The Last Miles - the Music Of Miles Davis 1980 - 1991
the last miles
the music of Miles Davis 1980 - 1991
a book by George Cole

published by Equinox Publishing in the UK
and University of Michigan Press in the USA
Read reviews and praise for The Last Miles


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Miles Davis's musical career began with Charlie Parker and ended with the rapper/producer Easy Mo Bee. In July 1991, Miles recorded six tracks with Easy Mo Bee as part of a planned hip-hop album. But the recordings were made barely a month before his death and so Miles never did complete the album. The resulting album, Doo-Bop, was released in 1992 amid much controversy over whether Miles should have been trying to mix jazz and hip-hop - the full debate can be found in The Last Miles. But since then, more and more artists have mixed jazz and hip-hop and opposition towards the fusing the two genres together is softening.

Now, thirteen years after the release of Doo-Bop, Easy Mo Bee has announced plans to remix Doo-Bop by adding singers, rappers and live musicians. In an exclusive interview for TheLastMiles.com, Easy Mo Bee talked about his plans and the motivation behind the project.

Doo-Bop 
Doo-Bop album cover

The Last Miles: The history of Miles Davis starts with Charlie Parker and ends with you - how does that make you feel?

Easy Mo Bee: You know, now that you said that, I guess you're right - I never really thought of that. It's an interesting way to put it! How do I feel about? Honoured. As I said, I never even thought it that way, so that's how amazing and astounding it is to me.

TLM: Doo-Bop had a mixed reaction when it was first released and there was some hostile reaction from both the jazz and hip-hop communities. Do you think that over the years, people have caught up with what you and Miles were doing in terms of fusing hip-hop and jazz?

EMB: Maybe, [although] not on a journalistic level but more on a personal, consumer-type level. A lot of people come back and say 'Yo, you did Doo-Bop! I had never really listened to that - that was nice man!' I'm glad to hear that, but I'm like 'where the hell were you ten years ago?!!'

Easy Mo Bee
Easy Mo Bee © Copyright and courtesy Easy Mo Bee

TLM: What impact did working with Miles have on your career?

EMB: If you've got the opportunity to work with Miles and watch him and his own professionalism, it made me really want to be conscious of every little thing I did from that point on - it kinda upped my ante and made pay more attention to do the things I was doing. Because I worked with Miles, it led to me working on the Blue Note remix project [where hip-hop artists remixed classics music from jazz artists such as Donald Byrd and Horace Silver]. It paved the way for me to work with [saxophonist] Candy Dulfer. I was also supposed to work with [trumpeter] Tom Browne, but for some reason it didn't happen. But if you see this Tom, get in touch, because I still want it to happen!

TLM: If Miles had lived longer, would you two have done any further collaboration?

EMB: Oh yeah. Miles had plans for me to take me on tour and if you've got a guy who's looking to take you on tour, inevitably some time in the future we probably would have worked together again, which would have been great. That second time around, I definitely would have incorporated more live musicians into it, which what I intend to do with the Doo-Bop remix album.

TLM: How did the idea for a remix album come about?

EMB: I got the idea when I was rummaging through my stuff. I went to a merchandising convention in New York and all kinds of companies were there and I'm walking around and gathering literature and making contacts. And they had a booth dedicated to Jimi Hendrix. The Jimi Hendrix Estate was showing various items that were available - music, tee-shirts, memorabilia, what have you. So I picked up a catalogue and I found it later on when I went through my stuff and they're showing you things you can order - albums, tee-shirts, buttons whatever - and it just got into my mind 'why isn't the Miles Davis Estate as active as that?'

Miles Davis and Easy Mo Bee
Miles and Easy Mo Bee at the Doo-Bop sessions
Photo by Michael Benabib © Copyright Warner Bros Records

TLM: You've said that you wanted to do this album to bring Miles to a younger generation and keep his legacy alive in the same way that the Hendrix Estate had done this with Jimi?

EMB: There are 16- 17-year old kids who know who Jimi Hendrix is because of how active the [Hendrix] Estate is and in items of memorabilia and music that is available. So I'm thinking 'why shouldn't the world - including kids - know more about Miles?' That's when I had the idea for a new album. My new lawyer - Peter Shukat - was Miles's old lawyer. He's also the attorney for the Miles Davis Estate. He thought it was a wonderful idea, so it came at a perfect time.

TLM: Who'll be on the re-mixed Doo-Bop?

EMB: We already have a commitment from Alicia Keys - big shot to MDK Management/Entertainment, who handle her. They were very pleased with the work I just did with Alicia and when they heard about the concept for the Doo-Bop remix album, they called and said: 'Alicia would love to be on the album.' I wanna get really artsy with it - I don't mean that it's so artsy that it's corny, but I'm looking to be very selective with the featured artists. I definitely want to include more live musicians.

The last album was like a sampled hip-hop theme. Hip-hop will definitely be an element on the [remixed] album, but I'm looking to take it a little bit further - I want to take it higher. What I have as a dreamscape in my mind for the featured artists are people like Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Talib Kweli. One of the most gifted and talented people I've heard in the last ten years is D'Angelo. D'Angelo and Miles - it just gels in my mind. You know, it would also be great to have people who worked with Miles in his earlier career involved and, as far as people who are still alive, I can't think of anyone greater than Quincy Jones. Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller - these guys could take it to another level.

TLM: So are you negotiating with these artists?

EMB: We've begun to reach out to artists.

TLM: On Doo-Bop you re-worked two old Miles recordings and composed two new tunes, "Fantasy" and "High Speed Chase" around them. Would you like to do the same thing with the new album?

EMB: If they have some unreleased material they'd like to give to me to re-work, that would be fine too. In fact, I hope that would happen. Just to hear about any unreleased Miles should turn people on. I think it might be a bit easier doing it today too [at the time, there was a lot of controversy over making new music from old Miles recordings]. In other words, now is a better time to take chances. Look, if those guys could take Jay-Z's Black album and mix it with the The Beatles' White album [to produce the infamous Grey Album], then it's not such a risky time now! It shows the time is right for something like this.

Easy Mo Bee
Easy Mo Bee © Copyright and courtesy Easy Mo Bee

TLM: What do you think Miles would have done if he had lived longer?

EMB: Of course we can't bring him back to find out, but I think probably the next area would be maybe jungle, trip-hop, acid jazz. If Miles Davis was still alive I could picture him working with Tricky and experimenting with The Chemical Brothers. He'd covered everything else and there was nothing else to do, so experimenting with these guys would have fitted him.

TLM: When are you looking to release the album?

EMB: It's down to when we get a record company interested and I can't see a company not being interested. The younger kids today need to know more about Miles Davis and I think this album will help make that happen.

With special thanks to Joana Casas

Easy Mo Bee's official website: www.easymobee.com

back to Interviews index




The Last Miles US edition
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‘The best Miles Davis book ever.’ Randy Hall, singer/guitarist/producer, who worked with Miles in the 1980s

‘An important book.’ Brian Priestley, co-author of ‘The Rough Guide to Jazz’, jazz pianist, critic and reviewer

‘Very moving, emotional material.’ Gordon Meltzer, Miles’s last road manager and executive producer of the ‘Doo-Bop’ album

‘George Cole’s writing, his choice of references, his descriptions of many incidents – it is all so clear and respectful, and shows a deep understanding.’ Palle Mikkelborg, composer, arranger and producer of the ‘Aura’ album

"Wow! What a great book. Finally, something that really gets it right. Thank you for capturing what was going on, the mood, everything." Adam Holzman, Milesís keyboardist and musical director 1985-1989

"Wonderful job, congratulations! An immense amount of work must have gone into it, I can't even imagine. But it was very cool to see that era of Miles treated with the same respect as every other... someone gets it!" Benny Rietveld, Miles's bassist 1988-1990

"The book is wonderful. Congratulations for your very important contribution to the historical documentation of many [musicians] who would otherwise have been overlooked!!!!" Robert Irving III Miles’s musical director 1983-1988

"I have to say that you did a marvellous job! It brought back strong memories of that time period and answered a number of questions I had, especially the chapter on the Rubberband sessions. A brilliant job!" Patrick Murray, who worked on the road with Miles from 1986-1990 and was Miles’s concert sound mixer from 1988-1990

"It is truly an excellent body of work that literally takes a reader from hearing rumours to realising truths about the Chicago group and our collective take on the Miles Davis comeback." Glenn Burris, co-writer of "Shout"

"The most immediate impact that this book had on me was to make me listen again to Miles’ later recordings with a completely regenerated ear and this really is the reason why this book works so well and is an essential read for any true Miles Davis appreciator… you will be hard pressed to find a more inspirational read, written by a man who quite simply loves Miles Davis’ music." Mike Chadwick, Ejazz.fm

"There are large chunks of fresh material here…Fill[s] in quite a few gaps and dismisses blanket condemnations of [Miles’s] pop phase." Stephen Graham, Jazzwise

"Cole does for Miles’ late work what Ian Macdonald’s ‘Revolution In The Head’ does for The Beatles, examining each album in meticulous detail." John Lewis, Time Out

"Cole’s analysis has a meticulous, forensic character… [and] is able to bring a wealth of new information to light….This book should get people talking. It should be the first rather than the last word on an intriguing chapter of the life an extraordinarily complex artist. And Davis’s vanity would surely have loved that." Kevin Le Gendre, Independent on Sunday

"The book is beautiful. I think you did a great job on covering Miles’s life and legacy." Sid Reynolds, hip-hop producer

"GREATFUCKINJOBWITDABOOK" Foley, Miles’s lead bassist 1987-1991

"Cole’s certainly produced a fascinating book." Chris Ingham, Mojo

"As with any good musical biography, Cole had made me think again about those albums such as Siesta, You’re Under Arrest, The Man with the Horn, that are now stashed in my attic."  John Bungey, The Times

"I thought it was wonderful. It’s a very detailed look at a certain part of the career and life of Miles Davis. A lot of people didn’t pay attention to this and I’m glad that George Cole took the time to focus on these final years of Miles’s life." Easy Mo Bee, co-producer of Doo-Bop

"Many people have come to me in the past about how the "last miles" bands had been overlooked and ignored by journalists. This book is a comprehensive answer to these omissions. From my discussions with musicians from the latter years with Miles it seems pretty clear they feel some vindication as a result of this book. I thank you sincerely for telling our story. Most everything I have read is as close to my memory of how things happened as any book could hope to be. I think you've done a wonderful job." Darryl Jones, bassist with Miles 1983-85, 1986-1988

"The title is likely to send most jazzbos running, with received wisdom having handed down the rule that in the 80's Miles was only good for playing live; and half of that was just the pleasure of seeing him in person.  For a single man to take on the 400-page+ task of changing popular opinion is a very tall order indeed.  For him to make you want to actively revisit the decade in question is a near-miracle. Detailing album histories and giving final verdicts, Cole has made every effort to lay the evidence out bare.  The analysis could have been a chore were it not for the presence of first-hand interviews with all the major players, making this not just a scholarly study, but a tribute to the man himself,  And for a book such as this, you learn more about Davis that could have been expected." Jason Draper, Record Collector

"There simply hasn’t been another book published on Miles Davis, in any period that has managed to obtain the wealth of interview material and cover his recorded work and various live tours in such a complete and comprehensive fashion... Engagingly written from start to finish, filled with more facts than you’ll be able to remember first time through, The Last Miles is an essential portrait of Miles’ last decade and a strong argument that his music was both valid and perfectly in keeping with a musical philosophy that would ultimately stretch over six decades." John Kelman, All About Jazz.com

"We veterans of Miles’ last bands are lucky to have such a thorough and insightful look into Miles last period...I really enjoyed the book!" John Scofield, Miles's guitarist 1982-1985

"Cole has spoken to practically everyone who worked with Miles in his final decade. He has traced the evolution of each of those final albums, cut by cut, splice by splice….[Miles] comes out of Cole’s account larger, warmer and if anything even more important than ever." Brian Morton (co-writer of The Penguin Guide to Jazz), The Wire

"Through lively analyses of all Miles’ recorded work from this period and much that went unreleased, including the ‘lost’ album Rubberband, [Cole] does enough to send readers back to the original albums." Simon Evans, Choice

"... Cole is a persuasive writer: he prompted me to go and dig out albums that I'd dismissed as inconsequential and listen again with fresh ears. ...  A rewarding read" Charles Waring, Blues & Soul

"Cole takes us on an exhaustive journey deep into the heart of Miles’ late recordings…The Last Miles needs to be covered by working musicians, producers and Miles’ fans alike." Livingstone Marquis, Straight, No Chaser

" George Cole has written a book that should be required reading for anyone with a serious interest in Davis’ life and work irrespective of which period of his music you prefer. It offers a valuable insight into this most complex of personalities, and reveals a side to Miles that many may not have known existed…for this reader it has prompted a re-examination of this decade which has revealed a fascinating area of music that I had previously overlooked." Nick Lea, Jazzviews.co.uk

"In the flurry of books since [Miles Davis's] death, none has dealt in depth with the music of this period. Music writer George Cole fills this gap. . . It is so detailed and intimate that the reader feels he is virtually living with Davis as he seeks to reinvent himself… a rich and rewarding read." Irwin Block, The Montreal Gazette

"This is a must for every Miles fan." Neal Gardner, Blogcritics.org

“A fantastic book, an amazing insight into Miles. Guy Barker, jazz trumpeter

“For Miles fans, this book is a must.” Jez Nelson, presenter BBC Radio Jazz on 3

“I really do recommend The Last Miles…it is a fine work.” John Cavanagh, presenter Radio Scotland’s Bebop to Hip-Hop

"A great book that plays a great tribute to the last years of Miles’ life.” Erik Telford, presenter Miles Radio.com

"The fact of having personally interviewed all those characters...without much recall to interviews already noted and the usual anecdotes, renders "The Last Miles" as excellent...a book that certainly is seen as a work of reference."Maurizio Comandini, All About Jazz.com Italy

"[Cole] has written a comprehensive account of the comeback and the albums it produced...He takes the reader through each of the albums, cut by cut, examining the musical choices, the musicians and their successes...Cole's book is a valuable resource on the last 11 years of a true music legend's life."Chris Smith, Winnipeg Free Press

"I've been thoroughly enjoying your book. I'm sure it'll go a long way towards rectifying some of the negative historical appraisals of  Miles' later works that have become prevalent." Kei Akagi, keyboardist in Miles's band 1989-1990.

"Cole gives an exhaustive account of every track recorded [and, it seems, every live show] in that decade and of every one of the dozens of musicians who played on them but what's most interesting is the portrait of Miles Davis that emerges from it all. Sometimes an asshole and a bully, yes, but also a very funny guy who was a good friend to many and a mentor to even more, a man with drug problems who was more often in great pain from other maladies. Through it all, Davis was obsessed with moving his music forward with anyone who could help him do it - from Prince to Public Enemy, from Scritti Politti to a violinist he saw on Johnny Carson and hired on the spot." Rock & Rap Confidential

"I thought your book was awesome and straight to the point. To tell stories the way it really happened is nothing but the truth! Congratulations and thanks!"Ricky Wellman, Miles's drummer 1987-1991

"George Cole has made a major contribution to jazz scholarship...written over a three-year period, the degree of detail is quite astonishing and the research so extensive that it becomes possible to contradict claims made by Miles himself in his autobiography. Every track on every 1981-1991 album is discussed in length …a very valuable book.” Chris Yates, The Jazz Rag

“This book is a model of how these types of books should be…If late period Miles is in the readers’ interest, the reader should rush out and purchase this volume. It is invaluable.” Robert Iannapollo, ARSC Journal

The Last Miles was voted one of the top ten music books of 2005 by Record Collector magazine.

The Last Miles was joint winner of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections’ Best Jazz History Book 2006 award.

 

the last miles:
the music of Miles Davis1980 to 1991 a book by George Cole
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