Don Cheadle Really Plays Trumpet In 'Miles Ahead,' But Not In The Way You Might Think
Don Cheadle is known for tackling tricky roles in films such as Crash, Hotel Rwanda, and Flight, and his latest role is another challenging one. Cheadle plays Miles Davis in Miles Ahead , which is a biopic about the jazz legend. Miles Ahead contains an abundance of amazing music, which should be no surprise given the Davis is known as one of the most important musicians of the 20th century. In particular, the movie shows Davis playing trumpet in many scenes, which makes you wonder: does Don Cheadle really play trumpet in Miles Ahead ? Or was there a professional musician behind the scenes who was hired for this purpose?
The answer is actually "yes" to both questions. Cheadle made a point to start learning the trumpet fours years ago; an undertaking which was no easy feat, according to Cheadle's statements to USA Today. The actor said, "The trumpet is one of the meanest and hardest instruments that there is. The learning curve is very steep." Cheadle did improv much of his own trumpeting while on set, but for the purpose of capturing Davis' expertise, contemporary jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold was brought in to record over Cheadle's playing. So a good portion of the playing heard in the actual movie is Harrold's. The remainder is that of Miles Davis himself, pulled from old recordings.
Cheadle explained to Billboard, "Whenever we could, we used the actual recording, because that’s Miles. For all the original music, we were actually playing stuff on set [but] it just wasn’t good enough. So they overdubbed our playing. Keyon had to look at the footage and figure out how to play improvisationally while also matching what we were doing. They performed magic."
But although though Cheadle didn't play the trumpet in the final cut of the film, the actor is no musical slouch. He started playing saxophone when he was 10, and music was a prominent aspect of the Cheadle household. His parents had a collection of albums ranging from MoTown to R&B to jazz, and the latter included the work of Miles Davis. Cheadle told Entertainment Weekly that his parents were fans of Davis. "The music was in the house since I can remember, but I think at 10, when I started actually playing music, is probably when I started paying more close attention to the kind of music and the construction of the music and the composition and all of those aspects of it," he said.
He actually saw Davis in concert in 1981 during the "We Want Miles" tour, an "incredible" experience that Cheadle never forgot, according to an interview with Cincinatti.com. And although music became less of a priority in Cheadle's life after his acting career took off, when it was announced that a Davis biopic was going to be made, many people saw Cheadle as a natural choice for the lead role. The film eventually became a reality, and Cheadle was presented with the unique opportunity to combine his passion for music with his film career.
Between the original Davis recordings, the skilled playing of Keyon Harrold, and the dedicated performance of Don Cheadle, Miles Ahead has the foundation for an impressive music film. Hopefully all the hard work will pay off and result in a movie that tells the jazz legend's story the was it was meant to be told; as an amazing musical journey.
Images: Sony Pictures (2)