Wilburn is not the only one with that opinion, but chances are his uncle didn’t express the same sentiment about its impact and importance. Not only did Miles Davis dislike labels to be placed on his music, he also didn’t like to rank one album over another or wax poetic about his past, according to Wilburn.
“When I was playing with him,” says Wilburn, referring to the mid-1980s, “all he wanted to do was talk about the next concert and what we could do to make the music better.”
Erin Davis concurs.
“I don’t think [my father] ever thought that anything was more special than what he was working on at the time,” says Erin Davis, who like Wilburn is a drummer. “Some guys, you ask them [about the past], and they’ll look back and say, ‘That was a real good time for me.’ For him, it was more about the guys he was around, the sound he was trying to get and then he’d move on to something else.”
Since Miles Davis’ death in 1991 at age 65, the Miles Davis Estate and Miles Davis Properties have been keeping his legacy alive in various ways. One pitch that piqued their interest right away was one for a Bitches Brew ale. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery founder and president Sam Calagione says his friend Adam Block, senior vice president and general manager of Legacy Recordings, came to him with the idea, which was then presented to the estate.
Calagione, who years ago listened to Davis’ “Bitches Brew” while writing up the Dogfish business plan, describes the commemorative ale as “rowdy, roasty, sweet, inky and complex – just like the album.”
Fans interested in the Bitches Brew ale, which will feature the album’s artwork on its label, should jump on it quick. Calagione says roughly 4,000 cases will be made, and they will hit shelves nationwide on the same day as the Columbia/Legacy reissues.
Available now are Davis-namesake headphones from Monster Cable Products. Retailing at $499.95, the Miles Davis Tribute in-ear headphones “are designed and precision-tuned to accurately reproduce the unique acoustic tones of jazz,” according to the official Monster site, but they are also suitable for other styles of music. Appropriately enough, these headphones, the first audio hardware product to bear Davis’ name and signature, are packed in a case that resembles his trumpet case.
There are more Davis-related materials coming later this year. They include “The Genius of Miles Davis,” a limited-edition boxed set that’s designed as an actual trumpet case, and it is due in September. This collection will include eight deluxe multi-CD sets, among them “The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions” and “The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions.” (“The Genius of Miles Davis” can be preordered now at www.milesdavis.com, which recently was redesigned by the Davis estate and Sony Music.)
Meanwhile, Davis fans visiting Canada this summer can check out the “We Want Miles: Miles Davis vs. Jazz” exhibit that’s on display through Aug. 29 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The eight-part exhibit covers his life and career and features rare and previously unscreened concert film footage as well as Davis’ stage costumes and trumpets, among other items.
Wilburn and Erin Davis say there has been strong interest in bringing the “We Want Miles” exhibit to New York, Brazil and Japan. As for the Miles Davis movie starring Don Cheadle, the cousins are excited to report that the project is moving forward. By the end of the summer, they expect to see a draft of the script, which will be co-written by Cheadle, who’s also going to direct the film.
And as if Cheadle doesn’t have enough on his plate already, he’s been taking trumpet lessons in preparation for the lead role.
“A couple of years ago, Cheadle had moved really fast to a fifth-grade level as a trumpet player,” Erin Davis says. “He’s probably well into the college level by now.”
Next year would have been Miles Davis’ 85th birthday, and Wilburn has already given serious thought about putting together a tour featuring various rhythm sections from Davis’ career.
“We always plan ahead,” Wilburn says.
For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store:
• A great resource for record collecting is Goldmine’s Standard Catalog of American Records, 1950-1975, 6th Edition,” in large paperback and DVD
• Check out an informative read in “The Everything® Rock & Blues Piano Book with CD, Master riffs, licks, and blues styles from New Orleans to New York City”
• Check out a download of the Top 50 Vinyl Records