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Stanley Nelson, director of Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, talks about why he chose to make a film about the iconic jazz musician. He also discusses how this film is more than just a film about a jazz musician and really a film about the United States in the second half of the 20th century as told through music.
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♪♪♪ . Miles: Music has always been like a curse with me.
I have always felt driven to play it.
It's the first thing in my life, go to bed thinking about it and wake up thinking about it.
It's always there.
It comes before everything.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Living is an adventure and a challenge.
It wasn't about standing still and becoming safe.
But I've always been the way I am, been like this all my life.
If anybody wants to keep creating, they have to be about change.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ I was born in Alton, Illinois, a little river town up on the Mississippi River.
My father moved the family to East St. Louis.
East St. Louis and St. Louis were country towns full of country people.
Especially the white people from around there -- really country and racist to the bone.
Petty: Miles grew up in a wealthy situation.
His father was a dentist.
He also had a farm, and raised cattle and hogs and all of this.
Troupe: They were the cream of the crop in the city.
He was the second richest guy in the state of Illinois.
Griffin: But during the period that he grew up in, it's still Jim Crow America.
And so, his wealth, his father's wealth, would not have protected him from segregation and racism in a place like East St. Louis.
Miles: On my 13th birthday, my father bought me a new trumpet.
My mother wanted me to have a violin, but my father overruled her.
This caused a big argument between them.
They had been at each other's throats since I was a little kid.
Bonner: He would hear his mother and father just talking and fussin'. And so I guess this is what got in his mind as a young boy.
Troupe: Miles absorbed that.
He absorbed all of that -- the anger, that kind of attitude toward women.
Miles: I remember my mother picking up things and throwing them at my father.
He got so mad with her, he punched her, he knocked a couple of teeth right out of her mouth.
It had to affect us somehow, although I don't really know how.
Petty: Miles was considered a genius, but he was also considered, I guess, weird.
Miles would go out into the woods, listening to the animals or listening to the birds, and play what he was hearing.
He always had his own way of doing things.
Kahn: Miles started very early as a member of the trumpet section in Eddie Randle's Blue Devils.
Miles is young and small and can barely fill the suit that he had to wear for these gigs.
Cawthra: While the other guys in Eddie Randle's band were working their day jobs, this teenager, Miles Davis, quickly becomes the musical director for this popular dance band.
[ Eckstine scatting ] ♪♪♪ Kahn: So the real pivot point for Miles is when, during his summer after high school, he is invited to sit in with the Billy Eckstine band.
Eckstine: ♪ When that rhythm's in ya ♪ ♪ The blues don't have a chance ♪ Kahn: Both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie are in that band.
I mean you've got the laboratory, the future of modern jazz right there in this big band.
♪♪♪ Miles: The greatest feeling I ever had in my life -- with my clothes on -- was when I first met Diz and Bird.
I was 18 years old.
I decided right then and there I had to be in New York on 52nd Street where the action was.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Cronkite: Walter Cronkite reporting.
War years always bring on new fads and tastes, and the strangest taste around is the excitement generated by the musical noise called Jazz.
This strange music has been accused of everything including the bad weather and the present decay in morality.
♪♪♪ Heath: 52nd street was a Mecca of jazz clubs.
They had jazz clubs on both sides of the street.
Miles: I had never heard no [bleep] like they was playin' on 52nd street.
We would go down there and listen in amazement.
That [bleep] was so good it was scary.
Cobb: Each little place has a speaker outside where you can hear what's going on inside.
Morgenstern: But you could stand outside and, you know, and hear the music until a doorman -- the clubs had doormen, they would chase you away.
♪♪♪ Troupe: Miles enrolled at Juilliard because he wanted to learn music and because his mother wanted him to be a trained musician and all that.
Griffin: He is serious about Juilliard.
He's seriously committed to it, and he values what Juilliard might have to offer.
Miles: A lot of the old guys thought that, if you went to school, it would make you play like you were white.
If you learned something from theory, you would lose the feeling in your playing.
I would go to the library and borrow scores by all those great composers.
I wanted to see what was going on in all of music.
Griffin: And yet he knows that there's something else going on that is not happening at Juilliard.
Cobb: So he was to go at Juilliard in the daytime, and at night, he'd go, he'd be on 52nd Street.
Miles: I spent my first week in New York looking for Bird and Dizzy.
Spent all my money and didn't find them.
Then, one night, I heard this voice from behind me say, 'Hey, Miles, I heard you been looking for me.'
I turned around and there was Bird.
♪♪♪ Tate: Bebop musicians were rocket scientists.
You can compare bebop to the Manhattan Project, and it was developed by some serious sound physicists blowing their brains out to push this music as far as they could.
So, Miles stepped into kind of a hotbed of musical research and development.
♪♪♪ Early: Bebop was a black music.
It was a music by black musicians who wanted to get away from any kind of hint of minstrelsy.
Jones: No smiling and laughing and -- and grinning and dancing and [bleep] No entertaining, man.
They wanted to be an artist just like Stravinsky, just like Stravinsky, who was just a pure artist.
Tate: Miles saw these very elegantly dressed characters.
There's a dignity that came with that and a nobility that came with that.
And the swagger.
Kahn: Very soon after Miles starts his Juilliard studies, Irene arrives.
His high school sweetheart with their child and with another baby on the way.
Miles: All of a sudden, there she was, knocking on my mother[bleep] door.
My mother had told her to come.
Griffin: I mean it seems almost impossible what he would have been trying to do at that age.
There's the domestic situation with children.
There's the kind of time required of anyone who's a serious student at Juilliard, but then there's also the kind of time and commitment that this music will take, and at some point, something has to give.
Troupe: Music was everything, it was everything.
It was sexual, sensuous -- everything -- power -- everything -- humor, and then he could not share that.
And so somebody had to play second fiddle to that.
Shorter: One day, the teacher said the blues grew out of the downtrodden sufferings of the slaves, of slavery, and the -- the crying and wailing and all that, that this became the blues of the people in chains,' and all that, and Miles in back of the room somewhere, and he raised his hand while she was talking.
And she said, 'Yes?'
He said, 'You a [bleep]damn liar.'
And walked out of the room.
Kahn: Miles, within months, is hanging with Bird, is recording with Bird, he really arrives, like, right away.
Tate: Every night, you know, he'd get on the stand with Bird, Bird would play the head of the tune and just leave him on stage by himself.
He said he threw up every night because he was just so stressed out and humiliated.
I mean, those cats could wear him out on the horn any night.
But he figured something else out.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Kernodle: He comes up with a style that is truly reflective of who he is -- straight tone, lyricism.
It is him.
It is uniquely, organically him.
♪♪♪ Kahn: Miles meets Gil Evans and there's this level of mutual respect and mutual dedication to the music that will last a lifetime.
Miles: I liked the way Gil wrote music, and he liked the way I played.
We heard sound in the same way Kahn: By the end of the '40s, they're working on a project together -- it's called 'Birth of the Cool.'
A nonet that would create a kind of melding of modern classical ideas with jazz.
♪♪♪ Symphony Sid: And right now, ladies and gentlemen, we bring you something new in modern music -- impressions in modern music with the great Miles Davis and his wonderful new organization.
Tate: I think the intention was to create a listening music, a concert music that very deliberately did not have the drive and the funk of 52nd Street on it.
♪♪♪ But it's mainly about trying to create new colors in a way where you widen the palate of jazz.
♪♪♪ And I think he was conscious of the fact that, to move the music forward, you've got to go someplace it hasn't gone before.
♪♪♪ Newscaster: The heart of European civilization is beating strong again.
Paris is free.
This is the end of four years of Nazi rule in Paris.
Once more, it is the City of Light.
♪♪♪ Gréco: [ Speaking French ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Bessières: After the war, France was different, Europe was different, and they needed a new sound to that era.
And that was jazz.
Announcer: Miles: This was my first trip out of the country.
I loved being in Paris and loved the way I was treated.
Troupe: He said that the food even tasted better in France.
The smell in the air was even more beautiful in Paris.
That moment for him was something that was galvanizing.
Miles: Music had been my total life.
I was always so into the music.
I never had time for any kind of romance, until I met Juliette Gréco.
Gréco: [ Singing in French ] ♪♪♪ [ Speaking French ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Miles: Juliette and I used to walk down by the Seine River together, holding hands and kissing, looking into each other's eyes and kissing some more.
I cared a lot for Irene, but I had never felt like this before in my life.
Griffin: She brings him into a circle of other artists, of intellectuals, of philosophers, of, you know, the sort of greatest minds of that time.
Tate: Jazz was really seen as the height of artistry at that time inside of French intellectual and creative circles.
Kahn: He meets Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre.
He's treated as an equal by some of the most creative giants of the day.
Griffin: Paris for Miles is a kind of opening up of possibility and of potential, this sense that one can be fully oneself beyond the boundaries of race.
That it isn't something to hold you back, and in fact, it might be something that contributes to your ability to ascend.
Miles: Paris was where I understood that all white people weren't the same, that some weren't prejudiced and others were.
It had only been a couple of weeks.
But I was living in an illusion of possibility, maybe a miracle had happened.
Gréco: [ Speaking French ] ♪♪♪ [ Singing in French ] ♪♪♪ Miles: I was so depressed coming back to this country on the airplane that I couldn't say nothing all the way back.
I didn't know that [bleep] was going to hit me like that.
♪♪♪ Griffin: Every African-American artist who has spent time abroad talks about the profound disappointment of coming back to the United States.
You see your country as you knew it but in an even starker light because you've experienced something different.
Miles: It was hard for me to come back to the bull[bleep] white people put a black person through in this country.
I lost my sense of discipline, lost my sense of control over my life and started to drift.
Before I knew it, I had a heroin habit, which meant getting and shooting heroin all the time, all day and all night.
That's all I lived for.
Kernodle: His career is spiraling out of control.
There's no expectation that Miles is going to survive let alone is he -- is he really going to be a successful musician again?
♪♪♪ Wein: I had a little club in, um, I think it was Hartford.
I booked the Symphony Sid All Stars.
And Symphony Sid said, 'Don't give Miles any money.'
So Miles come up to me the first night and says, 'George, give me $5.'
I says, 'Miles, come on, man.'
'George, give me $2.'
'Come on, Miles.'
'George, give me 50 cents.'
'Hey, hey, man, you know.'
'George, give me a penny.'
That's my first meeting with Miles.
Heath: We were playing at a club in New York.
And his father came from East St. Louis and came to the club and took him off the stage and left his horn and everything.
He said, 'Come on. You're going back home with me.'
[ Train whistle blows ] Miles: I felt like a little boy going with his daddy.
I had never felt like that before and probably haven't felt like that since.
On the way home, I told him that I was going to give up dope and that all I needed was a little rest.
Before I knew it, I was shooting up again and borrowing money from my father to support my habit.
Redmond: You could see him moving through the night.
You'd run into him somewhere didn't even know it was Miles.
He might even have on clothes that looked like... made him look like he was homeless.
Petty: We wanted him to be Superman, and it just doesn't work that way.
♪♪♪ Bonner: I really hated to see him go down like that.
But I... I don't want to talk about it.
♪♪♪ Miles: I went out to my father's farm in Millstadt.
I was sick.
If someone could have guaranteed that I would die in two seconds, then I would have taken it.
This went on for about 7 or 8 days.
I couldn't eat.
Then, one day, it was over, just like that -- over.
I felt better.
This young white guy had started a new jazz label called Prestige, and he was looking for me to make a record for him.
I figured there wasn't nowhere for me to go but up.
I was already on the bottom.
King Jr: We, the negro citizens, had it not to rise... -Ms. America contest... -The Dodgers go wild... Man: Emmett Till was taken by... Man: The amazing new Motoramic Chevrolet.
♪♪♪ Man: All the Betty Crocker cake mix... Man: This afternoon, Disneyland, the world's most fabulous theme kingdom.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] Wein: I was in a club in New York.
And Miles is at the back of the club.
And Miles stopped me coming out of the club.
He said, 'Are you going to have a jazz festival up at Newport?'
I said, 'Yeah, Miles.'
He said, 'You can't have a festival without me.'
I said, 'Miles, you want to be in a festival?'
He says, 'You can't have a festival without me.'
So I said, 'All right, I'll call your agent.'
♪♪♪ Cawthra: Newport was like an audition.
Listening in the audience were executives from Columbia Records.
Kahn: Columbia Records was the Tiffany of labels at the time.
Troupe: He knew what this meant.
He knew what this meant for him.
So if he had that opportunity, as he had at Newport, he was going for it and with a vengeance.
♪♪♪ Wein: Miles put the bell of his horn right into the microphone and changed the whole world of jazz right there and changed his career right there.
Because the beauty of that song and the beauty of Miles' trumpet made bebop a music that could be accepted by everybody.
♪♪♪ They could now put on Miles' music while they were making love.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] Santana: It takes a lot of courage to play a ballad.
You know, it's easy to hide with a bunch of notes all over the place and, 'Look what I can do.'
[ Vocalizes ] 'Look what I can do.'
You know, like... [Snores] You know, okay.
♪♪♪ Most men are afraid to be vulnerable.
That's what women love the best about a man.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ I think Miles, you know, on one hand, he comes out like this, you know, but then he starts playing, and people are like, 'Oh.'
You know, and he just disarms you.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Griffin: Miles' sound is unique from the first note.
There's a sense of pleasure, beauty.
There's something very romantic, but it's romantic without being sentimental.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Tate: He's spilling his guts to you so directly, you know, to the heart, to your, you know, to your vitals.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Griffin: I want to feel the way Miles sounds.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Hancock: Miles had a way of playing that sounded like a -- like a stone skipping across a pond.
He just touched on the waves.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Miller: Sometimes he leaves a note out.
And I've seen people literally like just... waiting for that next note.
♪♪♪ Heath: His sound was so pure and elegant and tasty.
♪♪♪ Shorter: Miles could play one note.
I've seen him play like one note, and some of these high rollers that came to the club, these high rollers would come out and say -- he'd hit one note, they'd say, 'That did it for me.
That did it for me. I just got my money's worth.'
And they're ready to leave. [Chuckles] Miles would say, 'Bam.'
Oh. That's it, man.'
Miles: In February or March 1956, I had to have a non-cancerous growth on my larynx removed.
It had been bothering me for a while.
I wasn't even supposed to talk for at least 10 days.
Cortez: One week went by, and he was in pretty good shape.
The second week... he couldn't keep his mouth shut.
Everybody was a sack full of mother[bleep] And that was it.
He got that rasp.
And it never healed.
Sandra: At that time, nobody knew that Miles had had an operation and that his voice had suffered from it.
He came out on the stage and began to announce, in that gravelly voice, what he was going to play for that evening.
And I think he got two or three sentences out, and the audience, a large number of them, began to laugh at him.
And Miles turned around, and he looked at the audience, he had this very strange look on his face, and he left.
♪♪♪ Miles: I could communicate with the band just by giving them a certain look.
That's what I'm doing when I have my back turned to the audience.
I can't be concerned with talking and bull[bleep] while I'm playing because the music is talking to them when everything's right.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ George Avakian, the jazz producer for Columbia Records, wanted to sign me to an exclusive contract.
I told him that I wanted to go with Columbia because of all the [bleep] that he offered me.
Kahn: George Avakian says, 'Here's a list of demands that I would like you to meet -- you got to be clean, you got to have a consistent band.'
And the last thing is he's got to get free of his Prestige contract.
Miles: I'll play it and tell you what it is later.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Chambers: He had a new quintet with John Coltrane as the tenor saxophone player, and he took that quintet into the studios of Rudy Van Gelder, and he called tune after tune after tune and recorded enough music in a couple of days to get rid of his obligation to Prestige.
♪♪♪ Kernodle: He basically took the handcuffs off the musicians and said, 'Here, do you, be you.
I'm just going to let the music live, let it breathe, and let it develop as we feel it.'
♪♪♪ Chambers: Miles thought he was just sort of dispatching his obligation as fast as he could, but in fact, they are gems of spontaneous jazz music.
Two marathon sessions, three hours or more of recorded music.
One of the great feats, really, of jazz history.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Taylor: I first met Miles Davis, I was performing with the Katherine Dunham Company.
It was the introduction to so many different people that I met at that time in the show business world.
I mean, I was in Paris, I was in Berlin, I was everywhere.
I was told I had the best legs in the business.
Hugh O'Brian wanted to date me.
Roy Calhoun wanted to take me to Las Vegas.
Oh, God, trying to think of all the different gentlemen.
Well, as a dancer, I mean I was spectacular on that stage, and I guess they just wanted to find out more about me.
I didn't know that much about jazz.
Who I did know about was Johnny Mathis.
Mathis: ♪ Chances are, 'cause I wear a silly grin ♪ ♪ Chances are you think that I'm in love with you ♪ Taylor: I was performing at Ciro's, and Miles saw the performance, and he was smittened right away, but so was everybody else.
Mathis: ♪ Chances are ♪ Taylor: This was just another chapter of gentlemen wanting to be with Frances.
Mathis: ♪ Awfully good ♪ Taylor: Sammy Davis Jr. asked me to join this new play that he was doing called 'Mr. Wonderful.'
On my way to rehearsal one day, Miles is coming down the street, and we looked at each other, and he looked at me and he said, 'Now that I found you, I'll never let you go.'
And what happened was, I -- I moved in with him.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Cawthra: Frances Taylor was really a muse, an inspiration.
She was the most inspirational person he had partnered with, the one he was with the longest.
She was someone who gave him stability and love at a time when he produced some of his most groundbreaking and popular work.
Taylor: He had to go off to Paris, and he left me the music.
I fell in love with his sound. It got to me.
And I just played it over and over.
And that was my introduction to his music.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Laughs ] [ Speaking French ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Bessières: Miles happened to be in Paris at the time when Louis Malle had finished his movie, 'Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud,' 'Elevator to the Gallows.'
[ Speaking French ] Bessières: Malle was very young and was really at the beginning of his career.
He wanted also to make different cinema and change the way of doing films, like having real people in a real setting.
Kahn: And he approached Miles with the idea, would you be willing to create a jazz soundtrack?
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Vocalizing ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Bessières: Miles didn't write any music.
He played the entire music direct to the screening of the movie.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Just improvising and creating the sound in reaction to the images of the film.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Bessières: That soundtrack made the film famous.
A lot of people, you know, they heard the record first, and they wanted to see the movie second.
♪♪♪ During the recording of 'Elevator to the Gallows,' Miles experienced a new way of approaching improvisation.
That's something that he would develop the next following years.
So something started in the recording studio of 'Elevator to the Gallows.'
Macero: Start again, please.
Here we go.
300622981, number 2, take 1.
Miles: Wait one minute!
Cobb: I was probably the first one there because I had to set up the drums.
So I had my drums, set them up, and waited till everybody else filed in.
He just came in with little notes that he had, he didn't even have sheet music for that.
And the only thing he'd tell me was like, 'Just swing,' you know? It was just swing.
Miles: I didn't write out the music for 'Kind of Blue,' but brought in sketches because I wanted a lot of spontaneity in the playing.
I knew that, if you've got some great musicians, they will deal with the situation and play beyond what is there and above where they think they can.
Cobb: The first part of 'So What'... [ Vocalizing ] ♪♪♪ Then Paul will go into the bass saying... [ Vocalizing ] Miller: [ Vocalizing ] Man, that was the first thing I ever heard from Miles.
Grabbed the record out of my father's record collection, put it on.
The first thing that catches your ear is Paul Chambers playing that bass line.
♪♪♪ Redman: We can't even question the sacred texts that we have, right?
Like, you know, I mean why is the Bible the Bible?
It's the Bible, you know.
I mean, why is 'Kind Of Blue' 'Kind Of Blue'? It's 'Kind Of Blue.'
Like, it just is, and it changed the sound of jazz.
♪♪♪ Cobb: The cymbal crash at the start of 'So What,' I thought I had overdone it.
It sounded louder than it should have been, to me.
Kahn: And it seems to ring forever, but it brings you right into the tune.
It's like you've hit the highway, and the rest of the tune just takes off.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Kernodle: On 'Kind of Blue,' what he asked them to do was to think deeper about what kind of sound can you create.
He said, 'I have these few ideas.
And this is something that Miles does for the rest of his life.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Tate: 'Kind of Blue' doesn't really give away his passion so easily, but at the same time, once those musicians open up, they show you how inventive and ingenious they can be and how incendiary.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Kernodle: 'Kind of Blue' really signified a different way of thinking about your music and a different way of playing the music and approaching the music.
And for Coltrane, that was the door he needed to find his own identity.
♪♪♪ Griffin: Few people hear the potential in the young John Coltrane, but Miles brought him along and provided Coltrane space to become the artist who we would later love and revere.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Cobb: People that don't even like jazz like that album.
Every decade or something there's just new people talking about 'Kind Of Blue.'
'That's what started me to listening to jazz music.'
Kahn: You can listen hundreds of times.
It always has something new to say.
And that, for me, is the definition of a masterpiece.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Cobb: I don't think Miles knew that that was gonna be a record that would sell more records than any record in the history of the jazz music, you know.
If Miles thought that that was gonna be like that, he would have asked for the building, and he would've asked for two Ferraris outside right now.
You know, he would have really went crazy.
If he thought anything like that was happening, he would have went off on 'em. [Chuckles] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Kahn: 'Kind of Blue' becomes successful immediately.
He's becoming a popular, mainstream star.
The Columbia deal gets his music into mainstream America like never before.
He elevates himself into music maestro land.
♪♪♪ Miles: All I ever wanted to do was communicate what I felt through music.
Going with Columbia did mean more money, but what's wrong with getting paid for what you do and getting paid well?
♪♪♪ Heath: There was the black man's era when he wanted to show his pride of what he was, and Miles was exhibit A.
And he would look clean as he could, man.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Kernodle: Miles Davis was the personification of cool.
That mythological hero.
He becomes our black Superman.
Mtume: When the new Miles album came out, man, you know, we would walk around with the album, man.
See, being into Miles was, in itself, a definition of being hip.
♪♪♪ White: Miles Davis wore all the slick clothes and drove fast cars and all the women and everything.
We didn't just want to play with Miles Davis, we wanted to be Miles Davis.
♪♪♪ Heath: I'd say, 'Miles, what are you doing with your children when you want to take them out with you?'
He said, 'I tell 'em to get a taxi.'
♪♪♪ Griffin: Miles becomes representative of a kind of cool kind of sophistication, a kind of masculinity, a kind of black man who takes no [bleep] ♪♪♪ Miles: Being cool and hip and angry and sophisticated and ultra clean -- I was all those things and more.
But I was playing the [bleep] out of my horn and had a great group, so I didn't get recognition based only on a rebel image.
People were starting to talk about the Miles Davis mystique.
♪♪♪ Kernodle: I think the darkness of Miles Davis' skin, instead of seeing that as a liability, he saw that as an asset.
It was very different from anything that was projected on television or in movies at that time.
Miles turned that into something cool, something desirable.
Miles: I was sharp as a tack every time I went out in public, and so was Frances.
A real black mother[bleep] like me with this stunningly beautiful woman!
Man, it was something, people stopping and looking with their mouths hanging open.
♪♪♪ Taylor: Miles would buy clothes for me because I have -- everybody knows I have the great legs.
He was chic, I was chic, and then, of course, getting in and out of a Ferrari.
I mean, we were a hot couple, there's no two ways about it.
Miles and Frances on fire. [ Laughs ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Wilburn: As a kid, when I would see them together, it was just like, wow, you know.
You know, they dressed to the nine.
And in love.
It was like a prince and a princess.
♪♪♪ Wein: I had a friend who was a writer -- his name was George Frazier -- and he picked up on a word which he applied to Miles.
It had to do with the Spanish matadors, the bull fighters.
A lot of guys could kill the bulls.
Some of them were very exciting fighters.
But others would just walk in the ring and stand there and hold the cape, and the bull would charge, and the audience would just gasp their breath.
That fighter had duende.
And Miles had duende.
Cobb: Miles was the kind of guy, he had things that he liked.
If he liked you, he liked you.
If he didn't like you, he didn't like you.
So it was that -- he was just that kind of guy.
You know, if you was on his right side, that's where you were, you know.
And if you was on his wrong side, that's probably where you stayed, [Chuckles] you know.
Miles: I was just cold to mostly everyone.
That was the way I protected myself, by not letting anyone inside of my feelings and emotions.
And for a long time, it worked for me.
Shepp: I went to the Village Vanguard, where Miles was performing, and I said, 'Mr. Davis, my name is Archie Shepp, and I -- I wonder if you'd let me sit in.'
And he said, 'Archie who?'
And I said, 'Archie Shepp.'
He said, '[Bleep] you.
You can't sit in with me.'
Cortez: Miles didn't care.
Miles didn't have to please anybody but Miles.
Miles was not interested.
You know what I mean?
He wasn't interested in people because he was Miles Davis.
Kernodle: There were all these personality quirks that he had.
He was angry, antisocial.
But, oftentimes, those insecurities and those demons are the very things that are the basis of their arts, so that art becomes a way of healing.
It gave him an opportunity to show a vulnerability and to show a side of him that, in the real world, he could not show.
♪♪♪ Cobb: We were working at Birdland, and we got through a set, and Miles came upstairs to smoke.
Miles: I'm standing there in front of Birdland wringing wet because it's a hot, steaming, muggy night in August.
I had just walked this pretty white girl named Judy out to get a cab.
This white policeman comes up to me and tells me to move on.
Cobb: Miles say, 'Why?'
He say, 'I'm smoking a cigarette.
I'm working downstairs and I'm smoking a cigarette.'
And he was standing right by the sign with his name on it.
Crouch: 'M-I-L-E-S. M-I-L-E-S -- Miles.
That's me. Who are you?'
Kahn: 'Kind of Blue' has just come out.
He is the talk of the town.
And he is at the top of the marquee... top of his popularity.
Cobb: So the guy said, 'I don't care, you just can't stand there.'
So Miles said, 'Well, I'm not moving.'
Miles: I just looked at his face real straight and hard, and I didn't move.
Crouch: Miles, at that point, was in such good shape -- right? -- that it was hard for him to actually get a hand on him.
Miles: From out of nowhere, this white detective runs in and -- bam! -- hits me on the head.
I never saw him coming.
Taylor: I received a telephone call that I should come down to the police station.
And I saw his face.
It was just terrifying.
I was in tears.
♪♪♪ Miles: I would have expected this kind of bull[bleep] back in East St. Louis, but not here in New York City, which is supposed to be the slickest, hippest city in the world.
Cobb: It was racial, the whole thing was racial.
The whole city was racist, the whole world, I guess, you know?
So what is it, you know?
I can't see it being nothing else but that.
Griffin: It is a reminder that no level of accomplishment, no level of achievement, no level of financial success or recognition, even, for that actually protects you from the racial hostilities of the United States.
You know, like, there is no way out of this thing.
Miles: That incident changed me forever, made me much more bitter and cynical than I might have been.
♪♪♪ Miller: He used to flash back. We'd be talking, and randomly, he'd just go, 'Those...cops, man.'
Right? He just, out of nowhere, it'd be like completely random.
He'd flash back to that, man.
Man, that stuff don't go away just because all of a sudden you got a little success.
That stuff that happens to you when you're young, that stays with you for the rest of your life.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Kahn: 'Miles Ahead' was the first collaboration between Miles Davis and Gil Evans after Miles signs with Columbia Records.
It's one of the reasons why Miles even went over to Columbia Records, because Columbia had the budget and the wherewithal to make a project like this possible.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Miles: Gil and I were something special together musically.
I loved working with Gil because he was so meticulous and creative, and I trusted his musical arrangements completely.
♪♪♪ Evans: We worked together at the piano all the time.
Always sayin', 'How 'bout this? How 'bout that?'
I was just crazy about his interpretations of the songs, you know, they just fit in so naturally.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Kahn: When 'Miles Ahead' comes out... There's this young, white, female model on the deck of a sailing ship as the original cover.
Cawthra: This was, I think, meant to evoke the high life, the good life.
And it would allow the album to be marketed to a broad -- that is, white -- audience.
Kahn: And Miles goes up to George Avakian and he says, 'What's that white bitch doing on the cover of my album?'
Griffin: He becomes aware of his power as an artist who is generating a tremendous amount of income for his record label, as well.
That he has some say in these decisions.
Kahn: And the next pressing of the same music comes out under another title with another cover, and Miles Davis himself is on the cover.
♪♪♪ Chambers: 'Miles Ahead' was the first of three wonderful collaborations with Gil Evans and a 19-piece orchestra.
Two years after 'Miles Ahead' came 'Porgy and Bess.'
And then, two years after that... ♪♪♪ Taylor: I had spent time in Barcelona.
After we would finish our shows, we'd watch and listen to Flamenco music and dance, and I was just taken with that.
I said to Miles, 'I want you to really see what I see, and feel what I feel with Flamenco music.'
He didn't want to go, he didn't want to go, but finally, he gave in.
And we go to see Flamenco music and dance.
When we left the theater, we went right to the Colony Record Shop, and he bought every Flamenco album he could.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Miles: That was the hardest thing for me to do on 'Sketches of Spain' -- to play the parts on the trumpet where someone was supposed to be singing, especially when it was ad-libbed.
My voice had to be both joyous and sad in this song, and that was very hard, too.
If you do a song like that three or four times, you lose that feeling you want to get there.
♪♪♪ It seemed to work out all right.
Everyone loved that record.
Snow White: Once there was a princess.
Dwarf: Was the princess you?
Snow White: And she fell in love.
Dwarf: Was it hard to do?
Snow White: Oh, it was very easy.
Anyone could see that the prince was charming.
The only one for me.
♪ Someday my prince will come ♪ ♪ Someday my prince... ♪ Tate: Miles always loved a strong melody.
He really felt like those melodies would allow him to speak, saying here's something that you're familiar with.
I'm going to show you how beautiful it can really be.
Chambers: So he could take something like 'Someday My Prince Will Come' from a Walt Disney movie, and he could invest that with amazing feeling and depth.
He said, I'm playing it for my wife, Frances, and you can feel the love and care in his playing.
♪♪♪ Taylor: 'Someday my Prince Will Come' was the first album cover I was on for Miles, and he was out of town, and I remember going to the shooting, and he was calling every two minutes to see what I was wearing, what do I look?
He wanted to make sure that I looked perfect, and of course I thought I did.
♪♪♪ I put the mole on my little cheek 'cause I thought it had flare.
♪♪♪ Miles: It was on 'Someday My Prince Will Come' that I started demanding that Columbia use black women on my album covers.
I mean, it was my album and I was Frances' prince, so I was able to put Frances on the cover.
Tate: He was standing up for the beauty of black women, you know, and saying, 'This beauty here is the beauty that I'm projecting, you know, through this music, through this horn.
Major statement to make, and I'm sure it was just 'cause he thought his wife was hot and fine, too.
♪♪♪ Taylor: Everybody wanted to be in 'West Side Story.'
Jerome Robbins, Steve Sondheim, you know, it was like the one.
There were at least, I'd say, 300 girls auditioning.
I got on stage, and I stood up there, and I snapped my fingers, and I went... [ Scatting ] I did an Ella Fitzgerald scat.
And Jerome Robbins -- they all freaked out.
I was in, I was in.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Miles: Around this time, I was drinking more than I had in the past, and I was snorting a lot of cocaine.
That combination can make you real irritable.
Frances was the only woman that I had ever been jealous of.
And being jealous and using drugs and drinking, she just looked at me like I was crazy, which I was at the time.
I thought I was sane and on top of the world.
Taylor: He was a jealous person when it came to me.
He just couldn't handle me being with these people and getting, you know, all of this attention.
And that's when he came to the theater and picked me up in his Ferrari and said, 'I want you out of 'West Side Story.'
A woman should be with her man.'
But I was in love with him, and I did as he said.
I quit the show.
He sent for his children -- Cheryl Ann and Gregory and little Miles.
What I ended up doing was performing in the kitchen.
Cheryl: I came to New York, and Frances got us enrolled in schools, and we started going to school, coming home, doing our homework.
So it's a big change for her.
Taylor: I didn't know how to cook or anything, you know.
I've been on the road. I mean, no.
He said to me, 'Look, listen.
Watch what I'm doing and do it.'
So I learned to cook.
Shorter: She would be downstairs cooking, and every now and then, she would go upstairs and disappear.
And later, on she told me, 'You remember when I used to disappear, go upstairs?'
I said, 'Yeah.'
She said, 'I went upstairs to look at my ballet slippers.
She always seemed to be holding in certain feelings about what she could've been doing.
Miles: My hip was operated on in April 1965, and they replaced the hip ball with some bone from my shin, but it didn't work, and so they had to do it again that August.
I was in a lot of pain all the time.
I was starting to drink more than I had in the past and I was taking pain medication and I was starting to use more coke.
I guess because of the depression.
Taylor: It was a combination of jealousy, cocaine, Percodan, Scotch, and milk.
That's the combination that I found out later.
And this combination causes you to snap, which he did.
♪♪♪ I was with Miles at Birdland one evening... ♪♪♪ ...and Quincy Jones was there.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ When we got home that night, I just mentioned to Miles that Quincy Jones is handsome.
♪♪♪ And before I knew it -- It was so fast.
And I saw stars.
I was on the floor.
It was the most unbelievable thing that ever happened to me because I'd never been hit in my life.
That was the first, and it wasn't going to be the last, unfortunately.
I didn't know at the time that I was close to leaving, but that's when it happened.
♪♪♪ Miles: I can say this right now -- Frances was the best wife that I ever had.
I realized how badly I treated her and that it was over.
I know that now and I wish I had known that then.
Cortez: He was always talking about her, even after they -- it was all over, four or five years later, he would say, 'See that suit that girl's wearing?
I bought Frances a suit like that once.'
Taylor: After I left, I heard Miles say that he really screwed up.
He also said, 'Whoever gets her is a lucky mother[bleep]' So... That's what I heard he said.
Well, he was right. [ Chuckles ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Miles: In the last years that 'Trane was with my group, he started playing for himself.
When that happens, the magic is gone out of a band, and people who used to love to play together start not caring anymore.
And that's when a band falls apart.
I'd be lying if I said that that didn't make me sad, because I really loved playing with this band, and I think it was the best small band of all time, or at least the best I had heard up until then.
I had always been looking for new things to play, new challenges for my musical ideas.
Now it was time for something different.
♪♪♪ Carter: I was working at a place called The Half Note.
Miles had come in during the course of the set with his black cape and his black hat, looking mysterious.
And he said, 'I'm looking for a bass player.
Are you interested?' Well, at the time, that was -- the only thing hotter than Miles Davis was a pancake.
Shorter: My phone rang, I hear this guitar.
There's a guitar, somebody strumming guitar.
Then this voice said, 'The guitar is a mother[bleep] ain't it?' [Chuckles] Hancock: 'Come to my house tomorrow at 1:30.'
He never said his name.
He never gave me his address, phone number, nothing.
But Miles called me.
Shorter: And he sent me a first-class ticket and he sent me to his tailor to get a tuxedo made.
And I flew to California Allen: Uh, Miles what are you gonna play this time?
[ Chuckles ] Somebody else tell me 'cause Miles has laryngitis.
[ Man speaking indistinctly ] Blues of some kind or other.
All right, once again, the Miles Davis Quintet -- here it is.
♪♪♪ Kahn: Miles' great quintet of the 1960s created a way of improvising that was totally new, that allowed this incredible level of democracy to enter into the music, and anyone could take the music where they wanted to.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Kernodle: He consistently surrounded himself with young, emerging, unknown voices.
He allowed them to develop their musical identity in that band, and he continued to just keep regenerating over and over for the remainder of his career.
Hancock: At the time I joined Miles's band, I was 23 years old.
Tony Williams, the drummer, was 17 years old.
We were kids.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Miles: Creativity and genius in any kind of artistic expression don't know nothing about age.
Either you got it or you don't, and being old is not going to help you get it.
Carter: We were looking at every night going to a laboratory, Miles was the head chemist.
Our job was to mix these components, these changes, this tempo into something that explodes safely every night with a bit of danger.
And it happened every night.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Hancock: Miles wanted us to live on the stage in front of the people, creating in front of the people.
In other words, don't lean on what you know.
What he was looking for is the stuff that you don't know.
♪♪♪ Carter: I like that idea, man. I hate to rehearse.
All the good ideas get shot.
I want to make mistakes on the bandstand and fix em there.
Hancock: Miles even told us, 'I pay you to practice on the bandstand in front of the people.'
I said, 'Well, the public is not going to like that.'
He said, 'I'll take care of the public.
You just play.'
♪♪♪ Miles: Teo, you know I can't play this [bleep] man.
Macero: Yes, you can.
Miles: [ Vocalizing ] Hancock: It's getting there. It's getting there.
Miles: You know what I mean? Herbie, can we do it like that?
[ Vocalizing ] We gonna divide it up.
Macero: Yeah, that's a good idea.
Miles: Bop! Wait a minute.
Teo, I don't even know what to play. Play there!
Hancock: Don't play that first beat though!
Miles: Hey, play that, Teo!
Hancock: Once he does a take where the horn players all play the melody correctly without any major kind of flub, that take's going on the record.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Shorter: I had this book I had with me that I'd been using when I was in the Army.
I wrote stuff down a little bit, and he said, 'You got any music?' I said, 'Yeah.
I got some stuff in this book.'
And he opened the book and he said, 'Let's try this.'
-Macero: What's this called? -Shorter: 'Footprints.'
Macero: 'Footprints'? Hancock: We're gonna play that all the way through.
Shorter: And then we -- just no rehearsal, just looked at the music, went over it a little bit, and then recorded.
♪♪♪ And the next time we went to the recording studio, he would say, 'We're gonna record next Wednesday.
Bring the book!' [ Laughs ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ White: 1969, historically, a man had walked on the moon, and the United States is still in this bloody Vietnam War.
Hancock: I think Miles sensed the importance of the younger generation, 'cause Miles was always looking forward.
Miles: 1969 was the year rock and funk were selling like hotcakes.
People were packing stadiums to hear and see stars in person.
And jazz music seemed to be withering on the vine.
We played to a lot of half-empty clubs in 1969.
That told me something.
♪♪♪ Santana: The music of Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, and James Brown, it made Miles aware that you could play one concert and hit a lot of people.
Tate: You could make more money playing one concert for 45 minutes than you might make playing a week in a club, three sets a night.
Cobb: One reason he got the electric band because he had hung out with Sly and the Family Stone.
Sly was telling about how much money he made.
And Miles said, 'What? What?'
[ Laughs ] So after that, Miles kind of changed his stuff up.
Miles: I started realizing that most rock musicians didn't know anything about music.
I figured, if they could do it -- reach all those people and sell all those records without really knowing what they were doing -- then I could do it, too, only better.
Clive: Miles asked to see me, and it was a very, very tense meeting, and he said these [bleep] long-haired white kids were stealing his music, his riffs.
He was irate, and asked to be released from the label.
I said, 'Look, I can get you dates playing with musical artists from a different generation, playing a different kind of music.
I just know that, if you play those dates, something will happen.'
♪♪♪ Miles: Around this time, I had met a beautiful young singer and songwriter named Betty Mabry.
She was full of new things and surprises and helped point the way I was to go.
Tate: Betty Davis was just a very fierce, dynamic sister who was a part of that whole New York and California rock scene.
She totally changes his sense of what's happening in music.
♪♪♪ Miles: Betty was a big influence on my personal life, as well as my musical life.
She also helped me change the way I was dressing.
Cobb: I went by his house, he had a bunch of little funny-looking suits and things hanging in his closet, funny-looking shoes and hats and all of that.
I said, 'What's going on, man?'
So he changed up, he went from that to that.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Miles: I wanted to change course, had to change course for me to continue to believe in and love what I was playing.
My interest was in an electronic bass player.
It gave me what I wanted to hear instead of the stand-up bass.
Carter: And he called me over and he said, 'I want to talk to you.' I said, 'Okay.'
He said, 'Look, man, all you got to do is play like you're playing upright.'
I said, 'Man, it's not the same.
The notes are different.
The sound is different. The impact is different.
The note length is different. Their placement.
The only thing the same, Miles, it's the same [bleep] notes.'
'I'm hearing this since I was 18, man.
Why the [bleep] would I give it up to join -- join you?
No, man, I'm not going to do that.'
He said, 'Okay.'
So I put my hat on and got in the wind.
[ Chuckles ] ♪♪♪ Miles: The group broke up when Ron decided to leave for good because he didn't want to play electric bass.
Now I was starting to think about other ways I could approach the music.
I went into the studio in August of 1969.
White: Miles had said, 'Be at Columbia Studios at 10:00.'
I was there at 9:30.
The cleaning lady let me in.
Miles: I brought in these musical sketches that nobody had seen, just like I did on 'Kind of Blue.'
I told the musicians that they could do anything they wanted, play anything they heard, so that's what they did.
White: There were four percussion players playing at the same time, two bassists playing at the same time, two or three keyboard players playing at the same time, guitar.
It was, it was a great, massive improvisation.
All he had me bring was a cymbal and a snare drum.
And we went over the first part of 'Bitches Brew.'
[ Vocalizing ] And then... ♪♪♪ Santana: You hear Miles' trumpet bouncing against the buildings at night, 3:00 in the morning.
[ Vocalizing ] You know, and it sounds like New York is a Grand Canyon of buildings.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ White: It's this ominous thing, you know, it's like something getting ready to happen.
[ Vocalizing ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Moving like a -- an amoeba that just moved along, and it did like this and then, like, you know, something would stick out, but, like, it was like this whole thing that just moved like this together.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Mtume: I had the jazz station on, and the guy was like, 'Oh, my God. The new Miles just came in.'
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ And then he said the name of it.
I was like, 'Man, can you even say that on the air?'
He said, 'Forget the music.
Y'all got to see this cover.'
Miles: 'Bitches Brew' sold faster than any other album I had ever done, and sold more copies than any other jazz album in history.
Shorter: After he did 'Bitches Brew,' and started at the Fillmore East and all of that stuff, we're in the dressing room, and Miles got the check.
He's looking at it, and we heard him say, 'I feel like a thief.' [ Chuckles ] Mtume: It was an Indian restaurant on 125th Street.
And we're sitting there, we're eating, and we're talking for about two hours.
So we get up, and as we're walking out, he says, 'So what'd you think?'
I'm like, 'What I --' I'm trying to think, 'What, what?
First of all, think about what?'
I mean, my brain is into the conversation.
He said, 'What'd you think about the music?'
And I do this because, you know, they're playing, you know, Indian music.
And he said, 'That's where we're going on the new album, 'On the Corner.'' He said, 'I'm gonna mix tablas and sitar, electric sitar with the funk.'
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ The 'On the Corner' album, there's no ambiguity.
We going for this.
Bap, boom, bap. It just got more intense.
Four, one, two -- that's what funk is.
♪♪♪ Tate: They were just taking off.
They were making the Big Bang, kind of upping the ante every night, just so gnarly and -- and dangerous with it, in terms of the use of percussion and the use of distortion.
♪♪♪ This cosmic jungle music.
That's when we really locked in to Miles as kind of like our hoodoo-voodoo priest of music.
Santana: This is acid music.
People who smoke weed and they go there high, all of a sudden, they're straight, you know.
And people who are straight, they're high.
He totally changed everything just by the way he was playing.
♪♪♪ Troupe: Miles' audience was changing because his music was changing, absorbing what was happening now.
What was happening now. Not 10 years ago.
♪♪♪ Crouch: I never understood what was so appealing to so many people.
I was trying to figure out what he heard in it.
I didn't understand it.
Plus, it didn't sound good.
Santana: People who say that, I just always looked at 'em like, 'You're really ignorant and what drove you to say that is because you're jealous because you could never be, or have, or even comprehend something that is beyond your limited, twisted, crooked mind.'
Damn, Carlos, that's a little harsh.
But it's accurate.
♪♪♪ Tate: When you listen to that slew of records, you know, he made in rapid succession about '69 through '75, I mean, you hear the template for hip-hop, for house, drum and bass, electronica.
Miles was doing all of that in the early '70s.
He's creating new music and kind of disturbing the fabric.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Cantú: When I was with him, he was pretty healthy.
He was doing very well.
Eating a good, healthy diet, keeping his body clean.
Of course, he worked out in the gym every day, pretty much, you know, boxing.
And so those things were very important at that time, and that was really good.
♪♪♪ I knew that Miles was getting back into drugs, even though he hadn't been doing them, you know, around me, because he was getting paranoid a lot.
He was violent, he was abusive.
And I said, you know, I'm not going to live like this.
♪♪♪ Miles: In October 1972, I fell asleep at the wheel and ran my Lamborghini into a divider.
I was laid up for almost three months, and when I got home, I had to walk on crutches for a while, which further [bleep] up my bad hip.
Rothbaum: That was probably the most pivotal moment in his life.
The abject pain that he was in from awakening to going to sleep forced him -- and I say 'forced him' -- to use prescription medicine, cocaine, alcohol, cigarettes, anything to dull the pain.
He started taking fewer and fewer jobs and tours.
Eventually, there was no band, there was no Miles Davis Band.
Miles: I was spiritually tired of all the bull[bleep] I had been going through for all those long years.
I felt artistically drained.
I didn't have anything else to say musically.
I knew that I needed a rest, and so I took one.
I put down the thing I love most in life, my music.
And the more I stayed away, the deeper I sank into another dark world.
Rothbaum: His apartment building was his...cave, and he sequestered himself there.
And there were days -- weeks he wouldn't go out.
Wilburn: When I was 15 or 16, I would go and stay, you know, in New York during that dark period.
I remember it being dark, always dark in the house.
I just remember, you know, cigarettes, beer bottles.
Erin: I remember going to visit him a couple times.
It was a dark time for him.
He was -- Like, I wasn't... I was a little bit scared of him.
He was in there by himself, just dealing with pain and not playing.
I know, for him, not playing is just like not having water anymore.
Wilburn: I just wanted it to stop.
I wanted the darkness to stop.
He was like a person I never knew.
And I wanted him to get back to -- to where I -- you know, to my uncle, my super hero.
♪♪♪ Rothbaum: I remember going up to Harlem, and there would be a woman in the car with us.
She'd be sitting next to me, and Miles would drive up there and then just say, 'Wait.'
And he would come out of the building that he was in very high.
There would be cocaine smudges on his face, you know, and I'd want to say something, but I was too afraid.
He would kind of nudge me over, and he'd say, 'You [bleep] her.'
[ Chuckling ] And I'd say, 'I didn't [bleep] her.'
And he goes, 'We're not leaving till you tell me you [bleep] her.'
He'd shut the car off.
I said, 'All right. I [bleep] her on the hood.
Now can we go?'
And he goes, 'And I thought we were friends.'
[ Laughs ] This is an evening with Miles.
♪♪♪ Wein: Miles would come around during that time, we would -- He needed money, and we'd lend him some money, which you figured was gone, you know.
And whatever the case, we left there one day, and I said to Marie, I said, 'I think that's the end.
There's no way he can come back from this.
And I said, 'But you never can tell.'
Miles: Around this same time, Cicely Tyson started coming to see me again.
She had been dropping by throughout all of this, but now she started coming by more often.
Early: He was in terrifically bad health in those years.
It was thought by many people he was in such bad shape that he would never play music again.
He even thought he might never play music again.
Kernodle: Cicely inspires him to see once again that he has something to offer.
That his creativity, his creative voice, he has not reached his creative peak.
Miles: She helped run all those people out of my house.
She kind of protected me and started seeing that I ate the right things and didn't drink as much.
She helped get me off cocaine.
She would feed me health foods, a lot of vegetables, and a whole lot of juices.
Cortez: He was running up and down the beach and trying to be a vegetarian. [Laughs] Which was amazing because he couldn't do it.
Miles would say, 'Come by the house pick me up, man.
Take me somewhere where they got meat.
Just let me smell the smells and then get me a hot link sandwich.'
Rothbaum: Miles needed those years to summon up the strength to kick drugs, to play again, to handle the public, to handle the touring, to handle the critics, to live.
Miles: From 1975 until early 1980, I didn't pick up my horn.
For over four years, I didn't pick it up...once.
In the end, it was almost six years.
Wein: He kept bringing tapes to my office.
Of a different sounding band, electronic band.
I said, 'I'll pay you $70,000 to do two concerts at Avery Fisher Hall.
He looked at me as if I was crazy.
Nobody did that.
And I wrote out a check for $35,000 and gave it to him.
I held my breath.
Miles: I had bought a brand-new canary-yellow 308 GTSi Ferrari sports coupe with a targa top.
I was ready to go back to music.
[ Applause ] Miller: He bought that car just to show up at that gig.
And, yeah, man, you know, I bought a new shirt.
[ Laughs ] He bought a Ferrari.
Wein: Miles was back.
♪♪♪ And he had his whole new sound with all the young musicians.
♪♪♪ Stern: He was seven years out, and all of a sudden, he came back.
I mean, this cat could have stopped completely and said, 'I've done enough.'
And everybody would have said, 'You sure have.'
But he wanted to keep going.
♪♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] Rothbaum: It wasn't just a comeback of an artist.
It was a comeback of a human being.
I never saw anybody do that like he did.
Reporter: Miles Davis, do you still enjoy playing jazz festivals in Europe?
Miles: Yes. I love to play Europe jazz festivals.
Reporter: What about Molde? You're arriving late.
Miles: I was sick this morning.
Elam: starting with the first tour, we were in a different city or a different country every single day.
Say a show starts at 8:00.
We'd get back to the hotel by midnight.
After that, he wants to paint.
He would just pick up whatever writing device he had and start to draw.
Erin: When we were on the road, he drew on the plane.
He drew in the car.
He drew in the lounge waiting for the plane.
We'd get to the gig, he was drawing in the dressing room.
It was literally flowing through his arm, into his hand, onto the paper.
Reporter: When you make a wrong line, does it feel with you like the same as in music?
Miles: The note next to the one that you think is bad corrects the one in front.
♪♪♪ Gelbard: It was early morning, and I was going running, and I was waiting by the elevator, and the elevator opened, and there he was.
My heart was racing. It was kind of like... like in a movie when you meet the vampire and you know you're gonna die and you don't care.
I looked back and he said, 'You better run fast 'cause when I get back, I'm gonna catch you.'
And that was it.
We started painting together.
♪♪♪ Elam: There was just all this interest in everything he was doing coming from everywhere Boggs: Miles, what got you into painting?
Elam: He was never more in demand.
Miles: Who are you guys?
Chambers: It seems almost as if he forgot who he had been.
Miles: It's like a brand new start for me.
Chambers: He was on talk shows... Miles: Hello, Good evening. This is Miles Davis.
Chambers: ...on late night television.
-Rose: Miles Davis. -Boggs: Miles Davis.
-Gumbel: Miles Davis. -Letterman: Miles Davis.
Hall: Miles Davis!
Chambers: He was accepting interviews in every city he played in.
He was a totally different-seeming person.
♪♪♪ Erin: He was even going out and sitting in with Prince.
He loved Prince.
You know, it was destiny that they worked together.
♪♪♪ Miller: I got a call from Tommy LiPuma, who was an A&R, a vice-president at Warner Brothers.
He said, 'Miles Davis just left Columbia and he's coming to Warner Brothers.'
And I said, 'Really? Congratulations!'
And he said, 'Do you have any music?'
As soon as I hung up the phone, that bass line to 'Tutu' hit me.
[ Vocalizing ] ♪♪♪ When I'm writing a song for somebody, if I can see them going... like grooving to the song, then I go, 'Okay, this is right for him.'
♪♪♪ I'm looking across the studio and I'm looking at Miles, And then he just started playing stuff on the piano for me.
Looking back on it, I realize this dude never recorded like that before, with headphones, playing to a track with drum machines and all that stuff.
He was, like, into it, it wasn't just like stepping gingerly into it, he -- he owned it.
Miller: At the core, he was just staying that young kid who came to New York to play the hip music.
You know, he wanted to always have that feeling.
Erin: Miles never talked about his old records.
He didn't keep them in house. He didn't have any of them.
You know, not one of them.
And he didn't want them in there.
You know, he wanted only the stuff he was working on.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Miller: When I first got in the band, Miles seemed cool.
You know, he was alert and -- and on top of it, but soon after that, he started looking not so good, you know.
And if you see a concert we did on 'Saturday Night Live,' you'll see what I'm talking about.
He's just kind of moving, and his sound is very fragile, you know.
Mtume: He was tormented, man.
He was tormented 'cause he couldn't get the tone.
He couldn't get the tone.
Sometimes he would hobble around the stage, man.
But he was still Miles.
♪♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] Jones: I had been trying for 15 years, man.
I kept bugging him about it.
You know, kept bugging him about it.
He said, 'Okay, mother[bleep]' you know.
[ Chuckles ] If he never played another note, he doesn't have to, because he has lead the way on the cutting edge for the last 50 years.
To see him at 65 years old trying to recreate his 25-year-old self was just amazing, man.
My love, my brother, and one of my favorite musicians and idols, Miles Davis!
[ Cheers and applause ] Yeah, I loved him, man.
You know, I just -- makes my soul smile.
Roney: There was a tune called 'The Pan Piper,' and I knew that that was a hard piece, and I wasn't sure that he would be able to play that one.
♪♪♪ He would never say that.
♪♪♪ So when it was time for us to do it, I remember jumping in.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Mtume: I remember him telling me, he said, 'If I ever went back to that old stuff,' he said, 'I'd die.'
And I sat there in front of the TV, and I was like, 'He's sick. He's sick.'
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Gelbard: He said, 'When God punishes you, it's not that you...' [ Chuckles ] It's so sad.
'It's not that you don't get what you want... you get everything that you want, and there's no time left.'
♪♪♪ Announcer: Miles Davis!
[ Cheers and applause ] Gelbard: Miles went into the hospital Labor Day Weekend of 1991.
We were talking and listening to music.
And I looked at him, and he looked funny, like still.
And then, I looked up, and a doctor came into the door, and he walked over, and it was just a second.
And I was sitting with his head in my lap, and the doctor started pounding on him, and then he beeped something, and then another doctor came in, and a bunch of doctors and nurses came in.
And I was still sitting on the bed, and he was blank.
I mean, he was breathing. I knew he didn't die.
I mean, didn't know -- It was horrifying.
And they're working on him and they're pounding him and injecting him, and then they roll us both out like that into the elevator, into the hall, and they didn't even notice that I was on the bed when his head was still next to me.
And, you know, we were -- we were surrounded by people and we're in the elevator and... [Chuckles] You know, and they said he had a stroke.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Santana: Deborah, my ex-wife, called me, and she says, 'You know, I just -- I think you better hold on to something.'
And I said, 'Well, what's going on?'
And she says, 'Miles Davis just passed.'
♪♪♪ And it --it just felt like... ...someone hit me with a... with a jackhammer over the head.
♪♪♪ Cantú: I think Miles was definitely, without a doubt, the most unique person I've ever known.
♪♪♪ He did things totally in a different way than everybody else.
He looked at things differently, he saw things differently.
You have to be true to yourself, and I think a lot of that was his philosophy.
♪♪♪ Taylor: How can someone come up with such beautiful music when he can have that other side?
Sometimes couldn't take it.
Sometimes it was just perfecto.
♪♪♪ I don't regret, I don't forget, but I still love.
♪♪♪ Rothbaum: I miss him. You know, I miss him.
I dream about him a lot.
He, uh... What a big presence.
♪♪♪ Cortez: Of course I loved him.
He was like a brother... who did dumb things, and you accepted it.
♪♪♪ He was real.
♪♪♪ Very real.
There won't be many Miles before -- again... That's enough. I'm through.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪