American Masters


Preview | Director Stanley Nelson Talks About Miles Davis

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.

AIRED: February 25, 2020 | 0:01:42

(jazz music)

- Miles was one of the most influential musicians

in the 20th century for so many different reasons.

You can't get away from Miles's music.

It's just, it's just there.

(jazz music)

One of the things that drove us on the film was

how did such, kind of this rough person make some

of the most beautiful music ever?

(jazz music)

What we really felt like,

how do you show Miles's music?

How do you show music?

We came up with the idea of using

"It Never Entered My Mind,"

which is one of the most beautiful songs

that Miles plays, and one of my favorites,

and then I think we just started experimenting,

and we just kind of stuck some photos up there,

and really quickly we were like, "This is gonna work."

We really wanted to show you just the beauty

in that one sequence, and it's probably

my favorite piece that I've ever cut in my life.

(jazz music)

There's so many windows into Miles's music.

There the cool jazz of The Birth of the Cool,

that Miles kind of invents the idea of cool jazz.

There the Kind of Blue, and the modal music,

and this improvisation that knows no equal.

There's Bitches Brew, which is Miles's version

of a rock album, and I think that the thing

to understand is it became more than just a film

about a jazz musician.

It's a film about the second half of the 20th century

in the United States told through music.

(jazz music)


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