*Los Angeles – Black History Month, African American Heritage Month got under way with festive fanfare on Wednesday, February 3, 2016.
The Opening ceremony took place at Los Angeles City Hall. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Council President Herb J. Wesson, Jr., and the Los Angeles City Council; Board of Public Works Commissioner Mike Davis; the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA); Our Authors Study Club; and the 2016 African American Heritage Month Committee ushered in the month to officially commemorate and celebrate the opening of African American Heritage Month in the city of Los Angeles.
The 24th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) is another official event celebrated during the month of February. The Pan African Film & Arts Festival was held February 4-15, 2016 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and RAVE Cinemas 15. This was an awesome 12 days of awe inspiring films, arts and conversation. For 24 year, the Pan African Film & Arts Festival continues to celebrate the advancement of cultural diversity and education through positive and realistic media images.
There was a whole lotta love that permeated the air of the festival on Sunday, February 14th (Valentine’s Day). People were feeling a Sunday kind of love for God, Family, Friends and this amazing Film Festival. A capacity crowd assembled in Theatre 15 at RAVE Cinemas 15 for a panel discussion entitled Remembering Miles. Ndugu Chancler moderated a distinguished panel of family, friends and fellow musicians who played with Miles, to share their thoughts and memories and genius of the late great jazz legend Miles Davis.
Francis Davis (former wife) shared how she met Miles Davis and expressed how she was really in love with Miles Davis. Their marriage lasted for 9 years. Mrs. Davis also shared with the audience how Miles Davis was influenced to write and eventually record Sketches of Spain after the two of them attended a Flamenco Show.
Bennie Maupin (multi-woodwind artist, Miles Davis Band) stated “Miles Davis was a master of non-verbal communications.” Mr. Maupin gave an overview of the recording section. Miles liked his sound on the bass clarinet, and was featured on the legendary recording Bitches Brew.
Marcus Miller (bassist, Miles Davis Band), trust is a word that resonated with the panel. Marcus stated “after you gain Miles’ trust, he (Miles) offered profound affirmation by allowing you to be you, which resulted in plenty of growth as a musician.” The album/CD Tutu recorded at Capitol Records Studio brought Miles Davis back from his hiatus from music.
Erin Davis (son) stated “Miles Davis was at his highest level as a musician and spiritually when they were out touring.” He also shared that his dad was a great painter.
Vincent Wilburn Jr., (nephew), said “Miles always encouraged the musicians in his band to give all they got, be fearless, trust your instinct.” He went on to say that “Miles was always aware of the hottest cats (jazz musicians) out on the scene.”
Ndugu Chancler summed it up best by saying “Miles Davis had a lot of warmth and humility for his friends, always offering words of encouragement and wisdom to each and every young person that he encountered.” The crowd and I left the discussion with a better appreciation of Miles as a husband, father and greater awareness of the depth and scope of his genius as a musician.
The panel discussion was followed by a screening of the movie Miles Ahead directed and starring Don Cheadle. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the movie just yet. All three showing of the movie was sold out. You and I will have to wait until April 1st for the movie to be released in theaters by Sony Pictures Classics.
There will be a lot of reviews in all of the local newspapers when the movie is released. This is a brief synopsis to pique your interest. Inspired by events in the life of Miles Davis, this is a wildly entertaining, impressionistic, no-holds barred portrait of one of 20th Century music’s creative geniuses. In the midst of a dazzling and prolific career at the forefront of modern jazz, Miles Davis virtually disappears from public view for a period of five years in the late 70’s. Regret and loss plagued Miles during this time. Davis flirts with annihilation until he once again find salvation with his art. Working from a script he co-wrote with Steven Baigelman, Cheadle makes his bravura directional debut. The film stars Don Cheadle as Miles Davis, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi (as Francis Davis), and Lakeith Lee Stanfield.
On a related note, The William Grant Still Arts Center African American Composer Series presents- SO WHAT! The Artistry of Miles Davis, March 12-June 4, 2016. The exhibit will feature archival recordings, magazines, posters, original photographs and collected discography. From Bebop and the birth of the cool, electric experimentation and beyond. An opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, March 12, 3-6PM, featuring a live concert by Project World Drum. The African American Composer Exhibition and Music Series selects and celebrates the life and work of an African American composer annually, that features panels, concerts, exhibits, workshops and other programs that bring the exhibit to life.
For more than two decades, the Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) has premiered a host of top black films and an equal amount of extraordinary industry professionals both in front of and behind the camera.
PAFF also collaborates with festivals from around the world, expanding their influence and audience globally. Not only is PAFF the largest and most prestigious Black Film festival in America, PAFF is the largest Black History Month event in the United States during the month of February. The Pan African Film & Arts Festival is the quintessential Black festival celebrating films, actors and filmmakers and fine artists.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, Music Reviewer and Photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]