The man who changed the course of music is still shaking things up in 2016.
There’s plenty of reasons to celebrate the legacy of legendary trumpeter Miles Davis. Aside from being one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century, he’s also the subject of the long-awaited feature film "Miles Ahead" — directed by and starring Don Cheadle — which was released to positive reviews earlier this year. Furthermore, Sony Music tapped Grammy Award-winning artist jazz artist Robert Glasper to produce "Everything’s Beautiful," a re-imagining of Davis' music, featuring notable musicians including Stevie Wonder and Erykah Badu, just to name a few.
This year would have also marked Davis’ 90th birthday, prompting curious listeners to discover his music for the first time.
But if you really want an insight into the genius that was Miles Davis — an iconic bandleader and composer recognized as "the first jazz musician of the post-hippie era to incorporate rock rhythms" — all you need to do is sit down with his son Erin Davis and nephew Vince Wilburn, Jr. Not only are both men talented artists in their own right, but the duo has toured, recorded and performed with Davis. If that’s not enough, Wilburn, Jr. is often credited with bringing Miles out of retirement. So it’s safe to say these gentlemen have plenty of stories to share.
Fox News Magazine spoke exclusively with Erin and Vince about "Miles Ahead," as well as Davis' legacy and his other hidden talent:
FNM: What is it about Miles Davis that, even to this day, continues to fascinate fans?
Erin Davis: His music alone, really. His style — I mean, he just had a fascinating life. People always come up to us and tell us different things about his legacy that continue to inspire them. There’s so many things we can still learn from Miles and his music.
Vince Wilburn, Jr.: He fascinates young listeners in particular, because he never looked back in his own career. He was always about looking forward. That’s the way his music is still approached by a lot of people.
FNM: "Miles Ahead" received high praise at film festivals. What did you think of the film?
Erin Davis: I thought it was great! I thought Don [Cheadle] did an incredible job. He put so much blood, sweat and tears into this project, not just as an actor, but as a director and writer. We went to a lot of screenings for the film and we were always so thrilled with how everything came out. We were just proud of the whole project.
Vince Wilburn, Jr.: And we were on set, too. Don was Miles on-camera and off-camera! He’s an incredible actor, so we were very happy.
FNM: What was it about Don Cheadle, in particular, that made him perfect for the part?
Vince Wilburn, Jr.: I saw this film, "Devil in a Blue Dress." He plays a character name Mouse. And there were many scenes where he portrayed this character that reminded me of Miles. Both Erin and I agreed that Don was the right man for the job. He’s like a sponge. He wanted to know so much about Uncle Miles, not just from Erin and me, but from the whole family.
Erin Davis: Honestly, there was a short list we had of guys whom we wanted to play Miles, and Don was on the top of that list.
FNM: The both of you have toured and recorded with Miles. What was that experience like?
Erin Davis: For me, it was the ultimate crash course in Miles Davis University (laughs). I got to go on the road when I was really young, and I learned how a tour really works, how the shows work, how the fans work, how he put together the bands, how he rehearsed with the bands. I mean, I was nervous the whole time, but it was a good experience. I look back very fondly on that.
FNM: For the both of you, what’s the most important lesson Miles Davis taught you on being a great artist?
Vince Wilburn, Jr.: Take your craft seriously. Every time you pick up your instrument, play it with conviction and be serious about the music. And always think forward. Always try to be a better musician, a better person in life.
Erin Davis: He taught us so many things, but the one thing we take away is do everything at the highest level you can do. There were a lot of times when I was on stage and I didn’t feel like I was playing very well. I was trying different things and I didn’t think it was coming across too well. He would say the opposite. "You play great!’ I think what he meant by that is, you’re giving yourself the chance to expand, to explore different things within your craft. Going on stage and playing the same songs every night the same way is not at all what he wanted to do. That’s the one thing I took away from him. It doesn’t have to be the same way all the time. It can be however you want it to be. However you hear it in your head. You just gotta get the right people to play it with you.
FNM: Vince, I understand you helped Miles come out of retirement. When did Miles realize he was ready?
Vince Wilburn, Jr.: Well, I don’t want to take that credit (laughs). When he was ready, he was ready. And I tell everybody that. He knew. Maybe I encouraged him a little bit, but he knew. When he was ready, he wanted to do it. I don’t like to take credit for —
Erin Davis: I think he was definitely inspired by what was going on with you guys, Vince.
Vince Wilburn, Jr.: Well when he was ready, he was ready! I remember he would call my mom’s house back in Chicago and have her put the phone down so he can hear me and my band practice.
FNM: What kind of criticism would you receive from Miles?
Vince Wilburn, Jr.: When the groove was happening, he would tell us. But then one day, he’s like, "You guys want to make a record?" We were like, "Yeah!" Next thing you know, we were in New York. Miles Davis University, that’s what it was.
FNM: Miles, among his many talents, was also a great cook and even kept a secret book of recipes.
Vince Wilburn, Jr.: It’s a little black book that had all of these recipes.
Erin Davis: Yeah, we can’t find it! He used to make bouillabaisse, chili, fish, pasta — all kinds of different stuff.
Vince Wilburn, Jr.: And sadly, that book is now nowhere to be found.
FNM: Was there a favorite dish that you both remember fondly?
Vince Wilburn, Jr.: I remember the pasta with the fresh tomatoes, and he also used to make a really good popcorn. After boxing, he would like his fresh popcorn.
Erin Davis: Fresh popcorn with Diet Coke! Actually, one of my favorite dishes he used to make was Caesar salad. When he first made it for me, I never really had one before. And when he was putting all of the ingredients together for dressing — the anchovies, the eggs — I was like, ‘What are you doing?! This looks horrible!’ But it was delicious. He knew what he was doing in the kitchen.
FNM: Erin, how do you handle the pressures of being compared to your father?
Erin Davis: Personally, I’m never going to let that bother me. Maybe if I was trying to play the trumpet, then yeah, I might be concerned about that. I just decided to pursue what I love and push myself to expand upon what I’ve done before, not just doing the same. As long as I’m doing that, then I’m utilizing the lessons I learned from him. I’m more interested in not doing the same thing over and over, which is something he taught me.
FNM: What do you hope new listeners will get from Davis' music upon hearing it for the first time?
Vince Wilburn, Jr.: That the music was number one. He sacrificed a lot for the music. And it meant a lot to him to get the music to the people all over the world. He was put on earth to do that. I like to see it as the Pied Piper who tried to spread love and music. That was his goal in life.