Miles Davis Documentary Premieres, Portraying a Man of Contradictions

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Miles Davis during the ’Round About Midnight sessions in June 1956

(Photo: Don Hunstein/Sony Music Archives/Courtesy of Abramorama/Eagle Rock)

Dancer Frances Taylor, Davis’ first wife and occasional muse (who died in 2018 at age 89), is one of the movie’s more lively and entertaining interview subjects. She’s clearly enamored of the memory of their early relationship, even as the more painful details of their marriage come into focus. She describes, for instance, Davis’ jealousy when she got a role in West Side Story. He told her to back out of the production, and she did. She describes being struck by him for the first time. She describes leaving him.

Pianist Herbie Hancock, guitarist Carlos Santana, saxophonist Joshua Redman, writer/producer Greg Tate, historian/journalist Ashley Kahn and poet/educator Quincy Troupe (co-author of Miles: The Autobiography) are also interviewed.

Following the premiere at Film Forum, Nelson took the stage with Davis’ son Erin Davis and his nephew Vince Wilburn Jr. to field questions from the audience. At one point, a man asked Nelson why he hadn’t focused more on Davis’ many wives and girlfriends, who in the film tend to flit in and out as one-dimensional figures. It was a reasonable question, but Nelson bristled when the man repeated it after the director had already given his answer.

“I look forward to your film,” Nelson said curtly, ending the discussion. It might have seemed a bit hostile and defensive of him—but it also was completely in the spirit of Miles Davis. DB

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