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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
USA-UK
2019
115min
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.

Manish Agarwal

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