Robert Glasper Reflects on Miles Davis for the Late Legend's 90th Birthday
After scoring Don Cheadle's Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead and reimagining the late jazz great's music for the new Everything's Beautiful album, Robert Glasper feels like he's celebrating the 90th birthday of a friend on Thursday (May 26).
"It's awesome to just be in the space of the most influential jazz musician. Just to be in this whole thing is an honor. I'm still, like, 'Huh?!'" Glasper tells Billboard. There were even times during the project, which uses samples from Davis' vaults, that Glasper felt like he was in the same physical space with the trumpeter. "At one point, for fun, I looked to my left or right and was like, 'You like that Miles?' and in my mind he said, 'Yeah,'" Glasper recalls with a laugh. "My boy started laughing. 'Did you just talk to Miles?!'"
Glasper was recruited by Cheadle, initially through Twitter, to score Miles Ahead, which debuted last October at the New York Film Festival and hit theaters April 1. Sony Legacy subsequently tapped the keyboardist -- a Davis disciple since taking a course on his electric band at the New School For Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York -- for Everything's Beautiful, which comes out Friday, giving Glasper access to a treasure trove of unreleased Davis material that made its way into the 11-song set.
"I really learned a lot about the process of him making his music," explains Glasper, who's joined for his adventurous compositions on Everything's Beautiful by guests such as Stevie Wonder, Bilal, Ledisi, Erykah Badu, onetime Davis guitarist John Scofield, J Dilla's brother Illa J and more. "I have all this dialogue of Miles talking to his band members and describing things that he wants from them. Just hearing the camaraderie between those guys, you don't really get to hear that much of Miles. Everybody knows what his voice sounds like, but you don't hear him talk a lot. I actually have a lot of Miles talking to his bandmates. It gave me a glimpse into how he gets things done. A lot of it's so metaphorical, how he gets what he wants from certain people. That was really interesting to me."
For both projects, however, Glasper set out to make music that was his own, albeit reflective of Davis' influence.
"Don told me that, 'We want there to be Glasper in all of this. Even when you're doing Miles, I want you to put yourself in his shoes. You're still being you, but you have a direction. You're pointed at Miles'," Glasper says. "The good thing is even when [Davis] played in certain time periods, there was something futuristic about it. It wasn't what everybody else's music sounded like in that time period. So I felt like I'm going to put myself in this as much as I can while still trying to deliver who Miles is to people. So I'm giving them him and I'm giving them me at the same time."
Glasper is currently co-producing Common's next album, but he's planning to put together some special shows based on the Everything's Beautiful album. And he's hoping to get a crack at reimagining more of Davis' work as he did for that set. "I don't even have to go back to the vaults," Glasper says. "I have so much stuff I haven't gotten to or opened. I would still be going through it now; I had to stop myself and say, 'OK, I've got enough right now.' There's so much stuff there, so, yeah, I totally would do a part two."