Miles Ahead, the recent cinematic portrait of Miles Davis starring, co-produced, co-written and directed by Don Cheadle, has drawn considerable controversy within the jazz community. Some diehards, expecting a straightforward biopic, were dumbfounded when Cheadle instead created a heist movie. Set during Miles’ late-’70s hiatus from music, the trumpeter, joined by a fictional wannabe Rolling Stone reporter (Ewan McGregor), chases a stolen tape of never-before-heard sounds, all while battling memories of his lost love, Broadway dancer Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi). So it’s no surprise that the features on the Miles Ahead Blu-ray and DVD mostly serve as a clarification of Cheadle’s vision.
In the featurette The Truth: Becoming Miles Davis, Cheadle discusses how he intended his feature directorial debut to “feel like creativity itself. … I want to do with my medium what Miles did with his.” His execution of the project is heralded by Miles’ son Erin Davis, who says Cheadle “made a movie Miles would have wanted to have been in,” and drummer/co-producer Vince Wilburn Jr., Davis’ nephew, who recalls pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s comments that Cheadle “even stands like [Miles].” The film’s musical inventions are explored by keyboardist and score composer Robert Glasper, who says that if Miles were alive today, “I have no doubt [he] would have been on To Pimp a Butterfly,” last year’s landmark hip-hop album by Kendrick Lamar. The disc also includes a Q&A session from the film’s 2016 Sundance screening, in which Cheadle discusses the difficulties of making such an ambitious film on an $8 million budget, as well as his trials in playing the trumpet, “one of the meanest instruments” in jazz, for the role.