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Jazz Film Review: Explore the life and music of Miles Davis in 'Birth of the Cool'

Trumpeter Miles Davis during his last concert in the Netherlands at the North Sea Jazz Festival, 1990
Peter Buitelaar
Wiki Commons CC by 2.0
Trumpeter Miles Davis during his last concert in the Netherlands at the North Sea Jazz Festival, 1990.

The truly definitive Miles Davis documentary, "Birth of the Cool," is showing at SIFF Cinema Uptown in Seattlethrough Thursday this week, and for one day only at The Grand Cinema in Tacoma on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

Director Stanley Nelson was in college when he was drawn to the music of Miles Davis. 

The film came from Nelson's desire to tell the whole story of Davis' life and artistry, including the many contradictions: Miles was the spontaneous improvisor who deeply studied classical and world music; the generous friend and mentor who could turn cold and distant at a moment's notice; the romantic who treated women with cruelty; the artist who could play his horn with breathtaking tenderness and at the same time carry a deep, all-consuming rage against the racism he faced throughout his life in the United States.

"Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool" presents Miles in the context of each era in which he was celebrated as the world-class musician expanding the vocabulary of jazz. Interviews with childhood friends, wives and girlfriends, family members and musicians help to round out the portrait of this complicated man. The narration by actor Carl Lumbly, reading from the Miles Davis autobiography, lends an intimate touch.

At the SIFF opening, KNKX jazz ambassador Abe Beeson had an interesting chat with "Birth of the Cool" producer, Nicole London: 

On Oct. 15 at The Grand Cinema in Tacoma, you can see "Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool" at a 1:15 p.m. matinee, or join the celebration at 6:30 p.m. showing, with live music before the film from the group Rhythm Changes. Hope to see you there!

Robin Lloyd hosts Evening Jazz and Jazz Caliente on KNKX-FM.  She is a member of the Jazz Education Network, and currently serves on the board of the Jazz Journalists Association.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.