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CJ Shearn

Review of Miles' "Birth of the Cool Documentary"

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Nice review!  Mostly agree with all of it, but count me in the camp with a handful of quibbles about giving short-shrift to a few periods/albums.

I felt like 30 more minutes (on the right stuff), would have made an already great documentary truly outstanding.  I guess "truly outstanding" probably is an unachievable goal, but there were some things that really didn't get but a mention, or a minute or two.

I did think the sequence covering his 'debut' at Newport in, what was it, '55? -- that was told essentially through a very "animated" sequence of still photos -- was certainly a part of the story I knew, but didn't know the import of.  Still, the second great quintet only got a minute or two, pretty much all focused on Footprints (iirc) -- a great tune, sure, but (iirc) that was the only thing covered between his early 60's triumphs, and Bitches Brew.  The early 70's coverage was not half-bad, iirc (wasn't there a nice On The Corner sequence?) -- but overall, I just felt like a little too many things were left. out.  And yet, there was time for 2+ minutes of "Some Day My Prince Will Come" -- which I've never thought of as being the most revelatory Miles track ever.

But all quibbles.  A very solid 8/10 in my book -- and much of it probably closer to 9/10 (in spots).

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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4 hours ago, Rooster_Ties said:

Nice review!  Mostly agree with all of it, but count me in the camp with a handful of quibbles about giving short-shrift to a few periods/albums.

I felt like 30 more minutes (on the right stuff), would have made an already great documentary truly outstanding.  I guess "truly outstanding" probably in an unachievable goal, but there were some things that really didn't get but a mention, or a minute or two.

I did think the sequence covering his 'debut' at Newport in, what was it, '55? -- that was told essentially through a very "animated" sequence of still photos -- was certainly a part of the story I knew, but didn't know the import of.  Still, the second great quintet only got a minute or two, pretty much all focused on Footprints (iirc) -- a great tune, sure, but (iirc) that was the only thing covered between his early 60's triumphs, and Bitches Brew.  The early 70's coverage was not half-bad, iirc (wasn't there a nice On The Corner sequence?) -- but overall, I just felt like a little too many things were left. out.  And yet, there was time for 2+ minutes of "Some Day My Prince Will Come" -- which I've never thought of as being the most revelatory Miles track ever.

But all quibbles.  A very solid 8/10 in my book -- and much of it probably closer to 9/10 (in spots).

Thanks Rooster! I attended the Sunday matinee with the Q&A session (loved meeting Vince... we've been in touch for a few years, one of the nicest cats I've met) what Stanley Nelson said was there were given a "2 hour movie with a 2 hour budget" in regards to my question  about how did they set out to make it different from The Miles Davis Story.  He said that hands were raised immediately about what albums to discus, but they tried to cover as broad a swath as possible.  I felt Herbie Hancock could have told the "Butter notes" story, and that they could have covered the Second Quintet and 80's a bit more, but I like how it was presented.  I went in with an open mind not to be a hyper critical Davis devotee and just enjoyed it.  Wallace Roney was very thankful I mentioned him in the review, because he said that was the first time anyone asked him to do a documentary on Miles and detailing their relationship in such a way, some of which can be heard in my podcasts with him.  I'll be happy to own it when released.  It's certainly a far better crafted film than the recent John Abercrombie one, which compared to Bill Frisell: A Portrait was a major let down.

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Columbia

Legacy Recordings

 
cover-1f776df2e90643c290beb871890794f9-f
 
 

Miles Davis
"Music From and Inspired by "Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool," a Film by Stanley Nelson"

Impacting: January 27 2020

Format(s): AAA, Jazz, Non-Commercial, NPR

 
 
 

Columbia Records / Legacy Recordings Set to Release

Miles Davis - Music From and Inspired by

"Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool," a Film by Stanley Nelson

 

Career-Spanning Miles Davis Collection

Includes New Track, "Hail To The Real Chief"

(featuring unreleased Miles Performances joined by an all-star cast)

 

Miles Davis - Music From and Inspired by "Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool," a Film by Stanley Nelson will be released on Friday, February 21, right in front of the film’s U.S. broadcast premiere on “American Masters.”  The award-winning biography series will present the U.S. broadcast premiere of "Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool" on Tuesday, February 25 at 9PM (EST) on PBS channels nationwide. The film was recently nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Music Film” category and the soundtrack is the definitive audio companion to this critically-acclaimed new documentary.

 

Debuting on this album is a brand new track, "Hail To The Real Chief." The new song features unreleased Miles Davis studio trumpet performances combined with music written by Lenny White, produced by White and Vince Wilburn, Jr and features an all-star collection of Miles band alumni combined with young artists influenced by Davis including White, Wilburn, Marcus Miller, Emilio Modeste, Jeremy Pelt, Antoine Roney, John Scofield, Bernard Wright, and Quinton Zoto.
 

 

 

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I can't wait to get impacted by the new track!!

All kidding aside, I am genuinely semi-curious to hear the new "Hail To The Real Chief", with my expectations kept very firmly in check.

And I'm reminded of this Miles curiosity, by Marcus Miller (circa 1993), which does have some real Miles included as well, ex post facto (though from exactly when, I don't know that I've ever heard/read).  Does anybody know anything more about this track "Rampage"? - other than what's listed in this Discogs breakdown (see track #3)...

https://www.discogs.com/Marcus-Miller-The-Sun-Dont-Lie/release/458114

Rampage

Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Rhythm Guitar, Drum Programming – Marcus Miller
Drums – William Calhoun*
Guitar – Vernon Reid
Mixed By – Ray Bardani
Programmed By [Sound] – Jason Miles
Trumpet – Miles Davis
Trumpet [Additional] – Sal Marquez
Written-By – Marcus Miller
 

 

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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Well, look what I found... ...and my curiosity is officially sated (and this is probably about what I was expecting -- i.e. something sorta like "Rampage" above).

 

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This documentary due to be broadcast this Saturday night in the UK on BBC2. Recorder set !

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Nice review CJ! I caught BOTC last night when it was  screened in the UK on BBC 2 (apparently the BBC was a co-producer [funder]). Personally I found the interviews  the most interesting as a lot of the history / timeline had been covered in so many other biographies and with the flashbacks in Miles Ahead. Great hearing from the likes of Jimmy Cobb, Wayne and Herbie, Archie Shepp, Marcus Miller, James Mtume and the late Jimmy Heath. On the down side, if as had been mentioned, the doc had been extended by 30 mins or even an hour there would have been time for more anecdotes from significant players such as Jack De Johnette, John McLaughlin, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and Dave Holland. I got the impression that in order to appeal to a wider public (and I'm not referring to the original Miles Ahead cover) the director wanted to concentrate more on the flawed genius and his human side, rather than the music, (the women, the drugs, the Ferraris). For example, the handbrake turn that dealt with the transition from the acoustic quintet to the electric Miles BB era was far too abrupt and didn't even mention the more subtle, organic even, changes via Filles De Kilimanjaro and In A Silent Way. Nor did it adequately explain why the album of the title was so important and groundbreaking. But overall it was certainly a good 7/10 (imvho).

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Posted (edited)

I thought it was a good balance between the musical side and the biographical stuff and addressed the context of each era very well. The late 60s onwards electrical period also got decent coverage. Nice that they used ‘Paraphernalia’ as key continuity music. Also very valuable interview footage with Corky McCoy and Marguerite Eskridge (Erin’s Mum), not to mention Corky’s home movies. :tup

Shame that Teo didn’t get a mention.

Edited by sidewinder

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As others have remarked elsewhere, the images often didn't match up with the music being heard or talked about (e.g. "Kind of Blue" heard with a still of Miles and Bobby Jaspar or the sound of muted Miles being paired with an image him playing open horn). This speaks of a certain carelessness; no reason such things couldn't have been gotten right if someone was paying sufficient attention. Also, there's the upfront statement that the words actor Carl Lumbley is speaking are Miles.' Yes, they're from Miles autobiography, but as has been known to many for some time (chapter and verse on this is in Masaya Yamaguchi's authoritative recent book on Miles, "Miles Davis: New Research on Miles Davis & His Circle," available on Kindle) Miles' collaborator Quincy Troupe fiddled a good deal with what Miles actually said in his interviews with Troupe. Also the relatively unversed people that Troupe hired to transcribe the interviews made many errors in transcription that were not corrected in the  text Troupe worked from or in the book itself  (the interview tapes  are available at the Schomburg Center for Black Research in Harlem, and Yamaguchi went over those tapes very carefully). Nonetheless, it's an entertaining valuable film IMO.

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Posted (edited)

Watched the documentary on BBC4 last night and for the most part enjoyed it, but some things noted above bothered me too, such as the "asynchronization" of some images and music Larry pointed out. What especially bothered me was the fact that the (pre first Quintet) early 1950s and the "transition era" between Kind of Blue/Someday My Prince Will Come and the 1960s Quintet were ignored, and the relatively little time that was spent on the 1960s Quintet. The pseudo-Miles voice-over didn't come across very well either.

Edited by J.A.W.

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