“I think Miles would’ve loved Erykah,” pianist and producer Robert Glasper told Rolling Stone recently, during a conversation about Everything’s Beautiful, an upcoming album on which he reworked snippets of Miles Davis‘ studio recordings to create entirely new tracks. One of the highlights of the release, which stemmed from Glasper’s soundtrack work for Don Cheadle’s audacious Davis biopic, Miles Ahead, is a simmering bossa nova version of “Maiysha” – a song originally released on 1974’s Get Up With It – featuring lead vocals from Erykah Badu. Hear an exclusive premiere of the track below.
Glasper is an expert at bridging the worlds of jazz, hip-hop and R&B. The pianist made a memorable appearance on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and his extensive résumé also includes work with Maxwell, Mos Def, J Dilla and Kanye West. He previously teamed with Badu for a cover of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” – a song famously recorded by Davis’ onetime sideman John Coltrane – which appeared on his Grammy-winning 2012 album, Black Radio.
As Glasper writes in the liner notes for Everything’s Beautiful, the new collaboration, titled “Maiysha (So Long),” came about naturally after he and the singer began exchanging ideas. “We sat down for a few days before she came up with the idea of a bossa nova, and Vincent [Wilburn Jr., Davis’ nephew and Eighties-era drummer] recommended using ‘Maiysha,’ which comes from the mid-Seventies and has this beautiful trumpet solo by Miles,” the producer explains. “That was on a Wednesday night, and it all fell into place quickly after that: Sony sent us the multis so we could isolate different parts of the song, she wrote original lyrics and sang her part, and boom, boom, boom – by Friday, 85 percent of the track was done.”
Davis’ original “Maiysha” was a heady, Latin-inspired groove piece stretching to more than 14 minutes. The Everything’s Beautiful version cuts the length in half and adds a thumping bossa nova beat. Badu croons a melody derived from Davis’ organ part, singing about an ex-lover who won’t get the message: “‘Cause we’re through/But you keep coming back/So hard, so strong, so long. …” Midway through the song, Glasper blends in Davis’ trumpet, simulating a real-time duet between Badu and the late icon.
Everything’s Beautiful comes out May 27th, one day after what would have been Davis’ 9oth birthday. Other guests on the album – which is jointly credited to Glasper and Davis – include guitarist John Scofield, vocalist Bilal, MC Illa J (J Dilla’s younger brother) and Stevie Wonder, who plays harmonica on closing track “Right On Brotha,” riffing on the Wayne Shorter-composed title track to Davis’ 1968 album Nefertiti.