‘Miles Ahead’ Lands At Sony Classics

Sony Pictures Classics has acquired worldwide rights to Miles Ahead, the Miles Davis biopic starring Don Cheadle who makes his directorial debut on the movie. The pic tells the story of a few lost days in the life of the trumpet icon as he bursts out of his silent period, conspires with a Rolling Stone writer (Ewan McGregor) to steal back his music, and relives the years he had with his great love Frances Taylor.

The film is premiering October 11 as the closing-night selection at the New York Film Festival. SPC did not offer up a release date yet though it it certain to get a prime awards-season slot.

Via Deadline

* I have been covering the story of the Miles Davis Movie since 2008, so this is news that is long-overdue – and rather exciting. One step closer to the big screen.

Miles Beyond the Biopic: Don Cheadle Riffs on a Jazz Legend

Don Cheadle has managed to accomplish something no one has been able to pull off in two decades: serve up a bigscreen tale of jazz great Miles Davis.

“Miles Ahead,” in which the versatile actor portrays the legendary trumpeter, marks the directorial debut of Cheadle, who co-wrote the script. The independently financed production, made for $8.5 million, wrapped a monthlong shoot in Cincinnati in mid-August, capping a lengthy gestation period for a project that began eight years ago with Davis’ posthumous induction into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

The picture, which has yet to score a U.S. distributor, is among a number of film endeavors centering on iconic black musicians — all of them divisive figures who were considered ahead of their time, with none of the films so far connecting with a wide audience.

Most recently, “Jimi: All Is by My Side,” starring Andre Benjamin aka Outkast’s Andre 3000 as Jimi Hendrix, bowed quietly Sept. 26, and has grossed less than $300,000 to date. “Get On Up,” the $30 million James Brown biopic, received a similarly chilly reception, despite major studio support Universal, grossing little more than its budget since its Aug. 1 debut. Alex Gibney’s low-earning documentary “Finding Fela!” about Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, opened in limited release in early August.

via Miles Beyond the Biopic: Don Cheadle Riffs on a Jazz Legend | Variety.

The Saga Continues: Don Cheadle Looks To Crowdfunding For His Miles Davis Film

The long (long) saga of the Miles Davis Movie/Biopic has taken an interesting turn: Cheadle has aligned with Indiegogo to raise $325,000 in funds by July 6 to enable him to make Miles Ahead, a movie about jazz legend Miles Davis.

Visit the Indiegogo campaign here.

Via Deadline:

Now, the knee-jerk temptation will be to sound a sour note about a famous star of screen (Iron Man 3) and TV (House Of Lies) for going the crowdfunding route, as was done when Spike Lee and especially Zach Braff did it. I don’t expect much blowback here. It’s not a lot of money he’s chasing, and Cheadle says that he in fact has put a lot of his own money at stake on a project he’s been trying to get made for years (I first wrote about it back in 2007). He’s also got the jazz man’s estate behind him. And frankly, there should be a movie made about Miles Davis, one of the pioneers of an inherently American art form. It would be hard to find someone more passionate about that than Cheadle.


“Most studios don’t make these kinds of movies anymore, so we are doing it independently,” Cheadle said in a statement. “I’m personally putting a big chunk of money into our budget as well as putting all my fees back in. But the extra money we hope to raise on Indiegogo will help us re-create the multiple time periods we’re dealing with and with the logistics of incorporating all the music.

We are excited to get people talking about the movie early, raise awareness, and set into motion the groundswell of support we hope will continue through to the film’s release.”

Here’s hoping he gets enough folks to chip in. Then maybe we can do something about the movie title. I’m almost missing “Kill the Trumpet Player” at this point.

I’ve been covering this movie project since 2008, so I think I will just go ahead and donate $15,000 to be a co-producer. It just feels right.

Kobalt Music Group to Administer the Entire Miles Davis Catalog

Via Variety:

In a deal that reflects both the continuing initiative of the Miles Davis estate and the growing mini-major status of the Kobalt Music Group, the two parties recently struck a deal for the independent music publisher to administer the entire catalog of the late jazz icon.

“As a jazz enthusiast and sax player myself, listening to his music has been a major part of my life,” said Willard Ahdritz, founder and CEO of Kobalt, in the statement. “So it’s especially meaningful to me and an honor for everyone at Kobalt to be working with the Miles Davis Estate and their great team including Erin Davis, Cheryl Davis, Vince Wilburn, Jr. and Darryl Porter.”

For its part, Miles Davis Properties LLC called Kobalt a “forward-thinking” company that “puts the artists’ needs at the forefront.”

Where they are not ‘forward-thinking’, in my opinion, is on the web, where I believe the Miles Davis brand is being under-served.

But congrats on a great deal.

Do You Know the Way to Miles Davis Way?

3-miles-3 West 77th Street will be renamed “Miles Davis Way,” in honor of the jazz musician who lived on the Upper West Side block.

I wrote about this back in 2010, so this is a project Shirley Zafirau, a neighbor of Davis, has been working on for a long time.

Very happy to see it finally happened.

For about 25 years, until the mid-1980s, Miles Davis, the legendary jazz trumpeter who died in 1991, lived in an apartment building at 312 West 77th Street, where he enjoyed a well-established New York City tradition: loitering outside on the stoop, greeting passers-by and chatting with neighbors.

“He interacted with the community on the street,” said, Shirley Zafirau, a neighbor of Davis, who still lives on the block. “He really liked being here.”

Ms. Zafirau believed that Davis’s long tenure on the block deserved to be memorialized and so embarked on a campaign to have the block renamed after him. It was a long process that included numerous phone calls and emails to city officials, many visits to the local community board and the attending of several City Council hearings.

Her effort finally bore fruit when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed a bill on Tuesday officially renaming West 77th Street between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue as “Miles Davis Way.”

Click here to read the rest of the story via New York Times.

The Business of Miles Davis: Building the Brand for A New Generation, But A Digital Plan Remains Elusive

blue-kind-of Making Sure Miles Stays Forever Young is a very good article in the Sunday New York Times about the business of Miles Davis and how the estate is working to keep the brand going strong for a new generation of fans.

But something is missing.

Amid all the conversation in the article about collaborating with hip-hop artists, the Don Cheadle biopic, the museum exhibition, and the Lord only knows how much music remains in the vaults, there was not a single mention of the Internet, not a word about digital strategy, or even if a digital strategy exists.

“We’re talking to everybody, because we’re involved in growing and promoting and exposure,” Erin Davis said during a long joint interview late last month at the office of the heirs’ publicists here. “It’s taken me 20 years to realize what we’re doing and how it affects the future.”

I can only hope that “talking to everybody” includes digital media folks.

For the brand to truly develop and continue to remain strong down the road then there must be an aggressive digital drive, a creative plan to embrace the new digital landscape.

This might be happening. But it surely wasn’t mentioned in the NY Times article.

Davis’ three heirs who manage the estate – his son Erin, his daughter, Cheryl, and their cousin Vince Wilburn Jr. – have done a masterful job with the re-releases and pushing the brand into new areas, but there continues be a disconnect between the Miles Davis brand and digital media.

There was a time when the estate owned and operated MilesDavis.com. Then they handed over the management to Sony. I think this was a big mistake.

Sony handles plenty of artists’ websites, and MilesDavis.com isn’t so terrible. But it’s just another official website, nothing special, nothing to get excited about. It’s nothing to keep a Miles Davis fan coming back for more. MilesDavis.com doesn’t need to be Elvis.com, which you must admit is terrific for Elvis Presley fans, but it should absolutely be the hub for the Miles Davis brand online.

MilesDavis.com should be the definitive digital platform for All Things Miles Davis. It’s not. At least not right now.

If anything, Miles Davis Online is the place for All Things Miles Davis, even if we are just a simple Blog without any of the resources and access. But we’re trying hard – and have been since 2007.

I firmly believe MilesDavis.com could deliver endless entertainment for fans, plus provide numerous advertising/sponsorship opportunities to actually drive a profit online.

They could be streaming concerts. They could sell exclusive mp3s. The could put a greater emphasis on multimedia. Why not release a collection of rare tracks online-only? How about unseen photos? How about an online auction for charity?

Where is the awesome Miles Davis App?

We produced an Artist Series on Miles Davis Online to feature designers, photographers, painters, etc. who have incorporated Miles Davis into their work.

It’s easy for me to make suggestions. No doubt there are legal/rights/other issues to deal with when working with so much content from various sources. But still, the opportunity for a first-rate digital strategy is not out of reach.

To keep the Miles Davis strong, and ready for the next generation to discover and enjoy, digital media is where this endeavor needs to happen. Sure, collaborations with hip-hop artists has some appeal, and might lead to something interesting, but it seems like a short-term play. I like Questlove of the Roots, but I, personally, have zero interest in hearing a collaboration between he and Miles Davis. But that’s just me. I’m a little older, so I would rather have access to unseen photos, hear rare studio tracks, etc…

It’s clear the estate have a big box of ideas. And they have mentioned in the past that they get offers all the time – many not so good. So I applaud the careful approach the trio takes in building the brand.

But with no robust digital strategy, the brand is left to play catch-up online.

With Sony managing the ‘official website’ it’s unclear how much input the estate has in content, etc. But there is no doubt a void.

The Miles Davis Biopic is a project that’s been in development a long time (with blessings from the estate), but there is no mention on the official website. Is that odd? I think so.

Currently Don Cheadle (set to star and direct) is at AFM trying to get the project a deal, but the article has this:

Ms. Davis said that they have been in discussions with the actor and producer Don Cheadle about a biopic — Mr. Cheadle would star and direct — but that “some questions remain.”

In discussions? Cheadle has been linked to the project since 2007! To read that quote is to believe the idea of the movie project was just thought of a few weeks ago.

What discussions could they be having? Maybe they aren’t sold on Cheadle’s quirky plot for the non-biopic. Cheadle has already said filming is set for next summer. The whole point of having the estate involved is to have access to the music. That is the key to the entire movie. Does anyone want to see a movie about Miles Davis and not hear at least a few classic tunes? Anyone can make a movie about Miles Davis. But not everyone can have the rights to the music.

But back to digital strategy. If and when this biopic gets going, is there going to be a synergy between the official website and the film? There should be. I have already written plenty about how the movie can generate even more buzz via the web.

“Thank goodness, we all get along, that we’re on the same page, so that there can be movement,” Mr. Wilburn said. “You can’t get locked into one thing. You’ve got to keep it fresh. Hey, this is global, this is Miles Davis.

Miles Davis is global. But the brand needs a strong digital strategy to properly link the worldwide audience of Miles Davis fans, new and old, together.

Many of the releases in recent years, including Monday’s, seem aimed at completists and other longtime fans. The bigger test is the casual listener, especially a new generation that may be only vaguely aware of Davis.

That “new generation” is online, on tablets, and on a mobile phone.

Miles Davis Movie To Begin Filming Summer 2014

No word if a deal is in place, but according to Don Cheadle, via this new Variety article, shooting is set to begin next summer.

“We still haven’t decided where,” Cheadle said. “That depends on things like tax credits.”

Cheadle is set to star in and direct the Miles Davis Biopic – Kill the Trumpet Player -, even though director Antoine Fuqua had been named as director awhile back. It was never confirmed in the movie press, or by Cheadle, but the project was/is listed on his IMDB page.

Obviously the deal fell through and Cheadle took back the directors’ chair.

From the Variety article:

Don Cheadle says he began to play the trumpet three years ago as preparation for starring in and directing the Miles Davis biopic “Kill the Trumpet Player.”

He found the trumpet to be unforgiving. “It’s a mean instrument,” he mused Thursday night at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica. “It’s a relief that my playing won’t be used in the film.”

And this:

Cheadle said he first heard about the project in 2006 when Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Vince Wilburn announced I was going to play Miles, and it was the first I’d heard of it,” he recalled. “It’s not the first time that’s happened.”

I have been covering the Miles Davis Biopic since 2007. All this news makes my heart sing! Sure, I think this Miles Davis chasing bad record execs plot is peculiar, but I’m happy to go along with it because the idea of Cheadle playing the jazz legend has always been the #1 reason to hope and pray this project finally gets made.

I think the story of Miles Davis deserves a thorough account of his life, which means another biopic might happen down the road, but for now we’ll see what Cheadle can deliver. I also believe Ken Burns (or someone else) really needs to produce an in-depth, three or four-part series on Miles Davis.

And don’t forget: Director George Tillman Jr. has his own Miles Davis Biopic on the way, loosely based on the book “Dark Magus: The Jekyll and Hyde Life of Miles Davis”, written by Gregory Davis.

No word yet if Tillman and producer Nick Raynes have an actor in mind to play Davis. No doubt it will be key for Tillam to cast wisely when finding someone to play such a major, real-life figure. They could go the unknown route, or perhaps there is an actor already established who might want to take on the challenge.

While Cheadle’s movie is built on a more unique narrative, it seems Tillman Jr. will deliver a more traditional plot.

The Miles Davis Movie: The Plot Is Revealed!

While we wait to see if Don Cheadle and his team can swing a deal for the Miles Davis Movie – known as Kill The Trumpet Player -, we finally are able to get an idea of how this potential movie might look like.

Cheadle has referred to the film plot as being “Cubist”, and yeah, this is definitely not a traditional biopic.

He even called the film “a gangster pic.” Whatever that means.

This is via Deadline.com:

Kill The Trumpet Player, IM Global. Don Cheadle, director. Cheadle, Zoe Saldana, Ewan McGregor star. After his record label steals his comeback album before he’s ready for it to be heard, Miles Davis hunts it down with a journalist and a junkie jazz musician.

WOW! Does this mean we get to watch Miles Davis gun down a bunch of record label executives? Does he bash people over the head with his trumpet?

This is going to be wild. Hopefully in a good way. I am on record as preferring a more traditional biopic, but I’m willing to loosen up a bit and see what Cheadle has up his sleeve for his Miles Davis project.

Supposedly, the story is told “over a day and a half of his life — a very intense day and a half of his life…”.

That is from an interview Cheadle did with Collider.com a few years back.

Not sure if the project is still using this time frame.

The movie title is quirky, the plot is unusual. It’s not a plot we haven’t seen before, just not with Miles Davis(!) involved!!

Is this style of film more marketable than a traditional biopic? Probably not. The easy road is to do it like Ray, which is a damn fine movie. So, I give kudos to Cheadle for wanting to stir things up and develop something different.

But this is obviously no longer a biopic. This is a story of three people tracking down some bad guys and one of the people doing the tracking down happens to be jazz icon Miles Davis.

This is not going to be the move where we see Miles Davis in the studio with John Coltrane, or meeting Gil Evans, or battling addiction, or boxing, or performing, or whatever else you consider important in the birth, life and death of Miles Davis.

From the interview w/ Collider.com:

“…it’s not a biopic. It’s not deep. It’s not serious fare. It’s not a cradle to grave sort of overview of his entire life. The movie takes place over a day and a half of his life — a very intense day and a half of his life but a lot of people haven’t even engaged because of what they perceive it’s going to be. They go “Oh, we don’t want to do a movie like that.” I say “Have you read it?” “No, I haven’t read it.” “Well read it and then say you don’t want to do a movie like that.” So it’s having to push through a lot of these things and confront people. Once they read it, they’re like “Oh, this is great.” So everyone’s really dying to be the second person to say yes and to invest in this film.”

AFM In Full Swing, But No Word On Deal for Miles Davis Biopic

AFM is happening right this second, but nothing to report on a deal for the Miles Davis biopic – Kill The Trumpet Player. But what we do know is how the film is being pitched – in terms of story.

This is via Deadline.com:

Kill The Trumpet Player, IM Global. Don Cheadle, director. Cheadle, Zoe Saldana, Ewan McGregor star. After his record label steals his comeback album before he’s ready for it to be heard, Miles Davis hunts it down with a journalist and a junkie jazz musician.

Wow – that is definitely not a traditional biopic. Miles Davis hunts down team of record execs! Does he kill them? Does he yell at them? This is bizarre.

The Miles Davis Movie: Zoe Saldana, Ewan McGregor In Talks To Join Kill The Trumpet Player; Deal Close

42-17363833 Don Cheadle has yet to tweet anything about it, but actual news is flying around out there on the ‘net that Zoe Saldana and Ewan McGregor are in talks to join Kill The Trumpet Player, the kooky name given to the Miles Davis Movie project.

For the longest time Antoine Fuqua was set to direct – replacing Cheadle. But now it seems that Cheadle is back in the director’s chair.

The Fuqua news was never officially announced, but his IMDB page did list the project, so clearly he was on board.

But no more.

Don is now going to star and direct, just as he set out to when he signed on to this movie project back in 2007.

Daniel Wagner’s Beverly Hills-based BiFrost Pictures is fully financing. UTA packaged the project and represents US rights.

Herbie Hancock was announced as music supervisor back in 2010, but now he is also an executive producer on the film.

I have been tracking the Miles Davis Movie since 2007. It should come as no surprise that this flurry of (good) news has me smiling.

I have been critical in the past of Cheadle’s decision to bypass a cradle-to-grave blueprint for something he has described as “cubist” – but nevertheless, any film about the jazz legend that can actually get made is a reason to celebrate.

Check the Biopic section of Miles Davis Online for six years of news, ideas, opinions and all sorts of fun babble related to the Miles Davis Movie.

Link: ScreenDaily

Wynton Marsalis Discusses Why Miles Davis Kicked Him Off Stage

davis-davis Interesting WSJ video interview with Wynton Marsalis. He speaks about “Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration,” a jazz/gospel collaboration featuring Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Orchestra, plus provides some insight into the famous incident involving Miles Davis.

As Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis has led a campaign to bring jazz to the mainstream, an effort that’s brought him widespread praise and some sniping. In an on camera interview with the WSJ, Marsalis discussed his feelings about the criticism and a 1986 incident in Vancouver when late jazz legend Miles Davis kicked him off stage, suggesting that Marsalis wasn’t good enough to play with Davis and his cohorts.

“He decided at a certain point to make the decisions he made about the music. He was disrespectful to everybody,” Marsalis said. “Me, my father. It didn’t make a difference to him.”

Click to watch video.

Previous: Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and the Big Showdown of ’86

Miles Davis Featured In Slate Series on the History and Future of Cool – Obviously

Miles Davis - Water Babies; Ladies, 1976

Slate has released part one of its monthlong series on the history and future of cool. Cool Story: What does “cool” even mean in 2013?

That’s a darn good question. But no matter what, Miles Davis is part of the discussion.

But what is cool in 2013, and why are we still using this term for what scholar Peter Stearns pegged as “a twentieth-century emotional style”? Often credited to sax player Lester Young in the 1940s, the coinage was in general circulation by the mid-1950s, with Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool and West Side Story’s finger-snapping gang credo “Cool.” You’d be unlikely to use other decades-old slang—groovy or rad or fly—to endorse any current cultural object, at least with a straight face, but somehow cool remains evergreen.

Shaka King: “The Fact that Miles Davis Doesn’t Have A Biopic Yet? Totally Insane.”

Miles Davis Tux The above quote is from a very interesting Gawker interview with director Shaka King (Newlyweeds).

Click here to read the full interview.

Here is the complete comment from King about ‘black movies’.

We’re talking about black culture, and cinema hasn’t even scratched the surface. There are so many stories just from that era of history that are fascinating. From Jim Crow history. The fact that Miles Davis doesn’t have a biopic yet? Totally insane. John Coltrane? We could list black people that are probably on a fucking stamp that don’t have a biopic.

Joe Lewis doesn’t have a biopic yet. It’s just like what the fuck? Why are we still making these movies about blacks in servitude when famous black giants, trendsetters don’t have movies about themselves made yet. Cinema is so far behind in terms of its portrayal of black people on screen. We didn’t get here without committing incredible acts of heroism. If there were to be a superhero, it would probably be a person of color. So why aren’t there any?

And he is correct – it is totally insane!

Legacy Set to Reissue Nine Classic Miles Davis LPs in Mono on Nov. 12

milesdavis-originalmonorecordings Columbia/Legacy will reissue the mono versions of nine of Miles Davis’ earliest albums on Columbia Records on Nov. 12. The albums encompass music that Davis recorded for the label in monaural sound from 1956 to 1961 (and released from 1957 to 1964), and will be issued together on CD for the first time as Miles Davis: The Original Mono Recordings. The CDs in the box set will be housed in mini-LP replica jackets.

The Original Mono Recordings includes the six albums that feature Miles’ “first great quintet” at Columbia, including John Coltrane, ’Round About Midnight, Milestones, Jazz Track, Kind of Blue (the greatest-selling jazz album of all time), Someday My Prince Will Come and Miles and Monk at Newport. The other three albums placed Miles (and various group members) in orchestral settings and were arranged and conducted by Gil Evans: Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain.

Click to read more…

Via JazzTimes

Don Cheadle Looking For ‘Young, Black, Talented Trumpet Players Known And Unknown’

Good God – is this related at all to the Miles Davis Movie?

Don Cheadle went strong on Twitter Tuesday asking his Twitter gang:

“Looking for young, black, talented trumpet players known and unknown. Twitter, hold me down!!”

Unless he’s got his hands in some kind of America’s Best Trumpet Player type TV show, then this must be connected to the Miles Davis Biopic.

Right? And if so, how? Here’s a follow-up Tweet:

“Tweeple, you haven’t disappointed. And FYI, the player’s race is only relevant because of casting. Thanks again for all your leads.”

“Casting” is the key word here. Casting for a movie? A play?

There was a rumor that Cheadle was going to take a Miles Davis-inspired play to Broadway, but Cheadle quickly put the kibosh on that.

Still, he could have been bluffing and there is something in the works.

We shall see. Cheadle didn’t go into too many details on Twitter, just thanking those who sent him responses.

Could he be bailing on the starring role for his Miles Davis movie? If he’s having trouble raising funds with himself as the lead, no way an unknown is going to open up any checkbooks.

Very confused right now. Looking for some clarity!