The jazz music scene has been the subject and backdrop for a whole host of movies over the years - it really does have a very rich history.

Miles Ahead

Miles Ahead

Miles Ahead is the latest addition to the genre and explores the life of musician Miles Davis and is written, directed, and stars Don Cheadle.

To celebrate the release of this poignant account of one of the greatest Jazz musicians in history on DVD, here's a look back at some of the best Jazz films to grace the silver screen over the years.

- Miles Ahead (2016)

Don Cheadle is one of the best actors around and he made the leap into the director's chair earlier this year with Miles Ahead - hard to believe that he has not made the transition into filmmaking earlier.

As well as being in the director's chair, Cheadle also teamed up with Steven Baigelman to pen the film's screenplay and took on the central role of musician Miles Davis.

The actor turned director assembled an impressive cast list as Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi, and Michael Stuhlbarg also starred.

All Rolling Stone reporter Dave Braden (McGregor) wants is an exclusive interview with the jazz legend himself, Miles Davis (Cheadle). What he gets instead is a wild and dangerous ride-along with a recording artist living at his edge, rife with shootouts, car chases, and a tale of lost love to the singer Frances (Corinealdi).

This is not your traditional biopic movie but that does not mean that Cheadle has not delivered a movie that is engaging and engrossing. If you are looking for a film that chronicles his career from start to finish, this is perhaps not the movie for you.

Miles Davis was an artist who was incredibly unconventional and Cheadle has delivered a movie that reflects what he was like as an artist. This is more of an abstract movie that does tend to blur the lines between real life and fiction.

It is a strong directorial debut from Cheadle, who also gives a mesmerising performance in front of the camera. I was excited when it was announced that Cheadle was going to be playing Davis... and the Oscar-nominated actor doesn't disappoint.

- The Jazz Singer (1927)

Hardly surprising, The Jazz Singer is the oldest film featured on our list - it was 1927 when the movie hit the big screen.

Directed by Alan Crosland, The Jazz Singer is the first feature-length motion picture with synchronised dialogue sequences. It really was a watershed moment in movie history that helped turn silent pictures into 'talkies'

Starring Al Jolson as Jackie Rabinowitz, or as he is later called, Jack Robin, The Jazz singer tells the story of the son of a Jewish Cantor, who prefers singing Jazz to the music of the synagogue. Disowned by his father, the young musician finds success as a Jazz performer.

The father and son are reconciled when Jack forgoes the biggest performance of his career to sing the sacred Kol Nidre at his father's synagogue on Yom Kippur when the old man is dying. In the final scene, we see Jack performing at one of the biggest theatres in New York. He is finally living his dream.

The Jazz Singer is one of the most influential movies of all time and went on to change the face - and sound - of cinema forever.

The Jazz Singer

- Stormy Weather (1943)

Story Weather was a movie that celebrated its seventieth anniversary back in 2013 - yes, it was a movie that was released back in 1943.

This was another film that broke the mould as it cast African America singers and actors in the lead roles - which was almost unheard of at that time in mainstream Hollywood movies.

The movie starred respected dancer Bill 'Bo jangles' Robinson, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway and Katherine Dunham while Andrew L. Stone was in the director's chair.

Stormy Weather followed a soldier that returns home from World War I with ambitions to become a dancer. The film may have only been seventy-seven minutes long, but it was packed with some great musical numbers, charm and a whole lot of heart.

In 2001, the film was selected for the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress for its significant relevance to the field of cultural history.

Stormy Weather

- Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

Billie Holiday is one of the most iconic musicians of all time and her story was brought to the big screen in 1972 with Lady Sings the Blues.

Named after Holiday's 1965 album, the movie saw Diana Ross take on the central role while Sidney J. Furie was in the director's chair for his first feature film since Little Fauss and Big Halsy back in 1970.

The movie explored the troubled life of Holiday, her rise to stardom, and her struggle with drugs.

This was to be Ross' big screen debut but she gives a commanding performance. She got under the skin of Holiday and captured her vulnerability so perfectly. Ross would go on to pick up an Oscar nomination for her central performance - losing out to Liza Minnelli for Cabaret.

The film itself was nominated for five academy awards, and the soundtrack sold over 2 million copies making it the fourth best-selling R&B album and fifth best-selling Pop album of 1973.

Lady Sings the Blues

- Bird (1988)

I have always been a big fan of Forest Whitaker and, in 1988, he teamed up with actor turned filmmaker Clint Eastwood.

The movie explored the life and career of Charlie "Bird" Parker and saw Whitaker take on the central role. This was the thirteenth film for Eastwood as director; coming after Heartbreak Ridge in 1986.

Bird is a movie that chronicles the life of Parker, from his childhood in Kansas City, through his success as a musician, his struggle with heroin addiction, and his early death at thirty-four.

Bird is not only a character story about a fascinating musician, but it is also a tribute to him and the music that he made. Whitaker gives a remarkable performance and this haunted and troubled legend.

Eastwood has crafted a fine film and the live performances are the standout moments in the movie. It is a movie that captures the feel of the time while paying homage to an icon.

Bird went on to be nominated for the Best Sound Oscar, which it won. Eastwood picked up a Best Director Golden Globe while Whitaker was nominated for his stunning performance.


- The Fabulous Baker Boys (1990)

It was 1990 when The Fabulous Baker Boys finally hit the big screen here in the UK and saw Jeff Bridges, Beau Bridges, and Michelle Pfeiffer star.

The Fabulous Baker Boys was to be the feature film directorial debut for Steve Kloves, who also penned the film's screenplay. In fact, he has only directed one other movie since he made his debut and is best known for his work as a screenwriter.

Jeff and Beau Bridges star as Jack and Frank Baker, a jazz duo performing gimmicky jazz to sustain a living. Frank acts as the duo's manager, while playboy Jack, the real talent of the family, struggles to find his way between a desire to play real experimental jazz, and a life of endless partying and one night stands.

When an eccentric but strikingly talented singer with a chequered past, Susie Diamond, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, joins the band, she forces the brothers to re-evaluate their partnership. When Jack and Susie get involved romantically, the band is ruined. However, Jack is finally inspired to spread his wings and pursue the solo career for which is he is destined.

For me, it is the actors that make this such a great movie. While Jeff and Beau Bridges do make a great team, it is Pfeiffer who really does steal the show - this is one of the movies that really de help her on her way to becoming a true star.

The movie was a huge critical hit and went on to be nominated for four Oscars; Best Actress for Pfeiffer, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score.

The Fabulous Baker Boys

- Whiplash (2015)

Whiplash was one of the movies that lit up the festival circuit in 2014, before going on to win over critics and audiences when it was released in the UK at the beginning of last year.

The movie marked the return of Damien Chazelle to the director's chair in what was the second feature of his career. The movie was a feature version of his short film of the same name and was the movie that really did put him on the map.

Whiplash follows the first year of talented Jazz musician, Andrew Niemen (Teller), who has been accepted to a prestigious New York City Jazz school. Niemen is accepted to the upper-level band where he suffers under the derision of an abusively rigorous conductor, Terence Fletcher (Simmons).

Niemen eventually triumphs over Fletcher in the film's memorable last scene when the talented drummer leads the entire band in a defiant performance of 'Caravan.' The defeated conductor has no choice but to follow along with his band.

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons both deliver electrifying performances as Andrew and Fletcher and really are the heart and soul of this film.

Whiplash is an intense and intelligent movie that really will have you on the edge of your seat - it is truly riveting stuff from start to finish. Chazelle is one of the most exciting directors around and I cannot wait to see what he delivers over the next couple of years.

The movie went on to be nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture; winning Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.


Other great jazz movies include High Society, All That Jazz, The Cotton Club, and Round Midnight.

Miles Ahead is released on digital platforms on 15th August and on Blu-ray and DVD from 22nd August courtesy of Icon Film Distribution.

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