PBS has shared a trailer, and a separate two-minute clip, from the documentary Miles Davis: The Birth of the Cool, which will air as part of the broadcaster’s American Masters series next Tuesday (25). The film about the life, work and legacy of the jazz master debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival last year, and had a brief run in theatres.
The feature-length documentary is directed by the Emmy Award-winner Stanley Nelson, and is a co-production of Eagle Rock Entertainment, Firelight Films and American Masters Pictures. It features interview with such admirers and collaborators of Davis as Quincy Jones, Carlos Santana, Clive Davis, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Flea and the Roots.
Says Davis in the trailer: “A lot of the old guys thought that if you went to school, it would make you play like you were white. If you learned something from theory, you would lose the feeling in your playing. I wanted to see what was going on in all of music. If anybody wants to keep creating, they have to be about change.”
Owen Leiberman, reviewing the documentary for Variety, described it as “superbly crafted.” He wrote: “It’s a tantalising portrait: rich, probing, mournful, romantic, triumphant, tragic, exhilarating, and blisteringly honest. If you were 15 years old and walked into this movie having never heard of Miles Davis, you’d walk out touching the essence of who he is (and would probably be hungry to hear a dozen different albums).”
The New York Times‘ review by Glenn Kenny noted that the film “doesn’t presume to be the last cinematic word on the artist, but within its nearly two-hour confines, this production aims for comprehensiveness.” Rolling Stone avowed: “Consider this a nice Miles 101 primer if you’re unfamiliar with a singular body of work, and a chance to see clips of the man in action, from be-bop to Doo-Bop.”
The Complete Birth of the Cool by the Miles Davis Nonet was released by Blue Note in May 2019, and can be bought here.