Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
All that jazz (and so much more): 20th century music’s trumpet-playing prince of darkness receives the candid documentary his controversial genius deserves.
Dir Stanley Nelson
Prod Nicole London, Stanley Nelson
UK Distribution Eagle Rock Entertainment
Veteran documentarian Stanley Nelson takes on the multifaceted creativity and myriad contradictions of Miles Davis in a mere two hours. This detailed, textured chronology offers something for all, from jazz newbies to viewers who’ve long been drowning in the ocean of genre-expanding music that poured from the musician’s magically muted trumpet. Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool swings through five decades of sonic innovation: from hard bop to heavenly orchestrations, the ambient acoustics of Kind of Blue to the funky fusion of Bitches Brew. It’s a treasure trove of electrifying archive and authoritative interviewees (including several collaborators and ex-lovers), which smartly deploys extracts from Miles’s searing autobiography. The film also explores his impact on black cultural identity and doesn’t flinch from discussing the violent, drug-fuelled ravages of a troubled and troubling icon.