Monday, October 21, 2019

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

A new documentary on the life and music Miles Davis explores his various incarnations as one of the great Jazz artists of the 20th Century. The film takes a straight forward approach and it mostly works. A combination of archival footage, new interviews with those who knew him, and Miles's own words set to narration provide worthwhile insight. His beginnings in East St. Louis and his coming of age in New York and Paris comprise the first act. A prodigy on the trumpet, Davis had a relentless drive to innovate, taking his sound as far it could go and never repeating himself. His encounters with racism and determination to be an independent black artist are also major themes. MIles kept the world at arm's length, never suffering fools, he could also be distant to those closest to him. Not a hagiography by any means, the film never shies away from troubling aspects of his life. He struggled with addiction and was abusive towards women. The release of Kind of Blue in 1959 brought international fame, a string of influential records followed. Periods of seclusion were usually followed by creative breakthroughs that allowed him to keep performing until his passing in 1991. An excellent primer for anyone unfamiliar with the music of Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool is an immersive trip into mid-century America.


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