On what would have been his 90th birthday, Miles Davis—the iconic, innovative jazz trumpeter—can be remembered as many things today. But Robert Glasper—the Grammy-winning jazz keyboardist who reimagines Davis’ music on the new album Everything’s Beautiful—reminds us that Miles had original swag.
“The way he dressed, the way he talked, he had more swag than anybody,” says Glasper, who also scored Don Cheadle’s biopic Miles Ahead. “Miles was just swagged out. That’s where a lot of cats in hip-hop and R&B get there swag: from Miles. When Miles walked into a room—I don’t care who was in there—all eyes were on Miles.”
In addition to having all that swag, Davis, who died in 1991, was also “the king of vibe,” says Glasper: “Most of the jazz records I hear, I don’t feel like they were necessarily playing sexy for the ladies. Miles is one of the only jazzers I know that purposely had sex on his mind while making a specific song because he wanted a specific vibe. He was like the Prince of jazz.”
But what does Glasper think is the most significant part of Davis’ legacy? “The main thing about Miles Davis is that he’s the only jazz musician I know that really changed with every decade. He played the era. Miles Davis always stayed relevant with the times. He always wanted his music to reflect the time period that he was living in. He didn’t want it to be old. He was always searching for the new thing and what was hot at the time because he wanted to be a part of that.”
Glasper—who will bring his Robert Glasper Experiment to ESSENCE Festival, June 30-July 3 in New Orleans—took inspiration from Davis’ bravery. ‘When they look at me and see what I’m doing,” he says, “some people frown and be like, ‘That’s not really jazz.’ Yes it is. It’s jazz 2016. Miles was already mixing hip-hop with jazz before he died. Miles Davis had the most courage of any jazz musician ever. It takes courage to do that, to always want to keep it moving and go against what everybody else thinks.”