East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III and Stanley Nelson

East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III presents filmmaker Stanley Nelson with the key to the city Thursday night as the community gathers to celebrate the local release of “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” outside of House of Miles in East St. Louis, Illinois Thursday night.

“Being in her makes me think of my grandmother,” Cheryl Davis said as she looked around and walked the newly rehabbed first floor of the House of Miles on Thursday in East St. Louis, Illinois.

Thanks to tireless work from a team led by House of Miles President Lauren A. Parks, what was once the childhood home of Cheryl’s father, Miles Davis – is now a museum and music education center.

“I’m happy they’ve done this because it honors my father – and my family,” Cheryl Davis said.

On Thursday, she and other family members, elected officials and several East St. Louis dignitaries were on hand for a dually purposed celebration. They gathered in the backyard of the House of Miles to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the House of Miles renovations – and were gearing up for the St. Louis premiere of “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s documentary on his life and musical legacy.

The crowd couldn’t contain itself as former Mayor Alvin Parks, master of ceremonies, referred to “East St. Louis’ own Miles Dewey Davis” as “the greatest jazz musician of all time” upon announcing that the documentary would begin its local run at the Tivoli on Friday, September 6. According to The Tivoli, the film will continue through at least September 19, and may be extended based on popular demand.

“This is an East St. Louis affair,” Parks said.

The city’s current Mayor, Robert Eastern III, was among those who delivered remarks.

“The hardest thing about anything is getting started,” Eastern said. “And the second thing is having that commitment to see things through.”

Eastern commended those who made the House of Miles happen. He then presented Nelson with the key to the city in a special enclosed dome.

“It resembles a lantern, because Miles Davis shined his light across the world.”

The film opened in New York two weeks ago and last week in Los Angeles.

“It’s been a whirlwind with the film,” Nelson said. “We’ve been selling-out everywhere.”

Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones and Carlos Santana are among those who discuss Miles Davis and his incomparable influence on music.

Nelson acknowledged the East St. Louisans who were featured in the film – including ESL poet laureate Eugene B. Redmond, who performed a poem he delivered at the East St. Louis homegoing for Miles Davis nearly 30 years ago at Thursday’s ceremony.

“It is my honor to make a film about Miles Davis,” Nelson said. “I am a real Miles Davis fan and his music has been so instrumental to me.”

Miles Davis’ nephew Vince Wilburn Jr., who was a drummer in his uncle’s band, has been touring alongside Nelson to promote the film.

“We’ve been all around the world showing this movie,” Wilburn said. “We were met with packed houses in South Africa – Soweto, Cape Town and Johannesburg.”

He praised Lauren Parks for creating a collaborative spirit during the phase one development process for House of Miles.

“Lauren and the family talked about six or seven times a day to make this happen,” said Wilburn, who bears a striking resemblance to his uncle. 

“This is a beautiful event and we are so happy to be here,” Wilburn said on behalf of the Davis family.

Lauren Parks was already revealing plans for the next phase of the project in her remarks about the completion of phase one.

“I know Cheryl and Vince know about the basement,” Lauren Parks said. “He practiced with his own high school band in that basement. And we are going to renovate that so we can share that with our young people.”

Miles Davis’ son Erin Davis was also on hand for the celebration.

“Uncle Miles continues to touch the world,” Wilburn said. “That’s amazing to me, because these are our roots.”

For more information on The House of Miles, visit http://houseofmilesestl.org/

For more information on the film “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” visit https://www.milesdavismovie.com/.

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