The Miles Davis Story

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Arts Documentary hosted by Mike Dibb, published by Channel 4 in 2001 - English narration

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Image: The-Miles-Davis-Story-Cover.jpg

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This 120 minute documentary, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Mike Dibb is the only Miles Davis documentary on video. The film features classic performances from all eras of Miles' career and insightful interviews with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Clark Terry, Joe Zawinul and many others. The film is featured on Bravo in the fall of 2002. Ten years after his death in 1991, legendary trumpeter Miles Davis remains the best-known and most influential jazz musician of the last 50 years. THE MILES DAVIS STORY explores the music and the man behind the public image, from Miles' middle-class upbringing in racially segregated East St. Louis to the last years when he traveled the world like a rock star. Miles Davis' career intersected with every major development in jazz since the 1940s, and this critically-acclaimed film covers each and every key event: Miles teaming up with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie when he was a 19-year-old student at the Julliard School of Music; his influential Birth of the Cool recordings in 1949; Kind of Blue and his classic collaborations with Gil Evans; his landmark 1950s quintet featuring John Coltrane and his 60s quintet featuring Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter; the making of Bitches Brew and the groundbreaking development of fusion and funk.

The Miles Davis Story interweaves rare interviews with Miles himself with the insights and memories of his family, friends, and many of the great musicians who played with him during his long career.

Reviews :

- JAZZ SPOTLIGHT January 12, 2003 ; Don Heckman, Special to The Times

Why do we find Miles Davis so fascinating? More than a decade after his death from a stroke in 1991, his 1959 album "Kind of Blue" continues to be the best-selling jazz recording of all time. Two books have been published chronicling the making of that recording, and most of his other studio outings have been the subject of boxed sets that include every false start, outtake and unreleased number.

Other artists have received similar exposure -- Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane among them. But there is something different about Davis, something about the elusive, enigmatic qualities of his personality, which - surfacing through his music - add a mysterious, indefinable appeal to his art.

Many - but not all - of the root sources of that personality are present in an extremely compelling new DVD, "The Miles Davis Story." The engrossing documentary was produced by Mike Dibb for England's Channel 4 Television with running commentary by Ian Carr, author of "Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography."

While much of the material is based on new interviews, the DVD also taps other sources, among them the 1986 PBS documentary "Miles Ahead" and a mid-'80s CBS promotional video.

Structured chronologically, reaching from Davis' early childhood in St. Louis to his final days in Malibu, the story clearly reveals -- probably unintentionally -- the ego-driven core that simultaneously energized his creative process while repeatedly shattering his personal life.

The segments that most persuasively illustrate that duality are a series of interviews with close family members: Irene Cawthon, the mother of his first three children; his ex-wife Frances Taylor Davis; his daughter Cheryl; his youngest son, Erin. (Although, curiously, there is nothing from his other wives, actress Cicely Tyson and singer Betty Mabry.) Similarly, conversations with producers Bob Weinstock (who signed Davis to Prestige in the early '50s) and George Avakian (who signed him to Columbia in 1955); with his close musical and personal associate, arranger-composer Gil Evans; and with musicians Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Cobb, Ron Carter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, Marcus Miller and saxophonist Bill Evans, among others, add more details to the documentary's multifaceted portrait. Some of those details are not complimentary. Cawthon describes having Davis jailed for not providing child support for his three children and speaks bitterly of the omission of his first two sons, Gregory and Miles IV, from his will. Frances Davis identifies his physical abuse as a primary cause of the breakup of their relationship. Several musicians allude to his periodic impatience with women and his greater sense of comfort around men. His already well-documented problems with drugs are also addressed, in several segments by Davis himself, as is his cold-turkey kicking - at his family home - of a hard-drug habit.

There is, in addition, a running tally of the numerous physical problems afflicting Davis throughout his life: difficult hip problems; a throat operation that resulted in his famously husky style of speaking; bleeding ulcers; and finally, a stroke.

These descriptions are sprinkled throughout a thorough detailing of Davis' musical career: his early friendship with Terry; his enormous admiration for Gillespie, which eventually led to the opportunity to replace Gillespie in the Charlie Parker Quintet; the "Birth of the Cool" sessions (described in far too limited detail); his partnership with Gil Evans in a series of momentous orchestral recordings; his defining groups of the '50s and '60s; his fascination with rock music and electronics in the final decades of his life.

As damning as some of the comments from family members may be, there are equally powerful, dramatically contrasting plaudits from the musicians who worked with him. Evans, for example, describes Davis as having "changed the tone of the trumpet for the first time since Louis Armstrong." Dave Holland notes that it was the "process that was important." Davis, he continues "was on to recording the process of discovering this new music and developing it. That's why it has that searching quality." And Cobb, Carter and Keith Jarrett all describe, in different ways, Davis' incessant quest to reach the next creative horizon.

Each of the many segments in this remarkable saga includes examples of Davis' playing from the period. Purists may be bothered by the relative brevity of the music, but this is, after all, intended as a probing documentary rather than an illustrative performance history.

And Legacy has made it easy to track the journey from a purely musical example via two complementary music CDs: "The Essential Miles Davis."

By the time the program rolls to a close, the reasons for Davis' appeal are considerably clarified, on many levels. His charismatic qualities as a performer, for example, are visibly present almost from the beginning - regardless of musical style or fashion of garb. And his playing, with its distinctly melodic qualities (Cobb refers to its inherent lyricism, and Shirley Horn underscores the affection that singers hold for his playing) is also consistently appealing, from acoustic beginning to electronic finale.

But what also becomes clear is Davis' insistence that he be viewed on his own terms, noting at one point his lifelong reluctance to take orders from anyone. And it may, in fact, be Davis himself who came up with the best explanation of all when he simply said, "Don't call me a legend. Just call me Miles Davis." -

- All About Jazz ; Jim Santella

Sony’s film biography of Miles Davis approaches its subject with a warmth of spirit that’s not always found in the narrative adventures of an artist or in the documentary of a genre such as jazz. Director Mike Dibb combines essential aural and visual elements to bring his production to life. Many of the film segments and mini-interviews come from contemporary sources. Davis’ paintings bring their vivid colors to the screen, while close friends of the artist provide candid comments. The beautiful photography, much of it contemporary, includes scenic urban landscapes and pertinent scenery. The inclusion of a stretch of the beach in Malibu where Davis lived his later years, for example, lends an often overlooked touch to the biography. The easy-to-understand mini-interviews come from ordinary folks: people close to Miles Davis, people who knew him well and many who were influenced by his guidance over the years. Nephew, daughter, mother of his children, professional mentor, co-worker, and apprentice - all of them have interesting thoughts to share. Dibb narrates the feature-length biography. Many of the comments come from Ian Carr, Clark Terry, Frances Davis and Irene Cawthon. The wide variety of film clips includes abbreviated musical performances by Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams. Still photographs add to the wealth of information. Recommended, The Miles Davis Story DVD deals with the trumpeter’s life in a manner comfortable enough to bring the viewer into the picture with him for eternity. -

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: AVC Advanced Video Codec
  • Video Bitrate: 871 KB/s
  • Display Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Video Resolution: 720 x 400
  • Audio Codec: (Dolby AC3)
  • Audio Bitrate: 192 Kb/s 48000Hz
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 2h 3mn
  • Framerate: 25.000 FPS
  • Number of Parts: 1
  • Part Size: 959 Mb
  • Ripped by DocFreak08
  • Subtitles: no

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