Album Reviews

Miles Davis: The Cinema of Miles Davis (él Records)

Miles Davis
The Cinema of Miles Davis
él Records/Cherry Red

Miles Davis is one of the true bedrocks of jazz music, and even though he passed away two decades ago, his influence and music has yet to diminish. His legacy lives on thanks in part to the movie industry, as every year his music is utilized on soundtracks and scores. Understandable, too; his music had a way of capturing a mood—from smooth, romantic ballads to jaunty, upbeat numbers, for every emotion, a Miles Davis track suits it. él Records’ latest release, The Cinema of Miles Davis, offers up a sampling of classic era Davis recordings that have been used in the decades since their recording and release.

Interestingly, in three of the films in which his work appears, the use of Davis’ work isn’t just incidental; Davis had connections with the subjects. Lenny Bruce was a friend, and naturally Davis’ classics “Well, You Needn’t” and “Tempus Fugit” would appear in Lenny (1974) and Lenny Bruce: Swear To Tell The Truth (1998), respectively. So too does his fine “Blue Haze” appear in 1985’s Kerouac: The Movie, a fine documentary on the Beat poet that is scored with some of the finest jazz artists of the era. In these settings, one sees just how important Davis was to his times.

Of course, one can’t talk about Davis’s appearance in cinema without mentioning Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, Davis’s most well-known soundtrack recording, for Louis Malle’s 1958 masterpiece. As is él’s wont, the entire ten-song soundtrack closes out the album, and listening, it all makes sense; Davis was interested in scoring life. Working with pianist René Urtreger, Davis created soundscapes that were simultaneously warm and inviting yet cold and aloof. As the film was a murder mystery, he perfectly captured the atmosphere; numbers such as “Générique” and “Julien Dans L’ascenseur” evoke the wet, dark, and humid streets of a film noir classic.

Miles Davis’s legacy and music will certainly live on, and when newer generation of filmgoers are exposed to his work–such as the young audience of 2012’s Ginger and Rosa, which used his dreamy “Blue In Green,”–it assures his legacy will continue to grow. The Cinema of Miles Davis is a fine “greatest hits” of a man with a vast, intimidating discography, and one that serves him well.

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