Francis.)

DVD – Selections: 1. Agitation • 2. Footprints • 3. I Fall In Love Too Easily • 4. Gingerbread Boy • 5. The Theme • 6. Agitation • 7. Footprints • 8. ‘Round Midnight • 9. Gingerbread Boy • 10. The Theme. (Tracks 1-6 recorded on November 7, 1967 at the Stadthalle, Karlsruhe, Germany by Sudwestfunk TV; tracks 7-11 recorded on October 31, 1967 at the Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden by Sveriges Radio TV.)

Miles Davis Celebrated In Montreux With ‘Soundtrack’ To His Life

Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Marcus Miller paid tribute to their friend and mentor Miles Davis, performing a “songtrack to the life” of the late American trumpet player whose music electrified the world of jazz.

The two-hour concert, which stretched into the early hours of Thursday, was a highlight of the annual Montreux Jazz Festival, where Davis is still remembered for driving along Lake Geneva in a red Ferrari.

The jazz great, whose statue stands proudly in a park next to Miles Davis Hall, performed 10 times at Montreux, the last time just two months before his death at age 65 in 1991.

“It doesn’t feel like 20 years, it feels like 4 or 5. Miles’s music is everywhere. This is dedicated to the spirit of Miles Davis, the most beautiful thing he gave us,” said Marcus Miller, the gifted bassist who directed the homage at a sold-out Stravinski Auditorium.

Click here to read the complete review of the Miles Davis tribute in Montreux. Via Reuters.

Hey, What’s Don Cheadle Doing?*

don-style There’s no mention of the Miles Davis Biopic Movie, but Don Cheadle’s recent visit to the Tavis Smiley Show offers some nice insight into his latest film, The Guard, the new Showtime series House of Lies and playing the Hollywood game.

Watch the full episode.

* when he’s not working on the Miles Davis Movie

Miles Davis Is Under Arrest Pt. 2

In Miles Davis Is Under Arrest, we posted a photo from the infamous night of August 25, 1959, when Miles Davis, while taking a break outside the legendary Birdland nightclub in New York City, was beaten by the police and arrested.

I just stumbled upon a photograph of that night I have not seen before.

Part of a New York Daily News feature, we get a powerful shot of Davis riding in an ambulance to St. Clare’s Hospital with a police officer.

Jazzman Miles Davis rides in an ambulance to St. Clare’s Hospital with Patrolman Gerald Kildduff. Davis was given ten stitches in his scalp at the hospital. He was standing outside the jazz club Birdland, where he was performing, when Kilduff told him to move along. A scuffle ensued, and a passing plainclothes detective hit Davis with his blackjack, dropping him to the ground. Davis was charged with disorderly conduct and assault.

His arrest was later ruled illegal and a “travesty of justice” by a three-judge panel.

Credits: Kinstler/News

The Miles Davis Online Interview: Yuriy Shevchuk

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(We have featured 16 amazing artists so far in the Artist Series. Here is a re-post of the first one – featuring the talented Yuriy Shevchuk)

Yuriy Shevchuk’s artwork is wonderful; modern art so full of charm, sophistication and style blended with a delightful harmony of color.

Among his excellent gallery of oil, watercolor and pastel artwork are numerous Miles Davis paintings (two posted above). There’s actually a large number of lovely, jazz-inspired paintings to enjoy, but for our All Things Miles Davis purposes we’ll just focus on the Prince of Darkness. I recently caught up with Yuriy, currently living in Prague (how nice!), to chat about his work and painting Miles Davis.

Miles Davis Online: Why Miles Davis? What about the jazz legend makes you want to feature him as a subject for your artwork?

Yuriy Shevchuk: His detailed ways of expressing his music, by making a very strong tension out of every note played, are very similar to the ways I paint. His melodies come into my head as colors and shapes, which I illustrate with my water colors and oil. To me his smooth jazzy sound is an inspiration itself.

Only a few seconds of listening to “Time after Time” gets me to ecstasy, it jumps up my heart, and I just feel I have to express these feelings. So I take my brush and I draw something I feel the song represents. I imagine what the musician is probably thinking while singing something that makes people like me feel so filled up with life.

Miles Davis Online: Do you think jazz artists make great subjects to paint?

Yuriy Shevchuk: Jazz music is very smooth and full of happiness and life. A good painting must be full of life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be optimistic but it definitely has to make me feel as a person so I can paint something that another person would like. The great level of some jazz musicians’ feeling of the music also makes it easier for other artists to work with their piece… and something in a quite different direction as for me is painting.

Miles Davis Online: What are you working on now? Anymore Miles Davis paintings in the future?

Yuriy Shevchuk: Yes, I will continuously be adding more art with jazz & rock stars into my collection, including Miles Davis, but I’ve been busy from drawing jazz with other commissioned artworks.

Miles Davis Online: Favorite Miles Davis album?

Yuriy Shevchuk: “Time after Time” and “Human Nature” from 1989 in Paris, featuring Kenny Garret.

Artwork is © Yuriy Shevchuk

Artwork available for purchase at www.shevchukart.com, imagekind, fine art america and redbubble.

The Miles Davis Movie: A Day In The Life

Don Cheadle recently discussed the status of the Miles Davis Biopic in an interview with Collider.com. For me, the highlight of his comments was describing the film as taking place “over a day and a half of his life — a very intense day and a half of his life…”

We’ve known for awhile now the film was going to eschew the usual Hollywood blueprint for biopics (see: Ray), but it’s only now we finally have a firm grasp on the narrative Cheadle has chosen.

Cheadle rams home this point declaring the project is “not a biopic,” so now is a good time for me to stop worrying about the possibility of a cradle-to-grave biopic — because that is not happening. I guess I can also stop calling it the Miles Davis Biopic.

Did I think the first Miles Davis film project to eventually make it into movie theaters would center around an intense, 36-hour moment in his life? No, but my excitement about the endeavor remains steadfast.

But if there’s one thing I’d love to know from Cheadle is what day (and a half), exactly, are we talking about? Is this a real day in the life of Miles Davis, or a day developed purely for film?

And if it is an actual day, just when in the Miles Davis timeline are we talking about?

Is this young Miles? Old Miles? Jazz-fusion Miles? Kicking the drug habit Miles? Recording Kind of Blue Miles?

What’s curious about Cheadle’s comments is that he describes the project as “not deep” and “not serious fare,” yet the day and a half of Davis’ life Cheadle wants to focus on is described as “very intense.”

I might be making it too complicated for my own good. Without actually reading the script I’m just as out of the loop as anyone not associated with the project. Still, I would really… really like to know what day (and a half) they have in mind.

Another aspect of the day and a half framework is how the music of Miles Davis fits in. For awhile now the music rights have reportedly been secured for the film, arguably the most vital ingredient in making any film about Miles Davis.

I think we all know the music will be there, the question is will we see Don Cheadle as Miles Davis playing the music? I cannot imagine this film not featuring performance scenes, be it just Miles in the studio, or on stage in some smoky club.

Screenwriter Steven Baigelman and Cheadle could have easily inserted flashbacks into the script to incorporate more scenes of Miles Davis performing, but we shall see.

Everyone wants something different from a film about Miles Davis, but watching Cheadle playing the jazz legend playing the trumpet is one of them.

Biopic, not-a-biopic or whatever Cheadle and Co. have in mind for the movie is a project I am eagerly awaiting. But because this film focuses solely on one day in the life of the jazz icon, this means the door remains wide open for a director, actor or studio to jump in and produce yet another movie about Miles Davis – this time along the lines of a traditional biopic.

But let’s get this first one up and running and in front of the cameras. The suspense is killing me!

Miles Davis One Of Bobby McFerrin’s Top 5 Influences

From the LA Times we get the talented Bobby McFerrin discussing five of his key influences.

Miles Davis is one of those who has influenced McFerrin throughout his distinguished singing and conducting career, covering jazz, pop and classical music.

Said McFerrin: “The first time I saw Miles Davis’ band play was at a club in L.A. called Shelley’s Manne hole in 1971. I walked out molecularly changed. I understood what true improvisation was from that moment.”

The other four influences to go along with Miles Davis are Fred Astaire, Pablo Picasso, Robert McFerrin and Jesus.

Miles Davis, Sketched

Here is a wonderful sketch I found of Miles Davis at Ruth Mowry’s artistically excellent Synch-ro-ni-zing blog. Her sketch design of the jazz legend is clean and decisive; it’s a strong visual.

© Ruth Mowry