Trumpeter-bandleader Miles Davis (1926-91) was a catalyst for the major innovations in post-bop, cool jazz, hard-bop, and jazz-fusion, and his wispy and emotional trumpet tones were some of the most evocative sounds ever heard. He was also one of the most identifiable and misunderstood pop icons of the 20th century. This engrossing British documentary shows the complex layers of this magnificent and mercurial artist. Through rare footage and interviews, we learn of Davis's middle-class upbringing and his early days with bop legends Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. The documentary bluntly deals with Davis's narcotic nadir and his rise from the depths to become a bona fide jazz icon in the mid-'50s to late '60s. But the most penetrating and poignant portraits of Davis come from musicians who played with and were influenced by him, including Shirley Horn, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, and Keith Jarrett.
Outstanding musical selections include modal masterpieces "So What" and "Blue in Green," the haunting soundtrack to the 1957 French film Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, his romantic rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," and his collaborations with arranger Gil Evans. The most surprising aspects of Davis's personality that emerge from this film are his shyness, vulnerability, and, yes, humility. As he said himself, "Don't call me a legend. Call me Miles Davis." --Eugene Holley Jr.
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