Jason Miles has raised the level of excellence for the musicians who have had the good fortune of working with him, myself included. He has enriched the lives of the millions of people who have listened to the music he plays, the recordings he produces and the countless musicians he mentors and inspires. The work he did with my friends, Miles Davis and Marcus Miller have helped to define the modern face of jazz music.
Roberta Flack, July 2014
In an industry where copycatting and contrivance is too often encouraged and true creativity and innovation is needed but not always rewarded, Jason Miles has stood his ground as a true musical visionary.
From his groundbreaking synth programming on Miles Davis’ 80s masterpieces Tutu, Music From Siesta and Amandla to Kind of New, his critically acclaimed 2015 recording with trumpeter Ingrid Jensen that celebrates Davis’ spirit, the Grammy Award winning New York native— dubbed by one insightful veteran journalist as the “Quincy Jones of Contemporary Music”—has consistently brought the highest level of artistry to his multi-faceted recordings (as both producer and artist) and live performances.
Miles has not only helped shape the landscape of contemporary jazz, but also brought his rich sonic textures as a keyboardist, arranger and producer to artists in a multitude of genres, from R&B/pop to Latin Jazz, Brazilian music and even children’s music and country (producing Suzy Boguss’ Sweet Danger). His many years of collaboration with Marcus Miller include not only the Miles Davis projects but also classic recordings by David Sanborn (A Change of Heart, Close Up, Upfront) and Luther Vandross (The Power of Love, Any Love, Give Me the Reason).
Committed to pushing the envelope of sonic possibilities and bringing out the best in the artists and musicians he vibes with, Miles has worked over the years with a proverbial who’s who of contemporary music: Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Michael Brecker, The Crusaders, Ruben Blades, Freddy Cole, George Benson, Joe Sample, Herb Alpert, Vanessa Williams, Grover Washington Jr., Lea Salonga and many others.
He has performed at top festivals and venues throughout the world, including Monterey Jazz Festival, Jazz Aspen, Umbria Jazz, North Sea, Jacksonville Jazz Fest, Jazz Fest NOLA and Tokyo Blue Note.
The first project on the Whaling City sound label to also be released on vinyl, Kind of New – inspired by Davis’ legendary 1970 “Cellar Door” sessions – offers a journey into the future of jazz via a fresh vibe that fuses electric and acoustic grooves with infectious melodies and virtuosic performances. Miles and Jensen are joined on the recording by an array of renowned jazz talents, including Jay Rodriguez, James Genus, Jeff Coffin, Adam Dorn, Amanda Ruzza, Steve Wolf, Jon Wikan, Nir Felder, Cyro Baptista, Mike Clark and Jerry Brooks. Miles and Jensen are set to release a follow up single “Blue is Paris,” dedicated to the victims of the November terrorists attacks in the city.
In addition to hitting the Top 20 on the JazzWeek charts, Kind of New has received stellar reviews across the board from prominent jazz media platforms. Marc Meyers from Jazzwax.com and Wall Street Journal wrote, “Kind of New is a new chapter in fusion’s evolution.” Jeff Tamarkin of Jazz Times echoed: “This music is crafted in the spirit of Miles Davis, but is very much of its own time. Kind of New…it’s kind of NOW!” George Cole of Jazzwise in the UK gave it 4 Stars. Devon Wendell from the International Review of Music (a site created by renowned jazz critic Don Heckman) wrote, “This album will long be remembered as one of the most impressive and masterful Miles Davis tributes by two outstanding artists.”
Since the passing of Grover Washington, Jr. in 1999, Miles has been dedicated to celebrating and perpetuating his legacy for future generations. In addition to conceiving, producing and arranging two very successful all-star contemporary jazz 2 Grover With Love recordings, Miles - who did the synth programming on the saxophone legend’s 1987 date Strawberry Moon – paid tribute to Washington in an even more intimate way: by producing and executive producing Grover Live, a 2010 issue of a live concert Washington performed at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill, New York in 1997. Miles’ tireless work in bringing this recording to the public—thereby introducing the power of Washington’s music to a new generation of contemporary jazz listeners—is reflective of his commitment to keeping the great music of the past alive while keeping his eye on and exploring exciting future possibilities.
Also on the Grover front, in March 2015, Miles performed a “To Grover, With Love” tribute concert before over 5,000 people at the Capetown Jazz Festival in South Africa. Joining him for the show were saxophonists Marion Meadows and Elan Trotman, bassist Gerald Veasley and vocalist Maya Azucena. In March 2016, Miles will be releasing the album To Grover, With Love Live in Japan, a compilation of ten shows performed at the Blue Note Tokyo in June 2010. Featured guests include saxophonists Andy Snitzer and Eric Darius and the late percussionist Ralph MacDonald, who penned Grover’s trademark hits “Mister Magic” and “Just The Two of Us.” Miles will be performing “To Grover, With Love” shows throughout 2016, including August 28 at the Hollywood Bowl.
In 2008, Global Noize, Miles’ new group formed around his partnership with DJ Logic, released its self titled debut and performed Jazz Fest In New Orleans; the live show included musicians from across the spectrum,including Christian Scott, John Popper, Bernie Worrell, Me’Shell Ndgeocello, Billy Martin, Suphala, Cyro Baptista and James Genus. Hailed by All Music Guide as “the 2000s equivalent to the way Weather Report and Return to Forever drove the spirit of jazz fusion in the 70s,” Global Noize—driven in part by Miles’ expansive, socially conscious vision—created a boundary breaking, freewheeling swirl of jazz, funk, electronic, world fusion and blues that’s all at once grounded, trippy and sensual, and – with the ethereal vocals of Falu – also transcendent and spiritual.
In 2013, Global Noise released its powerhouse follow-up, a Sly and the Family Stone inspired set called Sly Reimagined. Participants included Roberta Flack, Nona Hendryx, Mike Mattison, Ingrid Jensen, Jeff Coffin and others. The collection received critical praise from every corner of the globe, and was named the #1 contemporary Jazz release of 2013 by Jazziz magazine. It received over 40 5-star reviews and was the cover story in the December 2013 issue of Jazz Inside magazine. Miles’ interview with noted journalist Anil Prasad is an expansive overview that covers his 40 years in the music.
Continuing to produce exciting up and coming and veteran artists who inspire him, Miles in late 2015 headed to London to produce two recordings for veteran jazz singer Beverly Beirne; the first of these is Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun, featuring jazz re-imaginings of classic 70s and 80s pop hits. During his European trip, he found out just how much jazz fans on the continent appreciate him and his legacy of recordings. He engaged in a series of dynamic magazine and radio interviews with many prominent jazz voices, including Jean-Charles Doukhan & Sebastien Vidal of TSF jazz Radio-Paris; George Cole of Jazzwise; Chris Philips of Jazz FM; George Haffenden of the web magazine The Funk and Soul Revue; Frederic Goaty of Jazz Magazine in France; Philippe Baron of Musiq 3 Radio; Jempi Samyn of FM Brussel; Jean-Pierre Goffin of Jazz’Halo + Jazzaround Vers L’Avenir magazines; Patrick Bivort of Classic 21 Radio; and Jacques Prouvost of the web mag Jazzques.
Miles is expanding his reach into the journalistic realm with a new column on the popular gear site Headphone.Guru.com. His first piece was on Dave Smith, who built the Prophet V, was the inventor of Midi and is now head of Dave Smith instruments.
Looking back on his fascinating, far reaching career, Miles says, “I’ve learned so much from the great players I have been fortunate enough to work with and they have made me a much better musician and person,” he adds. “I’m always thinking about the listeners and the audience and how important it is to bring them something special that can make a difference in their lives. The industry has presented its challenges along the way, but there has been so much beauty among the disappointment. All I ever wanted was a chance to play music and make a living at it, and I’m grateful to have had these rich experiences, surrounded by so
many talented and loving people. I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.”