Moving on to something else, is it true that you’ve been working on Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis film, Miles Ahead?
Yes, I scored the movie.
What was that experience like for you?
Working with Don Cheadle was amazing. He’s an amazing actor and he is such a musical guy, you know – you’ll be really surprised at how musical he actually is. He plays a little piano, a little bass, a little drums, and saxophone, and he went to college playing saxophone. He learned how to play trumpet by himself and he spent five years studying it.
Just to do that role?
Yeah, he’s really taken it seriously. This movie has been secretly in the making for a few years but it was great, man, and an amazing experience. I got a chance to put my best groups together to sound like the Miles Davis band. We had to do our best Miles Davis impression. So there were times when I had to recreate the sound of the 1968 band, the 1964 band, and ’73…you know different sounds. Some of the stuff is me recreating the sound of different bands and some of the stuff is original music of mine and some of the stuff is actual Miles Davis recordings. It’s a mixture of different things.
I read somewhere that you were able to remix some of Miles’s original tracks…
Yes, that’s a different project. I’m almost finished with it now. It’s an album that Sony Music hired me to do. I’m literally in the last week of mixing it so they basically let me in the vault and take multi-tracks of a bunch of Miles Davis albums and let me make new songs out of them. We made new songs by taking samples from different parts of recordings and putting them together and making an artist make new songs, so it’s really cool.
How did it feel being able to access the original tapes of Miles’s music?
It was fucking amazing! (Laughs). They brought Miles back to being human and some of my other idols on there to being human. I have a bunch of outtakes of him just talking in the studio going over things because you could hear mistakes and things that remind you that they’re actually people (laughs).
So what lies beyond this current album? I believe you’ve got a Nina Simone project in the offing as well…
I literally just finished that last week. It’s a Nina Simone tribute album that is going along with a Nina Simone documentary that is coming out on Netflicks called What Happened to Miss Simone? It’s coming out on June 26th and the album drops along with it on June 30th. I produced the whole album and there are a bunch of special guests on it. We pretty much did a bunch of Nina’s songs and arranged them. Lauryn Hill’s on the album, Mary J Blige, Usher, Gregory Porter, Alice Smith, Jasmine Sullivan, and a few other artists.
Of all the people that you’ve worked with, who taught you the most do you think?
Probably (singer) Bilal. Me and Bilal went to college together, that’s where we met. When he got signed in 1999 to Interscope Records I became his music director and I got to travel the world with him for eight years so I got a chance to see and watch how a jazz cat jumps into this R&B, soul music world – at that time neo-soul was just starting. I got a chance to watch him navigate through all of that and through that I learned a lot of things and that’s how I’m able to navigate myself through things, watching Bilal and seeing how he handles things, seeing how people perceive him, you know, and just being in that whole circle. That really helped my career.
‘COVERED’ IS OUT NOW VIA BLUE NOTE RECORDS