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Story of a jazzman kicks off film series

Arguably the most influential jazz trumpet player after Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis gets the British Broadcasting Corp. treatment in Mike Dibb's engrossing film, 'The Miles Davis Story,' which opens the 2002 Reel Music series at the Northwest Film Center today.

In the film, fellow musicians, ex-wives and girlfriends, mentors and apostles grapple with their idea of Davis, whose life and personality were cubist at best. Fused together, these different points of view paint a picture of the enigmatic musician, who died in 1991.

He was a brooding giant, a Juilliard musician who grew up in East St. Louis, a player in New York and a writer of film scores in Paris. He held his own with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry, among dozens of jazz stars.

The album 'Birth of the Cool,' recorded in 1949-'50, defined Davis' spare, remote style, redirecting jazz from the frantic complexity of bop. Arranger Gil Evans recalls that Davis changed the tone of the trumpet for the first time since Louis Armstrong.

But Davis the man isn't in the same class as Davis the musician. He was hostile, jealous, callous with women; he struggled with drugs and the law. Nonetheless, he remains fascinating.

The Davis film is the first of 46 in the series, which runs through Feb. 3. Here are some highlights.

• 'The Miles Davis Story': 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4; 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6; Guild Theatre.

• 'Igor Stravinsky: Beyond 'The Firebird' and 'The Rite of Spring'.' Showing with 'Death for Five Voices,' Werner Herzog's history of eccentric 16th-century composer Don Carlos Gesualdo. 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5; 4:45 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6; Whitsell Auditorium.

• 'Lilith on Top': The best of the 1999 all-female rock tour, culled from 400 hours of performances and 200 hours of interviews. 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11; 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12; Guild Theatre.

• 'Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight': Hendrix played England's version of Woodstock 18 days before he died. 9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11; 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 12 and 13; Guild Theatre.

• 'Strange Fruit': The story of the hauntingly famous song about lynching in the South. Showing with 'The Legend of Teddy Edwards,' about the rebirth of a Los Angeles bebop pioneer. 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13; 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17; Guild Theatre.

• 'Rebel Music: The Bob Marley Story': Reggae superstar Marley is recalled by his wife, girlfriends, musicians and the CIA. 6:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16; 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23; Mission Theatre.

• 'Screamin' Jay Hawkins: I Put a Spell on Me': Filmed at two concerts in Paris a month before Hawkins' death, with recollections from blues giants but none from his 50 kids. 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18; 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19; Guild Theatre.