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Miles Davis And Gil Evans: Musical Soul Mates

With the numerous tributes taking place to celebrate the 100th birthday of legendary jazz arranger Gil Evans, I decided to re-run a post I did a few years back, which is about who would play Gil Evans in the Miles Davis Biopic.

Of course, this was originally written when I was guessing the biopic would follow a “Ray” – ish blueprint. I was wrong. But that doesn’t mean Gil Evans still can’t show up in Don Cheadle’s vision for the Miles Davis Movie.

The Miles Davis Movie: Who Is Going To Play Gil Evans?

The Miles Davis-Gil Evans relationship fascinates me: two creative souls producing brilliant music together. I absolutely love the work they created; Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain are simply wonderful.

A musical partnership on par with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, I say.

Like Miles, Gil Evans was a Jazz Pioneer.

While he is likely most famous for collaborating with Miles Davis on a variety of seminal jazz records, a quick look at the projects where Evans took part as arranger, conductor or musician is to witness the evolution of jazz music.

So… who is going to play Gil Evans in the Miles Davis biopic?

I’ll just say that it’s an important role for the film – perhaps comparable to the role of Ahmet Ertegun, played by the talented Curtis Armstrong in “Ray.”

There are all these great anecdotes about Evans’ apartment behind a New York City Chinese laundry that turned into a hub for musicians to work on new music styles, breaking away from the prevailing bebop method.

So right there I see plenty of ideas for the film. Here’s Evans, working as arranger for Claude Thornhill’s orchestra (1941-1948), and then all of a sudden he’s partnering with Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan and many others on what would later become the Birth of the Cool project.

And then of course there’s Evans’ special relationship with Davis, which would produce their triumvirate of big band/orchestral jazz collaborations: Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain.

So who to get the nod? The Miles Davis/Gil Evans ‘partnership,’ I believe, is a vital element of the Miles Davis biopic. Look, they could make a movie about Gil Evans, so there’s no doubt he is a central figure to not only the life and music of Miles Davis but to jazz music as a whole.

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives

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