The successful, yet tragic life of notorious jazz legend and self-proclaimed music game-changer Miles Davis is now compiled into a movie.
Packed with shootouts and high-speed chases, "Miles Ahead" is a biographical film starring and directed by Oscar nominee Don Cheadle that will premiere April 1.
Widely considered one of the most influential and innovative musicians of the 20th century, Davis was, together with his musical groups, at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music, including bebop, cool jazz, third stream, modal jazz, post-bop and jazz fusion. It was not uncommon for Davis to blow his own horn; many believed he had a great amount of cockiness and arrogance.
Growing up in a black family in the 1930s and in the heart of East St. Louis, the scene of some of this country’s most violent "race riots," was not easy for Davis. During his early musical career, Davis was introduced to the cold world of drugs. His cocaine and heroin addictions added to his wild and careless life.
Davis died on Sept. 28, 1991 at the age of 65. His presence in the history of American jazz, however, did not.
When Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, his nephew stated that Cheadle was the only person who could play Miles and that a film was coming soon. At the time, there were no actual plans for the movie, and the comments came to Cheadle as a surprise.
Channelling Davis’ unorthodox journey to fame was not an easy task for Cheadle. To really capture the musician’s unique character, Cheadle had to learn how to play the trumpet, but he knew what he was getting himself into.
"I thought, ‘If I was going to do something with this person, who’s probably one of the most creative human beings ever to walk on the planet, it would have to feel impressionistic, improvisational, wild, over-the-top. It would have to feel how I feel when I think about Miles Davis,’" Cheadle said in an interview with Billboard.
Instead of a linear retelling of the late trumpeter’s life and career, the film centers on Davis’ unlikely late-’70s hiatus, between his groundbreaking rock-fusion work in the early ’70s and his ’80s pop comeback.
"Miles Ahead" also stars actors Ewan McGregor, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emayatzy Corinealdi and many more.
The film is as far from a conventional Hollywood biopic as you can get, which may explain why it took Cheadle nearly a decade to get his directorial debut off the page and into theaters.
Those who have seen a sneak peek of the anticipated film were impressed with the opening scene. "Miles Ahead" begins with a cold open of sorts, in which Davis flees a slew of gunfire in the streets of New York City. Just as the escape seems certain, Davis drops a tape recording, which the audience later learns contains a lost studio session Columbia Records is desperate to get its hands on. Before anyone can find out the fate of Davis and the tape, the scene cuts to the middle of an interview.
"Miles Ahead" will premiere this Friday in theaters.