“The Miles Davis Story” is a thorough documentary portrait
released in 2001, in conjunction with the CD release of
“The Essential Miles Davis” collection, by the Columbia Legacy
label. At a running time of a little more than two hours, this
documentary discusses the entire life and career of
Miles Davis (1926-1991), featuring input from the many
musicians and relatives whose lives and careers intersected
with his. Beginning with his childhood in East St. Louis,
Miles’ career was chronicled in a flowing narrative, which was
enriched by the perspective of so many contributors. His years
of musical productivity were significant, because they
encompassed all of the years from the mid 1940’s and
the emergence of Bebop, through many different styles,
which included Cool Jazz, Modal, Post Bop, and Fusion, etc.
He was usually at the “vanguard” of these styles, and was
always attempting to make music that was current and relevant.
This film also discusses the personal demons affecting Miles.
Irene Cawthon, the mother of his first three children, and
“West Side Story” dancer, Frances Davis, each have a lot to
say in this regard. The musical contributors encompass his
entire career and include early mentors, Dizzy Gillespie and
Clark Terry, as well as bassist Marcus Miller, who worked with
Miles as a band member and producer during the 1980’s.
Other Jazz legends interviewed for this film included
Jimmy Cobb, Shirley Horn, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter,
Chick Corea, and Gil Evans, just to name a few. Apparently,
most of these interviews were recorded during the 1980’s,
and of course, Miles weighed in as well.
The bonus features include a well-written printed biography of
Miles Davis by Francis Davis. The different recording phases of his
long career were documented with other excellent essays, and
the cover art from key albums of these periods. This
documentary was very well done, and was fortunately long
enough to do justice to the entire career of this icon.
I highly recommend it.