Remembering Sir Miles Davis, seen here on stage at Gröna Lund in Stockholm in the summer of 1987 (photo: KG Asplund)
What can we say about remembering Sir Miles? Music has not been the same since he left. It lost a whole lot of something something, that was in fact about him.
We can all wonder what he would have been doing, had he been here today. And we all know that we can't quite know what that would have been. And that is even one of the things that are so special with Miles Davis. People just had to see where he was going to know where he was going. They couldn't go some place and wait for him there artistically, because there was no way of knowing if he would show up there. And, alongside his leaving a mighty musical journey behind as he left, he left a world of wise things he said, which is a bit strange indeed, as he wasn't always so talkative. "It can take a lifetime to learn to play like yourself". Quote Miles Davis. You can so often interpret some things he said in wider terms, and you often even must. At any height of his legendary career he was still searching for his tone. Knowing what he wanted from others, and from himself too, in the nano moment, what he uttered wasn't something fluffy for an article, but a real thing. And that is so it. Miles Davis was so cool. And it was a real cool, not a pose. "It can take a lifetime to learn to play like yourself" really means It can take a lifetime to learn to be yourself.
Those ears... One of the most magical pairs of ears in music. They could tie so much together with two notes. The way Miles Davis HEARD music... We can only leave that to silence.
Music is life. People don’t realize that music is the only universal language that we have. Music helps people feel better, and music can heal people.
From Day 1 my life was all music. It was the whole thing, and there was never any doubt about what I would do in life. My father was a famous gospel performer and there were always famous musicians coming to our house. For me that was natural, something I took for granted.
Lonnie Liston Smith "Summer Nights"
Working with the greats taught me that they were serious about what they did. I grew up listening to Art Blakey, Max Roach, Miles Davis. I then moved to New York hoping to work with as many of the greats as possible. Art would never show up for the rehearsals. When we were done he would just sit down and play. Playing with Roach was often about dealing with different times, like 5/4. Miles was the icing on the cake. He was a genius on and off stage. If you played with Miles Davis you went to the Miles Davis University, and you were ready to form your own band after that.
These artists made me stronger, more secure in my own self. Especially Art did. And Miles was about something that is hard to find today: You had to create something new every time you played with him.
My first album with The Cosmic Echoes’ happened because Bob Thiele wanted to produce it and because I had a lot of great musicians around me. By the time of our second album, Expansions, I was writing lyrics. I had done a lot of studies and expanded my mind. We played a jazz/funk that a lot of people had never played or heard. We all came from a jazz background. But when people heard the music they thought “That’s it!”.
People should listen to a song I did called “Astral Traveling” (from the album with the same title). I’m really proud of that recording. I had never played a Fender Rhodes piano before, but there was one in the room. I sat down and played and this cut just came from the Gods. I call it the 21st century blues.
We discovered new talent along the way. I first heard Marcus Miller play when he was 15-16 years old for example. Talent – it’s a thing. You listen for their inner being, their soul. You’re not listening for their technical skill. That’s not music – people don’t realize that. If you think of singers their song in many cases really come from inside. It should be the same with an instrumentalist. Sometimes just a lot of craziness comes out of course.
"A Garden Of Peace"
People sampling my music is actually great. When I came up we used to go to each other’s houses and discover music we hadn’t heard. Now kids discover music through samples, and go back and find out about the artists. That they sampled “A Garden of Peace” surprised me. At the time I just wanted to create something beautiful with that song, with all the chaos that was going on in the world. Years later Jay-Z wanted to sample it, and it’s on his “Dead Presidents II”, and on Mary J. Blige’s “Take Me As I Am”.
Young artists of course need to learn their craft – they need to learn their instruments. And they need to listen to a lot of music, and to go back and listen. I think that the young artists now are more on the business side than we were. We got to the business side of music the hard way. The business of music drives me crazy ever since I realized that someone else owns the masters, and perhaps it’s someone who’s not even in music.
My plans for the year include playing with The Superstars Of Jazz Fusion, featuring Roy Ayers, Ronnie Laws and myself.
Lonnie Liston Smith live a New Morning
LONNIE LISTON SMITH is a musician and composer from Richmond, Virginia. After working with a number of luminaries in music he formed his band The Cosmic Echoes in 1973. They released many successful records on several labels. Lonnie Liston Smith also appears on many albums with Roland Kirk, Pharoah Sanders, Gato Barbieri and Miles Davis, among others.
Musicians' Corner's interview with Joey DeFrancesco
An article with Joey DeFrancesco. Photo: GDJAZZ.com
It definitely meant a lot that I grew up in a musical family – it’s why I play music! It is also why I play the organ. I got the love for it at home. If I hadn’t been around it I wouldn’t have known about it. I even got interested in repairing Hammond Organs. When I was ten we had to get a service technician in, and it was really expensive. After that I learnt how to pick an organ apart and put it back together again. I’m often able to help people fix problems with their Hammond Organs.
Joey DeFrancesco Trio live in 2015
To me the Hammond Organ is magical. They are handmade and no two organs sound alike. They all have personalities. I have always been doing what I have been doing, you know. I didn’t stop to pay much attention to what people thought about it. And I always had great piers and people around.
I met Miles Davis in Philadelphia, where I come from. He was on a morning show on TV where my band had been called in to play. He heard us play one chord, and then he stopped the band. I was wondering if I was going to be embarrassed, but he asked me for my name and called me eight months later.
I learnt so many things playing with Miles and being around him. I was very much a traditional jazz player when I started playing with him, and he knew that hiring me. He would talk to me about Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. He showed me a lot of things, like the importance of space in music. And hearing that trumpet in my ear all the time made me want to play the trumpet. That was when I got a trumpet and learnt how to play it. And when Miles heard me play he handed me his horn. He said “You sound just like me”. He just embraced the whole thing, and gave me mouthpieces, and made me play in front of other artists.
Joey DeFrancesco with Miles Davis' band, live in Poland 1988
I played with him for six months. I had just finished my first record, and the record company basically told me that I had to leave Miles’ band. He was hurt but he understood. After that we hung out. When he played his last concert at Montreux in 1991 I was there with my band. I carried his horn for him, and went to his hotel to see him. He was so nervous, saying how he hadn’t played Gil Evans’ music in thirty-three years. He was so humble. And at that concert he played so beautifully it was unbelievable. He was so special, and in the later part of his life mellower. I hear a lot of stories, but they are not about the Miles I knew.
What makes a great artist is all kinds of things, but the biggest thing is the feel. Technique is secondary. A lot of people don’t have a lot of technique but they play their hearts out. Like Miles said it can take a lifetime to learn to play like yourself.
Joey DeFrancesco Trio including Jason Brown - drums & Dan Wilson - guitar
I am always working. I have melodies in my head 24/7. I have my music room and I go in there several times a day. Just now I have almost finished some modifications to my organ. Next my trio is playing in Florida on March 12. And in the next few months I’m touring in Indonesia, the US and Europe, after which I will go into the studio in June to hopefully record my next project. And you’d better believe that I’m always happy playing music. I’m thrilled to get behind the instrument. Before a gig I wonder “Are we going to play yet?”, checking the time. All the great musicians that I know are like that. I like playing music with people who can go anywhere musically at the drop of a hat, and we don’t label the music. I am not a jazz musician, I am a musician, and we go anywhere when we play.
The world would be a mistake without music. Whatever you’re doing everything is so much easier with earphones. And rhythm is all around us.
Joey DeFrancesco's latest record
Joey DeFrancesco is a Grammy-nominated organist and trumpeter, who has released thirty+ albums and played with a large number of luminairies in music, since he first signed his first record deal at the age of 16. Find out more HERE.
TimeOut Bill Bogg's TV-show/interview with Miles Davis - with Joey DeFrancesco on the show's band:
Music often has to be new to excite me and awake my curiosity. I want to explore when I play, and when I listen. New is hard to achieve. It is an objective to find me some more. I get a lot of pleasure from music that has already been done too, in a piece of baroque music for example perhaps, in a classical string quartet. It’s nothing new but it may be incredible. However I want to try to find a new way. When people call me for projects they don’t know what I will bring.
Mino Cinelu World Jazz Ensemble at The Blue Note 2014
Of course music also always has roots, even when it is expressed in the most modern way. It is subjective. I hear the roots the way I hear them. There are influences all the way up to that moment. All the music that I ever heard had roots. My music is a reflection of my upbringing, from the rural Martinique, my parents’ background and history, and my own life. I am very passionate about my roots. With my World Jazz Ensemble I ask the musicians to tell their story. The story is in their voices as musicians and artists.
How you find your voice as a performer is both obvious and awkward. I chose between my two passions in life, between music and nature, at a very early age. I was about seven or eight years old when I chose music. I also paint. And it is simple. What you express is you, if you are yourself. But you must be courageous enough to bare yourself, and that is the awkward part. It takes strength and humility to be yourself in music.
I live in New York, but I don’t know the new New York-scene very well. I travel a lot. I have just now been on tour with Kate Bush for eight or nine months. The clubs in New York probably don’t pay what they used to, but there are always young players here who play many kinds of music very well.
I still often think of what Miles Davis told us, if we were lucky enough to be close to him. He told us things through his horn and through his words. It is only now that I find out about the full impact of those words. Every time I meet Herbie Hancock we talk about what Miles Davis said. ‘’Oh, did he tell you that?’’. Miles used to call me Frenchy. He called me many things. I recall being in Italy once when I heard his voice on the phone. I told him that I was there playing with Weather Report, and he replied ‘’Those are my children!’’.
Mino Cinelu ''Confians''
Mino Cinelu is a French multi-instrumentalist based in New York. He has done work with Miles Davis, Weather Report and Sting among many others, and has an extensive solo career. Find out more HERE.
Music is life. It is the things you experience. Life, love, stress, magic moments, moments that go down the drain. It’s no different than life. I hear music when I’m not playing. I feel life when I play.
Music and spirituality came together in my life. Perhaps I wasn’t aware of the music at first.
The drums chose me. My influence was my older brother. He played very well and went professional at 13-14 years of age. There was a lot of musical talent in my neighborhood too. We lived in a two family house and my mother designated the first floor as a rehearsal- and performance studio. I saw my brother play all kinds of music there. I didn’t want to be a drummer at the time. But then my brother started to lose interest while I started to gain interest. In the beginning I played in my mother’s home and in the gospel choir.
I went professional at 16. I went to see Billy Cobham at the Bottom Line. It was a great venue. I was excited to see Billy Cobham. My uncle took me. He was a large man. He looked like a security guard, and he cleared the way for me. Suddenly back stage I saw Miles Davis. He hadn’t been for 6 years at the time. I was startled. My uncle told me to say hello to Miles, but I couldn’t talk. Miles said ‘’The young man who doesn’t speak’’, or something along those lines, to me. After that I went home and quit my sports teams, took a job, changed my life. My thought was ‘’I have to get to work now’’. Horace Arnold became my teacher, and he introduce me to the heroes of mine.
Last year I celebrated 25 years with Living Colour. I love working in that sphere of sound and in an environment affected by politics. Right now we are finishing a new CD. It is currently being mixed, and we plan on releasing it in the fall. We start touring again September 18.
With my band Will Calhoun Trio I have made a new recording titled ‘’Life In This World’’. I do a lot of music and produce, but jazz is my first love. And I love playing trios. I have travelled in the search for other percussive sounds and signatures. I have been to Mali, Senegal, Morocco. I bring a little of it to my live experience.
We have also started on the new Stone Raiders-record. Jean-Paul and Darryl have started ahead of me on that one.
Will Calhoun and Living Colour celebrating 25 years (2013)
Will Calhoun Trio: Will Calhoun, Marc Cary and Charnett Moffett at Blue Note
Having celebrated twenty-five years with Living Colour, Grammy Award-winning drummer Will Calhoun has also collaborated with a long list of the most established artists in music, been elected Best Drummer by Rolling Stone Magazine’s Critics Poll, and recorded solo projects.
If I could have a conversation with Johann Sebastian Bach I would ask him how he wrote all of that amazing music. He had like twenty kids or something. I would ask his wife ''What the hell is he up to?''. He wrote so much music, got so much done, it's insane.
I want to mention my wife, Leni Stern. She is the love of my life. We don't play concerts together because we prefer to stay married but we play music together all the time. She's a wonderful musician, very inspiring. We have been together for thirty-three years and she is my best friend.
I have about twenty black t-shirts with long sleeves. So when I look in my closet I think to myself ''Hmm, what am I going to wear today?''...
I am happy when I'm playing music. I get energy from other musicians by listening and watching them play. It's a great feeling. Music is a great place to put my energy. It keeps my mind off some of the other stuff in life that might not be so much fun
Maybe I'm just showing my joy in the music on stage a little bit more than others. Most people I know have a great time playing music.
Photo Sandrine Lee
On a very serious side music is food for the soul. I don't know what the hell I would do without it. There are times when I don't want to hear anything. At other times I hear music in everything, in the wind, in the traffic, in people talking. And I hear music in how people talk in different places, in India, Japan and throughout the world.
Guitarists ask me different stuff. Questions about equipment. Picks and strings. I ask other musicians about that stuff too. They ask how I get certain lines. I tell them that I listen a lot. I transcribe a lot of horn-players for example and try to come up with my own version of their lines, that is, not copy the licks but get the phrasings on the guitar.
I don't know when I knew what my sound was. It was something I heard in my head. I started out singing when I was little. My mom was a piano player, and she realized that I wanted to get into music. My sound is a less percussive sound and more of a legato sound.
The best way to find your own voice to me is to just play. It's a natural flow-process. Staying with certain things is a good idea. Perhaps someone is not the best guitarist in the world but he can still be the perfect guitarist for a specific act. A lot of musicians have their own voices though people don't necessarily hear it. I change what I do by learning new music. Always try to learn new music, it's endless.
It's an honor to have fans. Some people are musicians and maybe understand it more that I play horn lines for example. Of course I like that people are listening to my music and enjoy what they hear but I also like that people are just listening even if they don't like what they hear.
Mike Stern with Miles Davis
Mike Stern solo guitar+
Mike Stern with Eric Johnson in 2013
Mike Stern's legendary career includes work with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius and a very long list of the top players in jazz+. Stern has put countless amazing musical partnerships on stage, released a large number of solo-albums and received six Grammy-nominations to date for his work. In 2014 he plans to release an album-collaboration with Eric Johnson. Find out more HERE.
An article with Marilyn Mazur. Photo by Stephen Freiheit
'' - Miles Davis called me to ask when I could be in New York. I hadn't been there since I moved away from that city, my birthplace, at 6 years of age. Of course I couldn't refuse this great musician. Three days later I was playing with him. And playing with him for three years made me accepted the way I am. When you live in Denmark it's hard to be too different and gain respect without a stamp of approval. My music didn't fit into any boxes, so I was automatically seen as experimental. Playing with Miles gave me the permission to be myself. ''
Marilyn Mazur with Miles Davis
'' - I liked the music that Miles played at the end of the 60'ies - the beginning of the 70'ies the best. By the time that I played with him the music was a little too set for me. He liked that I put some colors in there. I didn't really feel at home in the band. I missed the musical communaction, I was used to. After a year I left the band and went to play with Wayne Shorter for a year, then Miles asked me to come back. I stayed another year.''
Marilyn Mazur with Jan Garbarek
'' - I then decided to leave. It was a really hard decision. I had gotten government backing for projects at home in Denmark. But it was a difficult decision. Miles only lived for a year after that. He had asked if I could write some music for him and I never did.
- Miles Davis had deep powers into the roots of life. The things that were supposed to happen did happen. It all turned out the way it was supposed to turn out.''
Marilyn Mazur with Marilyn Mazur Group in 2013
Marilyn Mazur is a percussionist, drummer, composer and bandleader. She has worked with many musicians, and many projects such as Future Song and Percussion Paradise. She is currently working with Celestial Circle and Marilyn Mazur Group. Listen to samples of Marilyn Mazur's music here
Bass-legend+ T.M. Stevens has made a documentary for Musicians' Corner.
STRAIGHT MUSIC TALK
TM Stevens shares his history and wisdom, in this inspiring documentary, which he has produced himself.
In this film T.M. talks about his work with many greats -- and takes the viewer back in time and around the world in his narrative. He plays a few of his famous basslines -- and gives a virtuoso's tips on bass-playing. He also shares exclusive footage -- as well as his views on music of yesteryears and today.
During his extensive career T.M. Stevens has worked with Narada Michael Walden, Miles Davis, James Brown, Nona Hendryx, Joe Cocker, Little Steven, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Steve Vai, Stevie Salas and many, many more. T.M. Stevens has also been a member of The Pretenders and has an extensive solo career with nine solo-albums released to date. Mr. Stevens' bio is so long that it easily fills a few books, and he also does a lot of workshops and masterclasses inspiring the next generation of virtuoso players. Find out more at www.tmstevens.com