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Miles Ahead: Jazz, Cinema and Miles Davis


Watch the film Miles Ahead (Don Cheadle, 2016)


How has cinema presented jazz? What are the main tropes?

Why have filmakers shown a renewed interest in jazz (inc Whiplash, Miles Ahead, Born to Blue) And how have critics responded to these films?

What does Miles Ahead reveal about Miles Davis, and how does this fit with other sources?

Miles Davis and his music has been discussed in various forms of media. Why is he seen as such an important black icon?

What were Stanley Crouch's misgivings about Miles Davis, following the publication of the latter's Autobiography?

How have revelations about Davis' violence towards women affected the collective memory of him?


Core Reading

Krin Gabbard, ‘Introduction: Whose Jazz, Whose Cinema?’, from Jammin’ at the Margins: Jazz and American Cinema, pp.1-34 **

Miles Davis, The Autobiography

Stanley Crouch, ‘Play the Right Thing’ The New Republic , 12 Feb 1990 pp.30-7. (available through library e-resources)

Further Reading

Ake, David Jazz Cultures, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002)

Ian Carr, Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography (London, Harper, 1998)

George Cole, The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-91 (London, Equinox, 2006)

Gerald Early (ed), Miles Davis and American Culture (Missouri, 2001)

Frederick Garber ‘Fabulating Jazz’. In Krin Gabbard (ed.), Representing Jazz, Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 70–103

Krin Gabbard, 'White Face, Black Noise: Miles Davis and the Soundtrack’. In Daniel Goldmark, Lawrence Kramer, and Richard Leppert (eds.), Beyond the soundtrack: Representing music in cinema, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2007), pp. 260–276.[Ebook]

Krin Gabbard, Jammin’ at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1996)

Inglis, Ian (ed.), Popular Music and Film, London: Wallflower, 2003)

Ashley Kahn, Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece (Lonodn, Granta, 2000)

Nicolas Pillai, ‘Filming Improvisation: jazz criticism’s neglect of film style’, The Soundtrack 6: 1&2, (2014), pp. 5–20.

Nicolas Pillai, Jazz as Visual Language: Film, Television and the Dissonant Image (Taurus, 2017)

Peter Stanfield, Body and Soul: jazz and blues in American film, 1927–1963, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005)

Victor Svorinich, Listen to This: Miles Davis and Bitches Brew (Jackson, Miss. 2015) [ebook]

John Szwed, So What: The Life of Miles Davis (London, Heinemann, 2002)

Greg Tate, Flyboy in the Buttermilk: essays on contemporary America (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1992)

Greg Tate, Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader (Durham, Duke, 2016) [Ebook]

Townsend, Peter (2000), Jazz in American Culture, Jackson: University of Mississippi.

Keith Waters, The studio recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-68 [electronic resource] (OUP, 2011)

Richard Williams, Miles Davis: The Man in the Green Shirt (Bloomsbury,1993)

Richard Williams, The Blue Moment: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music (London, Faber, 2009)

Wojcik, Pamela Robertson and Knight, Arthur (eds.), Soundtrack Available: essays on film and popular music (Durham: Duke University Press)


Jazz on film database:


Pearl Cleage

Miles Davis