Don Cheadle Directs, Stars in Depiction of Miles Davis

By Phillip Martin

In a time when Adele, Gaga, and Bieber dominate popular music, the life and success of a jazz legend can quickly settle in oblivion. Despite jazz enduring a recent downswing in public appeal, Golden Globe-winning Don Cheadle retells the story of trumpeter Miles Davis.

Not only does Cheadle star as the famed trumpeter in Miles Ahead, but he also makes his directional debut.

Jazziz Magazine changed its profile photo in March that features Don Cheadle posing as legendary trumpeter Miles Davis. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.
Jazziz Magazine changed its Facebook profile photo in March that features Don Cheadle posing as legendary trumpeter Miles Davis. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.

The film may not follow a typical format for a biopic, according to the actor. “If you make a movie about Miles Davis, it’s got to be gangster, it’s got to be a heist movie, it’s got to be crazy … It’s got to be as creative and varied and visceral as all of his music is,” Cheadle told The New York Times.

Miles Ahead will hit theaters tomorrow. Social media and news sources, like the Rolling Stone, have already shared the trailer for the film.

Whether or not Cheadle’s direction embellishes Davis’ actual life, the film will bring to light the story of the jazz legend.

Miles Davis was born in 1926. Although he died 25 years ago, he left a remarkable impression in American history. He was an innovator of bebop and helped shape the sub-genre jazz fusion. The trumpeter was also a pioneer for African-American musicians. Today, he also remains an influence for modern-day performers, like Chris Botti.

Davis won nine Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1990. Another major accomplishment he made is by releasing the largest-selling jazz album of all time. Released in 1959 and considered one of the best jazz albums ever, Kind of Blue, sold more than 2 million copies, according to

Davis played with other legends during his career. Throughout his career, he teamed up with performers like Charlie Parker, Chick Corea, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Branford Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver, Marcus Miller, and Quincy Jones.

Cheadle got the Davis role in an interesting fashion. When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Davis in 2006, people asked his nephew, Vince Wilborn, Jr., if a biopic was oncoming. “Yeah. And Don Cheadle’s going to play him,” the nephew said.

As part of playing the role of Davis, Cheadle had to learn the trumpet. He told The NY Times that his old friend Wynton Marsalis, a Grammy-award-winning performer, helped.

Cheadle has appeared in a number of popular films, including several biopics. One notable film is Hotel Rwanda, in 2004, which he starred as Paul Rusesabagina and earned an Academy Award nomination. He earned his Golden Globe award after starring as Sammy Davis, Jr., in the Rat Pack, in 1998. If you’ve been following the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, you’ll probably recognize him as James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Iron Man’s close friend (a.k.a. War Machine). Finally, I remember Cheadle promoting the NFL Playoffs in commercials in the early 2000s.



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