The jazz community and muso faithfuls turned up in unity to the opening night of Miles Ahead, a biopic of Miles Davis screening at Phoenix Picturehouse. Rich visuals and soundscapes keep you alert and engaged through to the final credit, fully immersing you into the culture and life of Miles Davis covering a period between 1945 and 1970. Note to viewers: be sure and stay until the last credit to see Cheadle performing in concert alongside Jazz Royalty Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, who knew and played with Miles Davis.
Snapshots from the film stay with you; Miles' red trumpet, band sessions, recording and romance through to drug runs and car chases with 'gangster' flavour. Ewan McGregor appears as Dave Brill, nuisance Rolling Stones reporter, appointed driver, sparring partner, conscience and friend throughout this torrid period. Miles' wife of ten years Frances, played by the beautiful Emayatzy Corinealdi captures the very essence of his being. Tragically she is torn between her own identity and the role Miles wants her to play. Some Day My Prince will Come is a Davis 1961 album that featured Frances and you'll be captivated by Corinealdi's engaging performance in the film.
'I'm always thinking about creating,' said Miles Davis; so too is the talented Don Cheadle. Cheadle whose diverse movie roles include The Guard, Hotel Rwanda and Iron Man 2 & 3 takes on his most significant role to date. A musician himself inspired by Miles, he researched and interviewed Miles' surviving relatives getting their approval for this piece and to take on the lead role. Not only did Cheadle direct it, he also co-wrote the screenplay with Steven Baigelman and beyond all doubt convincingly transformed into Miles Davis.
This movie cleverly creates an engaging collage of the character Miles Davis, his talent, moods, inner demons and struggles. The audience witnesses the harsh realities of this particular musical scene. Everyone was out for their share of the profits, excess rules, escapism was the norm to counterbalance life's pressures and an up and coming new star is always standing waiting to sign the next contract. A title at the end of the movie placed over a Davis image begins (1926 - ) which might very well reference his eternal legacy to music. After all, 75 doesn't seem particularly old enough to die given his peers are still performing today.
Music aficionados will be drawn to this movie for its subject matter, attention to detail and musical accuracy. Authentic and capturing the 'mile-stones' of this innovative music introduced to the jazz world at this time, cult fans will feel its impact and discuss its influence well beyond this cinema experience. Those curious about jazz are encouraged to see this one followed afterwards by a rummage through vinyls to listen to the originals.