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Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool.Miles Davis: The Birth of Cool (2019)

This documentary about the innovative jazz musician Miles Davis (1926–1991) debuted at the Sundance film festival.  The music is the easy part. Few people were more influential in American jazz than Davis. He was born into a wealthy family in East St. Louis (his father was a dentist), and for his thirteenth birthday received a trumpet as a present. He never looked back, performing with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie at the age of eighteen, then moving on to Julliard in New York. When he was twenty-three he was smitten by Paris, where he met Picasso and Sartre. Music, said Davis, was never about standing still and being safe: "If anyone wants to keep creating, they have to be about change." And so late in his career he did gigs with Prince and took up painting. Davis the person is the harder part, but the movie doesn't blink. There was early heroin addiction, then a much later alcohol and cocaine habit. Davis had a well-earned reputation for being angry, antisocial, aloof, paranoid, violent, and jealous. Recalling the domestic abuse, his wife said, "I don't regret, I don't forget, but I still love." Davis, said one critic, was like a Spanish bullfighter who had duende, that heightened sense of emotion and authenticity. One writer in the film put it this way: "I wanted to feel like Miles sounds."

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