Features new interviews with Quincy Jones, Carlos Santana, Clive Davis, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Ron Carter, family members and others
American Masters presents the broadcast premiere of award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s deep dive into the world of a beloved musical giant. American Masters — Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, which earned a Grammy nomination in the “Best Music Film” category, premieres nationwide Tuesday, February 25 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/milesdavis and the PBS Video app in honor of Black History Month.
A visionary known for his restless aesthetic, Davis is widely regarded as one of the most innovative, influential and respected figures in music. With full access to the Miles Davis Estate, the film features never-before-seen footage, including studio outtakes from his recording sessions, rare photos and new interviews. Quincy Jones, Carlos Santana, Clive Davis, Wayne Shorter, Davis’s son Erin Davis and nephew Vince Wilburn, bassist and Davis collaborator Marcus Miller, and Ron Carter are just a few of the luminaries weighing in on the life and career of the cultural icon.
American Masters — Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool takes a hard look at the mythology that surrounds the legend. “The story of Miles Davis — who he was as a man and artist — has often been told as the tale of a drug-addled genius,” said Nelson. “You rarely see a portrait of a man that worked hard at honing his craft, a man who deeply studied all forms of music, from Baroque to classical Indian. An elegant man who could render ballads with such tenderness yet hold rage in his heart from the racism he faced throughout his life. He could be romantic and pursue women relentlessly, yet treat them with cruelty upon winning them over. He could be extremely generous, yet rescind that generosity on a whim.”
The documentary delves into the six-decade career of the musical genius: from his days as a Juilliard student to the development of his signature sound on recordings with his famous quintet, from his collaborations with Gil Evans to his shifts to new musical paradigms in the 70s and 80s. As the film tracks Davis’s boundary-breaking musical triumphs, the meanderings of his complicated personal life are told with intimate reflections from those closest to him. Previously unseen footage and a soundtrack full of Davis’s music are complemented by new interviews with friends, fellow musicians, collaborators and scholars to create a full portrait of the complex man. The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and had a successful limited theatrical run, tells the story of a truly singular talent and unpacks the man behind the horn.
In conjunction with the broadcast premiere of American Masters — Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool in February, Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, will release “Miles Davis – Music From and Inspired by Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, a Film by Stanley Nelson.”
American Masters, THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, celebrates our arts and culture. Launched in 1986, the series set the standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim and earning 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 14 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. American Masters is available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video app, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. PBS station members can view episodes via Passport (contact your local PBS station for details).
American Masters – Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool is a Firelight Media/Eagle Rock Films Production for American Masters Pictures and Eagle Rock Entertainment in association with BBC Music. Produced and directed by Stanley Nelson. Produced by Nicole London. Executive produced by Terry Shand and Geoff Kempin for Eagle Rock Entertainment; Darryl Porter, Erin Davis, Cheryl Davis, and Vince Wilburn for Miles Davis Properties, LLC; and Michael Kantor for American Masters.
Funding for American Masters – Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool is provided by David and Lisa Grain, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Jody and John Arnhold, and The Lesie and Rosyln Goldstein Foundation.
Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional support is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, Judith and Burton Resnick, Vital Projects Fund, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Seton J. Melvin, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, and public television viewers.
About Eagle Rock Entertainment
Eagle Vision is an imprint of Eagle Rock Entertainment, the world-leading producer and distributor of music-related audiovisual content. Founded in 1997, the multi-award-winning company completes over 50 productions a year including concerts, documentaries, scripted formats and specials representing over 2,000 hours of programming. The vast catalogue includes work by award-winning filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Brett Morgan, Paul Dugdale, Stanley Nelson and Bob Smeaton. Eagle Rock has worked alongside a variety of artists including the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Jay Z, Paul McCartney, Katy Perry, Frank Sinatra, Black Sabbath and Imagine Dragons.
Firelight is a premier destination for non-fiction cinema by and about communities of color. Firelight produces documentary films, supports emerging filmmakers of color, and cultivates audiences for their work. Firelight films have garnered multiple Primetime Emmys, Peabodys, and Sundance awards. Award-winning films include Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, and Freedom Riders. Firelight’s programs include the Documentary Lab, an 18-month fellowship that supports emerging filmmakers of color; and Groundwork, which supports early stage filmmakers in the American south, midwest, and U.S. Territories. In addition to a focus on excellence in filmmaking, Firelight develops strategies, partnerships and materials to reach and engage diverse audiences and maximize the impact of documentary films.
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.