Ken Burns’ new documentary about Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion, is not the first film about the boxer; in 1970 William Cayton made a documentary as well, with a soundtrack by Miles Davis. This edition of Night Lights features music taken from the Sony/Legacy box-set MILES DAVIS: THE COMPLETE JACK JOHNSON SESSIONS, including recordings done from February to June of 1970. Musicians appearing here range from John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham to Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett. Although BITCHES’ BREW remains the best-known of Miles’ “fusion” or jazz-rock dates, some critics now contend that THE JACK JOHNSON SESSIONS more suitably represent the fruition of Davis’ stylistic evolution in this regard.
More information on both the Jack Johnson sessions and Davis’ own interest in boxing can be found here.In addition, there is an online interview with Michael Cuscuna and Bob Belden, co-producers of the Legacy set, which sheds some light on Teo Macero’s editing methods.