Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
by George Wolf
Miles Davis, the original cool? Well, at the very least, he’s in the team picture.
And part of that iconic allure, along with groundbreaking talent, was his elusiveness. Until that unexpected 1980s stretch of pop collaborations, art exhibitions and Miami Vice appearances, Davis was the prickly genius you could not pin down.
Enough talk, his every glance seemed to sneer (behind the coolest of sunglasses, of course). Just stand back and let me play.
With Birth of the Cool, director Stanley Nelson weaves archival footage, first-person interviews and Davis’s own words (read by actor Carl Lumbly) into a captivating career retrospective buoyed by important historical context.
Longtime aficionados will relish the dive into early stints with Dizzy, Bird and Coltrane as much as the later mentorships of Shorter and Hancock. The amount of respect and adoration here is healthy, indeed, but the darker layers of Davis’s drug use and abusive relationships are treated as part of his human complexity rather than mere whispers on a scandal sheet.
Birth of the Cool is an obvious must for any Davis fans wanting to feel as close to the legend as they’ve ever been. And for anyone using the film as intro to Miles 101, it’s a fine primer on road to Bitches Brew and beyond.