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Don Cheadle on 5 Miles Davis Albums

The actor, currently helming a Davis biopic, discusses works from the jazz legend

Don Cheadle

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Artistically unpredictable and personally mercurial, jazz genius and American icon Miles Davis lived an impossible-to-pin-down life. For years, it seemed the same was true about Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle's long-in-the-works biopic. Now though, the project is locking into a steady groove. Cheadle, who will direct the film, and his collaborators, which include Davis' nephew Vince Wilburn and musical giant Herbie Hancock, recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funding for the effort.

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Miles Ahead, says Cheadle, will be "an excavation more than checking off all the benchmarks of Miles' life. I'm less interested in making a traditional biopic than in making a movie that Miles would've wanted to star in and that's true to the spirit of his music."

So in that spirit, Cheadle spoke with us about five Davis albums as well as his thoughts about the man's brilliant career and often-turbulent life. By David Marchese

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“Agharta”

"Agharta's what we start with in the movie. Our point of departure is the silent period, the five years in which Miles didn't really play — '75 to '79. I believe his music got to a place where he pushed it as far as he could [Agharta was released in 1975]. He'd been so prolific and had followed that muse wherever it went. I know he was exhausted at that point. Not just musically but physically and emotionally. If you're on that sort of train where you've got to keep coming up with the next thing — I can imagine how exhausting that can be. When I talked to his nephew I said, 'Why didn’t he play?' He said Miles would say, 'I don't know what to say now. As soon as I know what to say I’ll come back and say it.' It then takes a lot of intestinal fortitude, energy and commitment and resolve to start it again until you're really ready to come back."

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“Circle in the Round”

"Right now I'm drawn to the Circle in the Round stuff. I'm drawn to the bridge between once Miles moved away from purely acoustic stuff — when he took Wayne [Shorter] and Herbie [Hancock] and Tony [Williams] — and his later versions of that because you see how elastic the Kind of Blue music was and how far he was able to push that stuff with those guys in his second quintet. It's like, 'How do we come from there to there?' Incidentally that is the period of time that he was with Frances [Taylor], the love of his life, 'the one that got away.' The period of time between his being with Frances and when that relationship went away, and the music from that period to where he came to at the end, is kind of what our movie mirrors."

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