At the height of the Miles Davis Quintet’s fame in 1968, Wayne Shorter wrote a suite of orchestral jazz songs entitled “The Universe Compositions.” Intended for a 24-piece orchestra, the compositions were immense, ambitious works that answered the call of psychedelic rock-n-roll, cool jazz, and the rigors of classical music. When Miles first saw the sheet music, he looked up at Shorter and said, “I asked for a song and you gave me a fuckin' symphony.”
The band had begun rehearsing the compositions when the Quintet dissolved. As the band fell apart, The Universe Compositions were lost. It was Miles’ final wish before he passed away in 1991 that Wayne Shorter “find the music.” 50 years after their disappearance, The Universe Compositions are recovered by Miles’ only protege, Wallace Roney, and debuted for the first time in history.
The story of Wallace Roney and The Universe Compositions is the story of missing links. Universe is the piece of music that would have bridged two eras of jazz. It is the masterpiece that Miles Davis never recorded. And for Wallace Roney, it is the bridge between mentorship and mastery.
Wallace has staked his entire life on the belief that jazz is not just a music of the past; that it still retains the power to uplift whole communities; that it is spiritual, difficult, and satisfying and can speak to the African-American experience. As Wallace Roney puts it, “Jazz was the music that my father and his friends used to uplift themselves. To better themselves.”
Universe will capture the journey of this music from its origins in 1968 through its debut to the world in 2017. We envision the film as a marriage between "Charles Bradley: Soul of America" and D.A. Pennebaker’s seminal music documentary "Don’t Look Back." It is the story of an inveterate underdog who has arrived at the center of a profound moment in musical history.
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