Jazz musician Miles Davis is considered to be one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Together with his musical groups, he was at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music.
After his death in 1991, his family saw to it to keep his name and all his musical efforts alive. His three heirs include his son Erin, his daughter Cheryl, and their cousin Vince Wilburn, Jr. They strive every day to keep Miles in the public eye and maintain his brand and music.
Vince Wilburn, Jr., an accomplished drummer and producer originally from Chicago and now based in California, is the nephew of Miles Davis. He toured and recorded with Miles on many legendary recordings from 1984 through 1987.
Wilburn was highly influential in putting together the record-breaking, cross-genre release Everything is Beautiful, a reimagined project produced by Grammy winning artist Robert Glasper, which features contemporary artists paying tribute to Miles Davis’ classic work.
He is currently the bandleader/drummer for the Miles Electric Band. He also host the radio show Evolution Of The Groove on KPFK Pacifica Radio.
Erin Davis and Wilburn, Jr. and sister Cheryl, served as executive producers on the feature film Miles Ahead starring Don Cheadle and Ewan McGregor.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Miles Davis’ best-known record, Kind of Blue. To celebrate this milestone, a new documentary called Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool is being released on August 23 in New York and August 30 in Los Angeles. Next month, a lost album from the 1980s called Rubberband is set to be released.
N’DIGO spoke with Erin Davis, who is one of the few people that knew the late great jazz musician Miles Davis well.
N’DIGO: What kind of guy was Miles Davis?
Erin Davis: My father was a one of a kind individual. A genius.
Why was it important for you to do the film Birth of the Cool at this time?
I’ve been wanting to do one for a long time and we had been talking to Stanley Nelson (the director) off and on for 10 years. Finally, all the stars aligned and we were able to move forward.
What was it like growing up with Miles as your father? Did you know he was a genius?
It was definitely a different experience! I didn’t realize he was truly a genius until I started going out on the road with him. Then I saw how he worked with his band and I could just see how amazing he really was.
Do you play an instrument?
When I was 10, my dad said that I needed to learn an instrument, so I chose guitar. I still love playing the guitar today, but I switched to drums as my main instrument when I lived with him during high school.
What do you most remember about him?
I remember his sense of humor, his style and just the way he carried himself. His love of boxing.
What do you want the world to know about Miles?
I always want the world to know that he said it took him a long time to “play like himself” and you really have to put in the work and experiment with other styles and other music.
What was his greatest music to you?
I couldn’t really pick one album or time, but some of my favorites are Bitches Brew, Kind of Blue and ESP.
What did he most like to do?
I think he just liked expressing himself creatively, whether it was writing music, playing with the band, painting, or even cooking…and he was a great cook!
Miles was famous for turning his back to his audience to perform. Why?
Miles liked to face the band and communicate with them while performing. To be honest, I think most bands would play better facing each other.
When will the theatrical release of Birth of the Cool come to Chicago?
Some time in September, I believe.
On September 6, Rubberband, the lost music of Miles Davis drops. Producer Vince Wilburn Jr. played drums on the original Rubberband sessions for the album (1985-86) and plays on the new album. The project also features Ledisi and Lalah Hathaway.