‘Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool’ Review: A Complicated Artist | Modern Society of USA

‘Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool’ Review: A Complicated Artist

‘Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool’ Review: A Complicated Artist

The number of documentaries exclusively devoted to, or featuring, Miles Davis is not quite sufficient to constitute a subgenre. But it’s getting close.

Davis is a great subject: a landmark musician whose innovations have a continuing resonance, and a confounding personality whose abuse of women in particular leaves a bad taste.

“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” directed by Stanley Nelson, doesn’t presume to be the last cinematic word on the artist, but within its nearly two-hour confines, this production aims for comprehensiveness. Its omission of any mention of Teo Macero — the producer who oversaw Davis’s most vital work — notwithstanding, the movie is commendably thorough.

“Music has always been like a curse for me,” the actor Carl Lumbly, speaking for Davis, says in the movie’s opening, over archival footage of the trumpeter in a boxing ring. That observation positions Nelson to provide a partial rationale for Davis’s frequent antisocial nature. Of course, racism drove Davis’s resentments as well. But so did ego and arrogance. The saxophonist Archie Shepp remembers, with equanimity, a hurtful encounter with Davis after approaching him to sit in with his band.

Survivors of Davis who tell their tales here include Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Juliet Greco and Davis’s first wife Frances Taylor, the cover star of such classic Davis LPs as “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “E.S.P.” Critics and historians, including Ashley Kahn, Tammy L. Kernodle and Greg Tate contribute insights. Davis mavens will hear familiar stuff. But more than a few moments here are new, and real grabbers. For instance, the smile on Taylor’s face as she contemplates how badly Davis missed her after she left him.

Miles Davis: Birth of Cool

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes.

Source link