For old-time jazz musicians, a cutting contest was an opportunity to flash your skills by trading solos with a rival. The next few weeks will feature a battle of the bandleaders in the arthouse theaters, with Ethan Hawke playing the late Chet Baker in Born to Be Blue and Don Cheadle playing Miles Davis in Miles Ahead. Jazz, with its creative energy, its obsessive, self-destructive legends and its intimate, after-dark settings, has long been a favorite milieu for filmmakers. Here’s an octet of movies that took their cues from jazz improvisation.
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