Robert Glasper revealed to SJF in an interview last year that he had been given permission to rummage through Columbia’s tape vaults with the view to making a ‘collaborative’ album using Miles Davis’s music. Well, now, in the wake of Don Cheadle’s ‘Miles Ahead’ movie – which Glasper also contributed to – that project is now released and while it will probably be slated by hard-line jazz purists as being sacrilegious and tarnishing the memory of Miles’s music, it’s actually a very engaging venture that should open up Miles’ music to a new, much younger audience. Stylistically, it’s an adjunct to Glasper’s two ‘Black Radio’ albums with its vocal cameos and hip-hop-inflected R&B grooves. The opener, ‘Talking Shit,’ is an overture of sorts, with sampled ghostly snippets of Miles talking (in that unique raspy voice he had) over a funkafied Rhodes-led groove. ‘Ghetto Walk’ (which samples Miles’s tune of the same name) features singer Bilal on a loose-limbed R&B jam.
Even better is ‘Maiysha (So Long),’ a dreamy bossa nova-tinged number featuring the superb Erykah Badu and warbling synth solo from Glasper (there’s also a horn cameo from Miles). By contrast, ‘Little Church’ – a revival of the Hermeto Pascoal song that Miles recorded on ‘Live Evil’ – is performed by Australia’s ‘future soul’ mavens, Hiatus Kaiyote, with lead singer Nai Palm’s voice sounding wonderfully ethereal. The UK’s own Laura Mvula fronts the meditative ‘Silence Is The Way’ but an even bigger cameo comes from Stevie Wonder on ‘Right On Brotha,’ which takes its inspiration from Miles’s ‘Right Off’ but is less visceral than the original: a mellow jazz-funk groove with a disco pulse and some plaintive harmonica notes from the man born Steveland Morris.
Much tougher is the sinewy funk of ‘I’m Leaving You,’ where singer Ledisi shows off her athletic pipes alongside some tasty fretboard work by former Miles Davis guitarist, John Scofield. The only true ‘cover’ of a Miles Davis song is Glasper’s quirky take on ‘Milestones,’ where a synth takes the place of the original horn line over a jaunty hip-hip beat. Purists will seethe but it works well. Indeed, the album says much more about Robert Glasper than it does about Miles Davis. Miles may have been the inspiration behind ‘Everything’s Beautiful’ but overall the whole thing (despite a constellation of guest stars) reflects the keyboard player’s aesthetic vision and as such is perfectly in tune with his commercially successful ‘Black Radio’ concept.
Read SJF’s interview with Robert Glasper here: http://www.soulandjazzandfunk.com/interviews/3454-hes-got-it-covered-robert-glasper-talks.html