Miles Davis: The Coolest Music Innovator of the 20th Century

Miles Davis: The Coolest Music Innovator of the 20th Century Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool | Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Guy Le Querrec.

Miles Davis was among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th-century music.

An iconic trumpeter and composer, Miles changed the genre of jazz more times than anyone before him or anyone since. He invented what we today call cool jazz, hard bop, and jazz fusion. His album Kind of Blue is one of the greatest pieces of art of the 20th century. 

Award-winning director and producer, Stanley Nelson, joins us to discuss his documentary Miles Davis: Birth of The Cool. We learn about the music innovator’s life journey, and the challenges that Stanley faced bringing Miles’s story to the big screen. 

Available to watch on PBS, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, the film tells the story of Miles’s genius. His career encapsulated everything from playing with Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie to influencing generations of musicians. Miles was also a trend-setter and fashion icon, who way too often succumbed to his destructive drug addictions.

“Miles was an icon to the African-American community; he became a black man that demanded excellence in his music and his life.” – Stanley Nelson

Time Stamps:

03:58 – A brief summary of who Miles Davis was. 
08:03 – What he meant to the world of music.
11:31 – The essence of his genius and his obsession with music.
16:21 – How the director Stanley Nelson came up with the film’s title.
18:59 – Miles’s distinctive music style.
20:17 – The complexities of his personality.
23:43 – How the idea for making this film was born.
25:24 – The challenges of making a documentary about an indisputable legend.
28:55 – Why it was important to include all aspects of Miles’ life.
30:22 – Using a voice-over in the film and why Miles Davis had such a raspy voice.
33:31 – What it was like interviewing Francis Taylor.
37:12 – Miles’s abusive relationships with women.
38:53 – The race issues that Miles faced because of his skin colour.
44:20 – What Miles meant to the African-American community.
49:37 – What would Miles think of the past year if he were still alive? 
51:57 – What it was like for Stanley to win a National Humanities medal.
53:16 – Stanley’s upcoming projects and and his advice to aspiring documentarians.
57:28 – The special age of documentary filmmaking. 


Miles Davis: Birth of The Cool (2020)
Kind Of Blue (1959)
Someday My Prince Will Come
Alamo Pictures
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Episode 45