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My interview with Marcus Miller and Ashley Kahn at North Sea Jazz Festival


Marcus Miller – Jason Miles North Sea Jazz Festival with Ashley Kahn 70802023


AK: An Association and friendship that began many years ago specifically in 1979 in New York and I have to tell you I hit New York in 78 and there were certain sounds in the air that over the next few years just became so prevalent that these two gentlemen were responsible for many, many of those sounds that were hitting by the early 80’s, mid 80’s.


Their professional relationship began in 1979 specifically when Jason Miles from Brooklyn put together a band for his album Cosmopolitan. Then almost five years later they meet again, Jason Miles and Marcus Miller, to work on the first album by a group called The Jamaica Boys, a real all-star group that featured Marcus, Lenny White, Mark Stevens, Bernard Wright and Jason Miles doing the synthesizer programming. And not to overstate it but this is the kind of thing that most of the music vibe probably would not know. The sounds that they would create together as a team in the studio would have a profound effect on the careers of many stars like Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Chaka Kahn, Roberta Flack, David Sanborn and would also help shape the sound of jazz, R&B and pop in the 1980’s and 90’s.


Please welcome Marcus Miller and Jason Miles.


Thank you so much for being here. Marcus, I know you just came off the stage, yet another fantastic show here in North Sea.


MM: Thank you, thank you.


AK: Thank you for sharing your time and energy to come here. Jason is a new European. He has made his home now in Portugal and you’ll probably be seeing him a lot here in Europe as he proceeds to perform and tour in Europe as well. Jason, thank you.


JM: My pleasure man. One thing I want to say is just to clear up something. This was Marcus’s music we were doing. This was the music of Marcus. He wrote songs and he would call me and say hey man, I’m going to do this album with Roberta Flack , I want to tell you what’s happening. The Miles stuff was legendary of getting a call and telling me that he had tunes from Miles and he was now on Warner Brothers and let’s make some demos. This was his music that I was able to participate and create the sound of and that was an honor.


AK: Marcus, as far as your career too, let’s just kick it off. Where were you in the late 70’s and early 80’s? What was in your mind as far as what you wanted to do?


MM: Late 70’s I started off playing funk and soul music and then got tuned onto jazz in high school so by the time it go to like 76-77 I was trying to figure out a way to combine the two. (3:32) fusion band, played with Lenny White’s fusion band and I was playing with (3:38) and playing a whole bunch of different stuff and in terms of my own compositions I was trying to figure out a way to marry the two in a way that hadn’t been done or at least a way that’s personal for me.


I’ll tell you about Jason Miles. I got a call in 77-78-79 and he was telling me that he was doing this album. I had never heard of this guy and he’s doing an album and I said okay, who else are you working with? I got Mike Brecker on the project. I said if you have Mike Brecker then I’m sure it’s going to be a good date. So I said yes and showed up at the studio and Mike’s there and we recorded the first son and Mike goes – the only reason I’m doing this is because Jason said you’re going to be on it. I said oh, this guy’s a genius. So it just was my first experience in seeing how smart he was in terms of how to put people together and how to arrange things.


So then I was doing studio work in the beginning of the 80’s, 79-80 doing studio work and if you guys doing know what studio work is you’re a musician for hire and you go from studio to studio and play for recording sessions with an artist. This was way before people could do that with computers.


So you’d call your answering service, you had people who took messages for you and they would say Arif Mardin needs you from 10:00 to 1:00. It’s a recording session with the Bee Gees or recording session for Aretha Franklin and you’d show up and the music would be there and you’d read the music and do a couple of takes and then you’d go to the next session. That was my life in the early 80’s.


At the same time I was playing gigs at night in the jazz clubs in New York so I could make a name for myself. So that was kind of like my world, doing sessions during the day and then gigging in New York at night getting a name for myself.


And then Miles Davis decided he wanted he wanted to come out of retirement. He had been in retirement for about 5 years and when he came out of retirement he met saxophone player named Bill Evans, not the piano player Bill Evans but the saxophone player Bill Evans and Miles said to Bill I need a funky bass player, who’s a bass player, funky. And Bill said call this kid Marcus. So I got a call from Miles and showed up at the session. He recorded an album called The Man With The Horn and then he asked me to be in his band. So that was the beginning of my relationship with Miles.


Stayed with Miles’s band for a couple of years until…


AK: Can I just say three words – Backseat Betty.


MM: Yes, Backseat Betty, that was a pretty funky tune on that. It was called The Man With The Horn, that was a pretty funky tune on that.


AK: That was his return album. Backseat Betty, big track.


MM: Oh wow, thank you.


AK: Because of the bass-line.


MM: We had a good time. It was my first time in Europe, first time in all the different places. My first time in Holland was with Miles. So it was beautiful. I left after a couple of years, I wanted to develop more as a composer and a producer. I left but then I came back to Miles around 85 because he had moved from Columbia records as he had been with for many years. He moved to Warner Brothers Records and I knew the guys at Warner Brothers from having worked already with Al Jarreau, David Sanborn, Lou Rawls, Warner Brothers artists. Tommy said we got Miles, you got any music from Miles? So I hung up the phone from Tommy and this bass-line just jumped in my head, ) so I went home and started working on a demo so I could send it to Tommy…


AK: That bass line !


MM: Yeah, right after I hung up the phone I got home, worked up the demo, called Jason because we’ve been working together as he said with Jamaica Boys and we had fallen into a nice thing. Jason had every synthesizer that was ever created, like every one. And so what he would do was he’d bring them all…


AK: We should add that the early 80’s is when there’s this explosion of technology happening with digital synthesizers.


JM: No, it was analog synthesizers basically but I think the big change was was the sampling. The sampling of like Trevor Horn with Art of Noise and stuff like that and the ability to go now and create sounds from anything. So I think the fun part was when you played me that bass line and then you said no, we need something open this thing up with ,what are we going to open up with ? And I said let me check it out and then I broke out the orchestra hits. That’s it, okay. People heard that man, they freaked out when they first heard that.


AK: Orchestra hits is a whole orchestra in one note.


JM: Like Owner of a Lonely Heart. That’s the horn hit. I would take CD’s like Stravinsky and stuff like that and I’d listen to them and go oh, there’s something over there and I would just grab it off the CD.


When we were doing Jamaica Boys, with People Make the World Go Around we started with that and Lenny White hasn’t met an orchestra hit that he didn’t love.


MM: Owner of a Lonely Heart, that was a real famous orchestra hit.


AK: By the group Yes.


MM: Yes, exactly. And Jason had a few different ones and that immediately gets your attention. I said I would love to have some people singing the bass line and Jason said I just happen to have samples of voices. So I played the bass and then we recorded it. The voices made it sound really eerie and I was playing the bass line with the voices sound that Jason gave me, I can imagine Miles’s face scowling at you.


AK: Which kind of became the cover of the album.


MM: It became the cover of the album. That’s how we kind of got going with Miles. I said hey man, I need strings or I need some weird thing and he was always walking in the studio saying hey man, I have a sample of a whale song or something like that.


JM: Yeah, whale singing. He’d always find some way to use a sound, you know what I mean. If I’d whip something out he might come up with a thing at that moment and the song that comes to my mind is Don’t Lose Your Mind because that was like in a way our Art of Noise for Miles because Marcus, it’s funny, I write about it in my book saying Marcus goes we’re going to use Jason Miles in an hour and a half, just wait, don’t go anywhere. Okay. He goes I’m coming back to you man. He was like putting me through this little motion and all of a sudden we started working with the lights down in the studio and we started working on Don’t Lose Your Mind and putting up all the samples and the huge kick drum and all the different things to get Miles to react to all the sounds.


MM: And we would put crazy sounds on the record and Miles didn’t know what was happening. He was still home and then we’d have him show up at the studio and write out the music for him. He’d sit in the chair with the music in front of him and headphones and then all of a sudden he’d hear all these crazy sounds and sometimes it sounded like they were coming at you and he’d duck sometimes.


JM: Car crashes.


MM: He had a ball doing that.


AK: And he was into that.


JM: Oh, big time.


AK: That’s so different from playing with a live band in the studio.


JM: I keep on saying – I told this story many times – Marcus stood there and asked him we can get some cats from the band on the record and Miles went this is happening, you know, this is the way it’s going to be.


AK: We’re describing a lot of the music


JM: Sure.


AK: Here’s a montage from you guys of some Marcus/Jason greatest hits including Miles’s (12:53). Let’s hear it now. It’s a montage of different moments of these type of recordings – Luther Vandross, Chaka Kahn etc.


How did it feel for you guys..


MM: It was great. A couple I had forgotten until just now and it’s really great to hear. We had the pleasure of working with some of the most important voices of that era. Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Chaka Kahn and David Sanborn and Roberta Flack. It’s just amazing to hear that music and realize that you had that incredible opportunity to work with them.


JM: What I always thought was really interesting was the growth around the music with the technology that as the years started going on and more of the technology was available we were tapping into that and I would bring more interesting stuff to the studio and then you would see what was going on and you would understand how you wanted to weave that into the music because now we were growing with the instruments .


We did Tutu we had great synthesizers on there but by the time we got to Chaka (1991) we were using refrigerator racks of synthesizers . We were basically doing anything we wanted to do. Marcus said to me horns of doom, we need the horns and I was able to get there and create this. One of the songs that Marcus probably forgot about was a tune called Jilli on Amandla where Marcus was totally infatuated with camels. I had no idea why but Camel Island and everything but he goes – Jason, we need the camel horns man. And we did this thing, it sounded like a freakin’ camel horns. I don’t know what the camel horns are but that’s what it sounded like you know.


MM: Camels are really beautiful and graceful from a distance and then when you get close they get funky. I kinda like that contrast.


JM: But that was the interesting thing because I always said this, the most important thing to me was like from my end is like his writing was really deep man. These are deep songs. Power of Love has got like layers upon layers. Some of the tunes like Don’t Wanna Be a Fool, there’s like 40 tracks of keyboards on it. So how do you do it to not like Luther Vandross said sound like a big accordion, you know. And what you have to do in terms of kind of understand how you’re going to weave it into the music and I think that the good thing was that Marcus was able to really explain to me what it was because if I work with other producers I felt like the music always came out really good and producers and artists were happy but they never achieved the communication that was needed to make that kind of stuff happen and we spent the time in the studio doing that.


AK: Do you think the reason might have been that both you guys have sort of jazz background in addition to other styles ?


MM: Well jazz demands that you be flexible and there’s a demand to jazz that you continue to grow. Lots of other styles the artist basically figures out who they are, what they do well and they just perfect that for the rest of their life which there’s nothing wrong with that. But in jazz, just because the guys before us were always pushing that kind of set the standard for us to try to push. So we were doing that with technology too. At first it was just novel just to have a drum machine. Ten years later the drum machine was cool but there were other things that you could do and it’s continuing to this day. It’s incredible, it’s a double edged sword because it put a lot of musicians out of work.


As a matter of fact when I first came to the studio and played the demo for Tommy LiPuma for the Miles thing, Tommy said let’s record it and I said okay. Where’s the band? And Tommy said well I want it to sound just like your demo, who played on the demo? I said that’s all me, I just played all the instruments. He said well get all your stuff to the studio. I said man, this is not like an R&B record, this is a jazz record. He said Miles wants to do something different, he wants to really kind of change the direction so let’s try it and we’ll see what Miles thinks when he comes in. When Miles came in he was thrilled. He was like “Yes please keep going”


JM: Yeah. How many times really that Miles would say to me and I know he said it to you, he goes – Man, Marcus and you man, you hooked me up man, you know what I mean. He would say that a number of times. To me I was like okay, I’m a Jewish guy from Brooklyn New York man. We got a lot of angst, we got all this other stuff.


AK Bronx!


JM there you go I would always say you know, I mean, wow, Miles Davis is like really putting this on. Marcus, he can handle this . Me, I don’t know man, I’m feeling like this is happening to me you know, and all I’m doing is trying to create something that I know how to create and that’s what happened.


There were other albums too also. He did Da Butt.


MM: Yeah, it was a big dance hit in the States.


JM: Huge.


MM: Spike Lee filmed the record. He did a movie called School Daze and he called me and asked me to produce this dance hit for a group called EU and the beat was go-go. That’s a style of music particular to Washington DC.


Anyway, my thing was I’d just call Jason and say bring your sounds. He’d bring all the synthesizers and I’d say what’s that blue thing? What’s that sound like? He’d play a couple sounds. Let me figure out what I can play on that. So it was great because you were always getting inspired by like a new sound.


JM: Like I said, layer it so that each have a character to them. It’s really important, like you said, when you hear like the string line, there’s also a violin line in there also and that’s gotta sound different and then also the synth pad. Why is that synth pad different than the one that we’re using on the other section? How do you go and create those parts.


On that Sanborn album and Any Love also, Any Love is basically Marcus, myself and

Nat Adderly Jr. Buddy Williams did some drum overdubs and Paul Jackson Jr on guitar. Power of Love is the same thing. But you know, it was there to happen. It was there to make happen because the technology let it happen and he was all in with it.


AK: You know, even to this day there’s that kind of resistance from jazz, to technology getting too far over that line, you guys are a perfect picture of that, finding the balance. What was the vibe when you were first putting that stuff out with Miles?


MM: Miles was completely excited about it. And when the record came out there were people who absolutely loved the record. There’s one friend who’s in all sorts of stuff but there are also people who felt like this is over the line. The technology has taken over. And

Mtume said something really interesting, he said, you know, a microphone is technology, you know, nobody’s supposed to hear a saxophone that loud, nobody is supposed to hear an acoustic piano that loud or an acoustic bass. We’ve always used technology. Technology has always shaped the music. I mean, when Leo Fender invented the bass guitar in 1935 that was technology. That completely revolutionized music because now the music could be louder because up until the bass guitar nobody could hear the bass. There were electric guitars, the drums which had volume but the bass was always too soft. He invented the electric bass and all of a sudden now we can all play with more power and that’s how you got rock and roll. Technology, the ability to record an instrument and then rewind the tape and add another instrument to it. The Beatles discovered that. What’s the landmark Beatles album?


JM: Sgt. Pepper.


MM: Sgt. Pepper. Technology has always played a part in music and it’s just about where you decide to draw the line.


JM: It also starts with having a song you can do something with. If you got that then you can experiment and do whatever you want to do and the material that was happening, everybody wanted Marcus to write them a freakin’ song, you know what I mean. Write me a hit. Roberta. Write me a hit with Oasis.


I have to say to myself, he wrote the forward of my book. He said I had a front row seat to all of this stuff. I was sitting there watching everybody. Tommy.


MM: Yeah, he would turn the synthesizers on and show me the sounds and then he’d go back in the lounge and see all the stuff that was happening between the artist and arguments and conversations and I got my head buried in the synthesizers.


JM: But you had to go and bury yourself into it man. You couldn’t get out of that – you had to be in that space because the concentration level for what we were doing was so heavy and remember you’d say to me you know man, that sound, it’s just a little bit overhanging into that part over there. We gotta fix that. Then we’d have to fix it and so all of a sudden the next part comes in perfectly. That could have taken us 2 hours or 3 hours to do sometimes because when you got to the moment of perfection and you’re sitting back with 24 tracks, the sound in the studio don’t lie. It will tell you if it’s right or it’s wrong.


I remember a couple of beautiful moments when Luther meets Scritti Politti on the Any Love Album. I remember that day When we were working on the song Comeback, I remember Russ Titleman (Producer) walking in the studio and we were working… we were on it. We were freakin’ on it man and Russ was sitting there going you guys are just killing me.


AK: I should add that when you really peak out on music you don’t look at the front of the cover of an album, you look at the back of it and you start reading all the names. You didn’t

even know who these people are and their names kept popping up again and again and again and the producers that they worked with were all the top pop producers. Tommy Lipoma was mentioned. I just wanted to put context. These are the giants of the music industry in the 80’s and 90’s.


JM: I feel in a lot of ways also, you know how it went with Marcus and myself but working with Tommy was a trip all the time also man. He was a character and a half of characters. I learned a lot from him. Putting together a recording session and other lesson I learned to become a real Producer.


MM: It was cool to watch people of a generation before us like Miles and Tommy Lipoma who probably about the same age as Miles, watch them experience the technology and experiment a new way of making music and like you said…


AK: And to open the door.


MM: Yeah. Most people their age were resistant to it but they were really open and they wanted to see what these kids were doing, what they were into and try to find a way to create something that would last, not just be kind of for the moment. The issue with using technology is that because technology keeps advancing. You stand a chance of your record sounding dated, you know, because the technology. Oh, that sounds like the 80’s.


AK: 1980.


MM: Yeah, exactly. And some of our music reminds you very much of 1983 but some of them you can listen to today. I still go wow and I think that’s because if it’s a good song then that carries it through


Same with the 50’s. If you hear music from the 50’s some of it sounds like the 50’s and some of it even though it was done in the 50’s it sounds classic. So that’s what you experience when you’re making music. Some of the stuff is going to last. Some of it might not last so long.


JM: There’s still people want to hear the song or not. It all starts there and I keep on saying that the demise of great compositions has hurt the ability of the getting great songwriters out there. I mean, we used to sit in the studio and Luther would be passing on -oh, this is a Burt Bacharach song, I don’t like it. Pass on that.


I’ll never forget hearing Power of Love and Luther coming and Marcus telling me man, we got a great album, we need a real hit, a big hit . We probably spent two weeks on that Really did. You got a drum set in the studio because he’s a drummer too. We got drum set in the studio, started messing around. Sampling the drums, the drum machine, coming up with the beat, changing that beat, coming up with this one, changing that and then Luther tells me I’m singing and the angels have got to be holding me in the sky. That’s what I want the keyboard to sound like.


AK: Angels have to be in mid air.


JM: Yeah, in mid air. The clouds roll around me Jason, they’re around me, you know what I mean. Okay, we’ll get on it. Coming up…. clouds.


AK: I have one more question and I’d like to open it up to you guys. If you want to be part of the conversation, if you have a question come up to the stage and I’ll share the mic with you and ask Marcus or Jason.


Is there anything that you’re hearing today that gets you excited the same way where th ere’s new technology happening in a very creative was that’s been true to the music?


MM: Wow. I hear Kendrick Lamar stuff produced by Terrance Martin and I think he’s doing some really nice things. When we talked he goes I need to know what synthesizer you guys use on this record because I’m trying to get that sound so it feels like it’s a continuation.


AK: Did you give him Jason’s number?


MM: Yeah.


JM: Call Jason, yeah. I see it as a continuation also..So I’m in a restaurant in Lisbon and all of a sudden I’m hearing this background music. One thing that he didn’t mention, we used to use a lot of synth bass on stuff also. Marcus used to play the synth bass and we used to come up with fat Mini Moog bass sounds – so I’m like in Lisbon and listening to the music and all of a sudden I’m saying where is this music coming from man? I never heard this stuff before and I asked the waiter where are you getting this from? Oh, we have a music channel here that mostly plays songs that younger people are making.They’re making our music now because they’re not finding it– they’re finding that more interesting than what they’re hearing now and they want to go and get off on that.


Certainly Bruno Mars owes Luther a little bit anyway. Hear that Luther? A lot of people owe Luther a lot.


And also one moment Marcus sitting in the car one night said “I want to introduce you to Luther because we’re getting ready to make a new album and then I was in the airport in Antigua after he introduced me to Luther on our way to Montserrat and Luther immediately said Jason, I could sell out Radio City Music Hall anytime I want to sell out a concert hall.You know what? That’s not good enough anymore . I’m want to sell out Madison Square Garden and I need Marcus and I need you to deliver to me, you know what I mean? Pressure


We were sitting in the studio and we heard that Stop For Love playback, that was a moment. To me it was because that was the crossover moment to me where that song all of a sudden crossed Luther over. Nat and Luther wrote that song and we heard that in Montserrat, Ray Bardani had that song cranking.


And then that night Marsha Burns (Luther’s project coordinator ) came up to me and said that Luther wants me to work on the rest of the album..and I was like alright! And then two years later what happened? He’s in Madison Square Garden, And that’s the effect that it had that I was the most proud of, that we helped elevate the artist to the level they wanted to get to. And we did ..certainly with Miles.


AK: What’s ringing in my head is Antiqua, Montserrat, the days of destination recording and nowadays it’s all on a laptop.


MM: Yeah. George Martin who produced the Beatles, he built a studio on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. Beautiful studio. I think it was based on a London studio called Air Studio. Luther wanted to do an album where the musicians weren’t distracted by all the other sessions that they were taking during the week. He wanted them focused on his thing so he went and got this studio on this island of Montserrat and flew us all down there to make a record. It’s pretty awesome. He was right because the musicians were all tuned in to Luther for the whole time we were there and we had a very special recording. It’s called The Night I Fell In Love. Give Me The Reason. Really smart move. Really expensive move, very smart move.


JM: When you’re spending a million dollars and then you’re making back ten and then you have a two year tour behind that I think it’s a good investment. The one thing also was that, you know when you talk about technology, that tune the Rush. That’s got some stuff going on and that I had to come back to the LA for more recording because Luther had a fight with Aretha Franklin and he yanked their duet off the album and they called me up at 3:00 in the morning and said come back to LA. I Came back to LA and Marcus had been working on this track called The Rush and that tune is really high technology man. It’s a killer.


Luther sometimes will also go – like when we did Here and Now and he flew us to LA and it took just two hours to finish the track and he comes up to Marcus and goes “oh Marcus, you gotta write me a new song. We need another song. We gotta do it this week. So write me a new song. I’ll see ya later” He told us I want it clubby, “I want it funky, do all the crazy stuff” He knew he had Here and Now that was going to be a smash so Luther wanted to be hip and he wanted that kind of production. Marcus was tuned in and said give me some cool club sounds, give me this and that’s what happened with that song called Treat You Right.


AK: This is such an amazing story and we’re touching on technology and it strikes me that this is – I don’t want to say it is, I want to put a question mark on it, we’re gone past the age of physical formats where we had record company profits etc and they had enough to be able to pay for a million dollar recording session..it made sense


With streaming and the way the music industry is now, most of the profits yielding from songwriting and publishing its a different day and age.


JM: Gone. It doesn’t exist.


MM: Absolutely. The music business is completely different. To make a record used to cost if you were a pop artist it could cost anywhere from a quarter of a million to a million dollars because of the studio time, paying all the musicians and now everybody has a studio in their house and if you can afford a laptop you’ve got the basic tools to make a record so there’s not as much profit in making records. So I think we were part of a golden era. I can’t really see it coming back. I can see it coming back as kind of a throwback thing where people are going to make a vintage sounding record or old school record but I think it’s moving forward and now with AI in there, even songwriting, even writing songs is coming into question now is being threatened. We were very fortunate. We don’t know which way the future is going because there are all sorts of possibilities but it makes what we did be more precious.


JM: Yeah.


AK: Any questions? Tell us who you are.


Q: Marcus the musicians that played with you today ,why and how did you choose them.


MM: I don’t know if you heard. She asked me how did I choose the musicians who played with us this afternoon and this evening. You know, always looking for like the next crop of talented musicians and I met a couple of guys from Berklee College of Music which is a really famous music college in the States and so I would just ask one guy to introduce me to the next guy. Do you have any friends who are great drummers and the start recommending so I just kind of used my young musicians as resources to find them. I’m looking for musicians who can play a lot of different styles like hip hop and funk, jazz authentically and there’s a lot of musicians who can play sort of jazzy but it’s not the real thing. I’m looking for people who can play the real thing and I’m looking for people who can be spontaneous because I like to change things around, like no forget the saxophone, I want to hear the piano solo right here and I need somebody to go I didn’t know I was going to solo on this song but I’ll figure something out and I really enjoy that. You really get to see how great a musician is when they can do that.


JM: Also in New York there’s a lot of cats. Myself, I’m always asking different people who’s a happening drummer right now. And I’ll tell you something interesting, you have Snarky Puppy playing here tonight, I’d say maybe 8 years ago or something like that, I need a bass player and I ask the drummer who’s the bass player you like playing with? You know who Michael League is? I said no. He’s got this band Snarky Puppy and they’re trying to get off the ground but you should check him out, he’s really good. For about a year and a half Michael League was playing with me and and recording with me, and the next thing you know boom. You go and you ask the cats that know you want to know a great bass player? Ask a drummer. You want to know a great drummer ask a bass player, you know what I mean and there ya go.


AK: Great question. Thank you.



JM: I remember listening to Catembe from Amandla in the studio and all of a sudden I’m working in there and hear this solo,I ask who is that saxophone player man? And Tommy says says Kenny Garrett. I’m going I don’t know this guy man but he’s blowing my mind. When you hear somebody for the first time you know that that’s got a magic to it.I heard him for the first time and he was Miles’s foil now for how many years.


Q: Audience question about Miles Davis


MM: A couple of things. In certain environments people ask me about Miles and I’m very happy to talk about Miles. In other environments people ask me about Luther and I’m very happy to talk about them. In certain kind of pockets of the world different people who I’ve worked with are the topic of conversation. That’s cool. There will never be another Miles Davis. There will never be a golden era of jazz in my opinion. The life in America in the 20’s through the 70’s created jazz. Music doesn’t exist on its own. Music is simply a reflection of the time in which it was created. So when you have WWII, when you have Civil Rights, when you have assassinations of 5 major figures in a 10 year period, these things might not happen all at the same time again. So you have to understand that that era of jazz is special and there are going to be people who dedicate their lives.


I was just in Copenhagen hearing a guy who was 22 playing like Red Garland from 1955, it’s always going to happen. But you also have people who are going to push and try to create something new. It’s hard to create something new of an art form that’s existed for almost 80 years now. That’s why if you have a lot of really innovative things happening in hip hop because it’s a younger genre, it’s hard to say something in jazz that hasn’t been said already. What you hear a lot now is artists who take a little bit of what happened before combine that something else that happened before and we present it to young people. I’ve heard that a lot. I’ve heard a couple of people who have something new to say but I’ve heard a lot more people who are presenting something old but to a younger audience who have experienced it for the first time. So I’m being honest with you. I think that period is a magical period in American history that I don’t think will be repeated but will have other periods that will create something. It might not be jazz or it might be a new sound of jazz. I don’t know. But that’s my opinion.


JM: One thing I was going to say was that I think bringing the international vibe into it, myself, that’s something that I’ve always paid attention to if I had to bring Indian music in with using tablas using this to fuse jazz a little more. Brazilian music, I’ve made some Brazilian albums that fuse jazz and Brazilian. You can look into another space also. America is where the music was born, or Africa. Afro Jazz, Afro Pop. There’s ways to fuse things together that create a sound and build electronics into it and also create something. It’s there, it’s just I think that requires the knowledge of the music that Marcus is talking about, to be able to fuse it together like that and go and say you know, this is something that’s interesting that’s happening. I’ve always kind of looked at that and kind of really helped me get into that with Joe Zawinul who was into fusing world things.


An anecdote – Ask Joe Zawinul. Where’s the future of jazz? The future of jazz my friend will be in Detroit tomorrow night at our next gig.


Q: Thank you guys so much for doing this especially just coming off the stage. I love that Luther Vandross made it sound like a big accordion. My question is when putting a song together how do you know when – or do you have like a metric or a test for (49:27), how do you know when there’s nothing left to add and nothing left to take away?


MM: That’s exactly what it is. It’s the same challenge that a painter has when you put the brush down when you’re done and a lot of painters have told me that they went past that point and ruined it. A lot of records that I’ve worked on I ran right past the finish line. But as you do it more and more you start to have a real sense. And the thing is it probably doesn’t need that last element that you think it needs. It probably doesn’t. As soon as the record, it’s getting the feeling that you need you’re probably done. But that’s the trick with all art, not just music, not just painting, how do you know when you’re done?


JM: Books also right Ashley? Writing a book also. I’m here, I have a book out. Marcus wrote the forward for it. This stuff is a lot of the stuff we did. It’s called The Extraordinary Journey of Jason Miles. It’s on Amazon. It tells you the whole story which helped me and everything and when you write something it’s like okay – I sent it to Ashley and Ashley was like you got a story to tell, you need an editor. Yeah but it’s 500 pages. I gave it to an editor and there were 285 pages. And then I read it back and was like yeah, this guy knew what he was talking about. Leave it up to me it would be a 500 page.


It is the same way. I’ve seen Marcus in the studio cut back and not use various things that we did because he said this is over the top man. We gotta take it back a little bit. And it works. It does. It works. It’s intuition.


MM: I was racing cars and the race instructor, he said don’t go past your limit. I said dude, how do you know what your limit is unless you got past it? He said yeah, you got a point there. But don’t do it often.


JM: Marcus was on the Jamaica Boys race team.


AK: I think we have time for one more question.


Q: I consider myself as one of the biggest Marcus Miller fans. I own 60 hours of Marcus Miller music.


MM: Really?


Q: I want to thank you for the groove in my life.


MM: Wow, man, you’re very welcome. Thank you.




Q: I’m not from around here and I just want to thank you and I wonder do you ever get nervous or do you ever have stage fright?


MM: I don’t have stage fright but what I do hope is that the technology won’t fail me. I play the electric bass right? So you know, every once in a while I’ll hit that first note, everybody is waiting for that first note and there’s nothing there because the amp’s not working or something like that. So as soon as I hit the first note and I know that my bass is working then I’m good. I’m more excited to get on stage than nervous. And because we play music with improvisation, I don’t have to worry about playing something perfect. If you’re a classical singer I gotta hit that high note, I have to hit it perfect. If I missed a note I’ll just make like I intended to miss it. I may miss it again the second time. Make something out of it. It’s a different experience for me.


JM: A lot of artists also, one in particular who I should mention, she said I’m going to do this gig, I’m so nervous. Nervous? I have stage fright all the time. That’s impossible. You really realize that people do have that at times.


MM: One more thing, I know we’re running out of time. People who are like the management, like the tour managers, he can never figure out why, he says okay everybody, it’s time to go to the stage. That’s when everybody needs to use the bathroom. They never really get that we’re going out on the stage, some people feel maybe let me find one thing that I can do to delay this thinguntil I get out there.


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