Robert Glasper on Remixing Miles Davis, How Jazz Invented ‘Swagger’
You mentioned the tactic of sampling Miles’ voice, which is one of the most interesting things about this album. What is it about the way he spoke and his studio chatter that fascinated you?
I think the main thing was that most people know what Miles’ voice sounds like, but you’ve never really heard him talk a lot… You just hear little pieces of him talking over recordings, like him talking to the engineer for a split second, and he’ll keep that, sometimes at the end of a song, where he’s talking to Teo [Macero].
“The way [Miles] talked was art … so much stuff he says is poetry.”
But the reality is, you don’t hear how he’s really talking to his musicians, and the rapport he has with them and how he’s explaining certain colors musically that he wants, the metaphors he uses and all these different things. You don’t know how the sausage is made; you just have the sausage [laughs]. So I kind of wanted to give people a glimpse into into that world, into the actual studio, because that’s something that most people never get a chance to be a part of. Only the musicians that were there could be a part of that. So I wanted to really bring that to the forefront too. Because the way he talked was art. … I’ve got so much audio of him talking, and so much stuff he says is poetry, which is great to hear, and which is where I got the title from, Everything’s Beautiful.
There’s almost a zen-master quality to the things Miles says on here, like on “Milestones,” when you sample him saying, “You got to cool it a little bit, man. I mean, you gotta let it carry you.” It’s very evocative of what you often hear about Miles’ bandleading, how he led in indirect ways and inspired the musicians to produce something they didn’t even know they were capable of.
Exactly. I’ve been working with Herbie [Hancock] really close. I’m co-producing his next record. And so I had asked him about a certain record. … My favorite Miles album is Miles Smiles. And on that album, if you really pay attention to it, Herbie doesn’t really comp on that album, you know. It’s open. Even when he takes a solo, he’s not really using his left hand. So I asked him about that because that’s the only album he does that on, to the extent of that. … And I asked him about it, and he said right before they started recording, Miles asked him, he said, “Hey, try not to use your left hand on this album, and let’s just see what happens.” And he said what Miles was telling him without actually telling him, was that his left hand and the chords were boxing him in, and basically, if you take your left hand away, take the chords away, it frees you up and you can get different places.