Hot on the heels of the soundtrack to the Don Cheadle Miles Davis biopic where Robert Glasper played a vital role, here comes Robert’s tribute album to the meister who would have been 90 this year. And thank heaven this is not a trumpet album. Not that I don’t dig the trumpet, but a Miles Davis tribute with just trumpet or trumpet as the main character wouldn’t do him justice.
So Robert uses a lot of samples and a lot of original talking from various recordings, like on the fat opening track “Talking Shit” where he has put together various Miles voices from different sessions and has Derrick Hodge play a mean, funky, cool bass. For “Ghetto Walkin'”, based on “The Ghetto Walk”, Bilal takes over the vocals which come in various layers and the mood and atmosphere of the “In A Silent Way” track is brilliantly captured and transported into the here and now.
“They Can’t Hold Me Down” features Illa J, younger brother of the pivotal J Dilla, on a relatively short and crisp rap cut before Erykah Badu takes over with her own lyrics for “Maiysha (So Long)”, originally from the “Get Up With It” record from the early 70s. The bossa rhythm and Erykah’s breezy and floating lyrics make up for an irresistible groove which also boasts with some sexy keyboard work from Robert. One of the highlights of this set. Although I know that a rap tune or two is totally viable for a Miles tribute, I’m still not really into this kind of thing but realize that Phonte sure does a great job on “Violets” which features some samples from “Blue In Green”.
Hiatus Kaiyote are in it with their experimental, haunting and swell interpretation of “Little Church” (from “Live-Evil”, 1971 and written by Hermeto Pascoal), a tune that has its focus on ambiance and effects more than anything else but really works well. Singer Laura Mvula is featured on “Silence Is The Way” (based on “In A Silent Way”), again a beat-and groove-heavy track that also contains Laura’s multi-layered, deep vocals.
My favorite vocal group KING is responsible for “Song For Selim” and the track would easily fit on their 5-paw debut album (reviewed also on these pages). The limbering arrangement and harmonious vocal parts of twins Amber and Paris Strother and Anita Bias are way too short, though. If there is one track that is actually close to a “cover” version, it would be “Milestones” with Georgia Anne Muldrow which also features Robert on the only track where he actually plays the piano. Once again, this is way too short.
The final two tracks are an amazingly funky, but once again much too short (why?) “I’m Leaving You” with the ever so funky vocals of Ledisi and John Scofield on guitar (the only musician on the album here who has actually played with Miles), and “Right On Brotha” that is my second highlight on the album: the trumpet of Miles in a contagious house set-up produced by DJ Spinna and featuring the harp of Brandee Younger, the sax of Lakecia Benjamin, the 70s-like vocals of Chris Rob and Stevie Wonder on harmonica. This is pure bliss.